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Talent on an island north of nowhere

The Variety Show, sponsored by the Ocracoke School PTA on March 22 in the Community Center. unleashes the talent of Ocracoke School senior Corey Yeatts, left, on electric guitar, Lou Castro on keyboards, Timothy Wilkinson on guitar, Jason Daniels on bass and Tommy Hutcherson on drums. Photo by Rita Thiel

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By Timothy Wilkinson

Last year, I met a teenager on Ocracoke Island named Corey.

Corey Yeatts was what they called in my days, a nerd. He was shy, intelligent, awkward, yet a crazy good guitarist. 

I had arrived aboard my sailboat in the process of trying to recover my life’s dream of sailing the world, from a gas explosion that had maimed my body and boat earlier that year. I came here to recover and rebuild. 

Corey was looking for someone to perform a couple of 80s songs with him for the annual talent show. 

The stage is set.

There’s a historic cottage-like place right on the harbor called the Coyote Music Den. From it flows music. Lessons, little concerts, all manner of musical magic is fostered there by Marcy Brenner and Lou Castro, the proprietors.

Corey Yeatts visits Ocracoke’s community radio station, WOVV. Photo: P. Vankevich

In winter, with the tourists gone, Marcy and Lou host jam nights for the local folks to gather and play. You wouldn’t want to record the jam to play for anyone you hope to impress, but you sure miss out if you miss it. It feeds the musical soul of the island.

It was here I met Corey and Lou, his guitar teacher.

Lou probably can’t play every instrument on the planet like a virtuoso, but you’d never guess that. He understands music like he invented it and is so humble about that fact that he could found a religion on those two attributes. 

After only two years of lessons, either Corey converted to Lou’s religion, or he is just quicker at learning guitar than most because he’s quite impressive.

When Corey asked if I’d sing, I was honored for obvious reasons, and surprised because I’m so amateur that I’m practically an expert at it.

Now, I was to be the vocalist for a kid playing 80s songs in a talent show on an island.

To keep it interesting, fate threw in the local sheriff captain to play bass. 

Not merely a sheriff, Jason Daniels also carves duck decoys–not the kind you plop in the water to lure ducks to their death, but the kind you put on your mantle and admire. He’s quite the artist.

As a bonus, fate included Tommy Hutcherson, the proprietor of the island’s grocery/hardware store, on drums. 

Showtime.

Corey rocked it like a hurricane. No standing there like a nerdy talent show performer. No. He moved like any self-respecting rock star serious about his duty. The crowd went wild like it was a real rock concert and we were real rock stars. 

Corey’s parents, Sandy and Deena, Lou and the like, have good reason to be proud of him. They had helped him get there. I hadn’t, yet I beamed with pride. You see, I’d been an awkward nerd in high school, too, except I wasn’t a crazy good guitarist. 

That night, I stood on stage with Captain Jason in uniform behind me thumping the bass, Tommy the grocer driving the beats, Lou managing keyboard, harmony, and amp dials like a wizard behind the scenes, and a teenaged ex-nerd rock star to starboard.

The crowd was waving their arms above their heads, and Corey was breaking free. I hadn’t been able to escape my nerdhood until much later in life, but Corey was using his guitar to rip right through it. That’s why I was proud of him. 

Lying in bed, unable to sleep, I think of all the little elements that came together to create this amazing story, and how, if it were a painting, each color would be abnormally brilliant without dimming the subject.

I am truly moved at finding such a treasure hidden on such a small island, north of nowhere.

To see the performance, you can find a video of the whole thing on YouTube here.

Corey Yeatts is in the Heard on Ocracoke series. To see his profile, click here.

Timothy Wilkinson.

 

 

Timothy Wilkinson, known as “Two Boat Tim,” lives and works on Ocracoke and jams at times in the Coyote Music Den.

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