By Connie Leinbach
Nine-year-old drumming sensation Dallas Mason has Ocracoke buzzing whenever the Ocracoke Rockers are scheduled to play.
The rising fourth grader has been wowing crowds since his public debut at the Ocracoke Health Center Seafood Festival fundraiser in 2019 at which the Rockers capped a successful event.
Now, Dallas is the group’s drummer since its prior drummer, Tommy Hutcherson, is now a regular with the Ray McAllister Band.
Dallas’s prodigious talent has island musician Martin Garrish wowed.
“It’s just off the charts,” Garrish said about the youth’s native rhythm and musicality. “It’s amazing work. I’ve never worked with anybody or anything like this. I mean, this kid knows 70 or 80 songs already.”
Every night the group plays with Dallas he does something new, Garrish said.
“It just makes us proud and we just smile and shake our heads,” he said.
Dallas’s favorite band is Rush, and he can mimic the band’s drummer.
“This stuff is very complicated,” Garrish said about Rush’s music. “I swear (Dallas) can sit and play along with them and you don’t know the difference.”
Another innovative drummer was Ginger Baker of the 1960s group Cream, one of whose famous songs is “Sunshine of Your Love.”
The drum beat in that song is not standard.
“You can’t find that drum beat in any other song,” Garrish said. “If you listen to it, Dallas has got that made.”
During Easter weekend, the band Train Wreck was scheduled to play at The Breeze when their drummer got sick.
They found Dallas.
“I had to learn a lot of songs in two days,” Dallas said during an interview at his house while taking a break from shooting hoops with his younger brother Asher.
“Some of the songs I’ve heard, but I never played,” Dallas said. “We played ‘Boogie Shoes,’ a Tina Turner song and we did ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin. I never played any of those before.”
Train Wreck was impressed, said Dallas’s mom, Emilie Burrus Mason.
At the May 28 Firemen’s Ball, after all the bidding was done, Dallas joined the Rockers onstage and the first tune the band played was “Wipeout,” which is Dallas’s signature song, his mother said.
Emilie’s dad, Dal Burrus, of Buxton, is a drummer and is constantly tapping out tunes on any hard surface, she said.
“He always would drum ‘Wipeout’ on the countertops,” she said.
Five years ago, when Dallas was four, during a visit with his grandfather, Dallas heard that catchy rhythm.
After that visit, Dallas sat down at his little drum set and started playing “Wipeout.”
“He’d never played before,” Emilie said. “And I said, ‘How did you do that? Did Pop teach you that?’ And he said, ‘No, I just watched him play it. I listened to him play it and I picked it up.’ And I thought wow. That’s pretty crazy because that’s not an easy song to play.”
Dallas, who also is learning to sing, doesn’t show stage fright, something Garrish said he wrestles with.
Dallas’s talent showed up early.
“He’s been singing and dancing since he could walk,” said Dallas’s dad, Shane. “He’s always just had rhythm. Everybody could tell.”
Several years ago, Dallas’s grandparents, Rex and Miggy O’Neal, gave him his first drum set and he began playing along to recorded music.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Dallas and his younger brother Asher did Facebook “concerts” by playing along to recorded music.
Last year, Dallas took some lessons via Zoom with drummer Ricky Falomir of the “punk rock ska” band The Aquabats with the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba.
Dallas and his family recently attended an Aquabats show in Norfolk where Dallas got to meet Ricky, Emilie said. He also got to go on stage and went stage diving and crowd surfing on a giant blow-up pizza.
Earnings from his gigs help pay for the lessons.
And he’s always watching YouTube videos of drummers, especially Neil Peart of Rush, Ginger Baker and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.
While Dallas is also learning the guitar, drums offer more nuance.
“Each drum has a different rhythm,” he said. “It’s like you’re not just using like the same thing over and over. Each song is different, and I can learn a lot from the drums.”
Dallas and Asher have their little “Bros Music Room” under their house where they practice and jam with Dallas’s friend Duncan McClain, who is learning the guitar.
“Duncan will come over and they’ll go downstairs, and they’ll jam out for hours,” Emilie said. “It’s really cool to hear him and Duncan play together.”
Emilie and Shane try to get to all of their son’s gigs.
“When he’s onstage, it just blows me away,” Emilie said. “It’s really cool to watch and to see his progression.”
The Rockers are scheduled to play Saturday, July 9 and 23, at the Ocracoke Oyster Company. See the directory for other entertainment and information.