Some kids have talents while other kids live theirs “out loud.” Cole Winebarger is a young man who started playing the guitar at an early age and has excelled with sincere passion.
Winebarger says he remembers wanting to play the guitar at nine. His dad and mom, Jerry and Shari, were very supportive as were other family members.
When Winebarger started showing interest in playing, his Uncle Shannon gave him an older electric guitar.
“He was really progressing, so then his Grandpa Slone gave him an acoustic that he had,” Shari said. “Every waking minute he was with one of those guitars.”
Shari told the story of how Cole acquired his Strat guitar.
“They told us at Roanoke Catholic when he started there, not to expect him to be on the honor roll that year as he would have some adjustments. So, thinking we were pretty safe, we told him if he made straight A’s, we would pay half on his Stratocaster,” she said. “He was working hard doing odd jobs and at school. Well, we ended up paying out.”
She added that nine is a good age for a kid to start playing. “He had shown little interest prior in learning,” Shari noted. “When he started playing and it started clicking with him, he just blossomed.”
“I think my love for guitar started when I could play my first actual song,” Winebarger said. “I remember when my teacher made me buy this Beatles book for beginners. It wasn’t very good, but I still was proud of myself for learning some of my favorites. Every memory throughout my time playing guitar has been a fond one.”
Shari shared that after a few months of lessons her son “just took off.”
She added, “He followed a few different YouTube teachers and learned to play by ear.”
Now, Cole says he plays his guitar at home every day.
Though no one in his immediate family plays the guitar, he has uncles who do.
“My brother, Rick Slone, plays around town, and has even played at the Grand Ole Opry,” Shari said before adding, “I have many in my family that are musical.”
Cole has now been playing for three years and jams with some other local guitarists like Joey Mayo, Jeff Sloss and his family members and friends when he gets an opportunity.
“My favorite guitarists are David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits), George Harrison (Beatles) and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin),” he shared.
Winebarger said that he doesn’t have a favorite guitar because “they all matter the same to me whether it’s because of use or sentimentality.”
He played at the Fairgrounds last year during a special music concert but had a moment like all true musicians. “I forgot part of the song I was going to close on, so that performance was most certainly not my favorite,” he said.
Whether he is playing with a band or performing solo, Winebarger enjoys it all.
And, for anyone who goes to the Coffee Pot in Roanoke or the Fatback Soul Shack in Christiansburg, there is a good chance that they have seen this 13-year-old young man perform like a professional.
“He plays at the Coffee Pot when his Uncle Ricky plays during intermission, if it’s early hours,” Shari said. “Many places are not appropriate for him at his age.”
“I got hooked up with Fatback Soul Shack because the band I play with a little bit was playing there and there was a decent chance I could get on stage,” Winebarger shared. “And I also knew that the place had good food. I had been there prior just to eat.”
He plays at Fatback whenever the Phlegar Hill band is playing there. Phlegar Hill Band is called “the New River Valley’s leading cover band” on Facebook.
Jerry went to school with the singer Billy Williams. “So, I managed to weasel my way in there using that fact to my advantage,” he said with a grin.
Jerry has also played for two years at the Back Creek Fire Station’s fundraiser.
When Jerry and Shari were asked if they were surprised at the level of professionalism he plays, they responded, “Cole has always thrown himself into what his interest is 100 percent.”
Cole was asked about competing but noted that he has never felt the slightest urge to enter into a competition, saying, “I don’t think music should be a competition.”
However, anyone that has heard him, knows his love for music can definitely be heard by the way he can “shred those strings.”
At only 13, Winebarger says his future is uncertain, but he does not see himself stopping to work on his guitar skills anytime soon.
However, his heart speaks for him, when he added, “I’ve thought about maybe helping people with special needs.” His sister, Maci, has been suffering for several years from a brain tumor and its side effects.
His parents continue to support his love for music, “Jerry and I love hearing Cole play,” Shari said.