Wilber’s Barbecue has been an institution in Goldsboro for the past 57.
When the doors closed in March, it left a void in the community.
To recognize and honor owner Wilber Shirley for all he’s done for Wayne County, Goldsboro’s own Malpass Brothers, Christopher and Taylor, wanted to do something special in their own way — through music.
“As soon as we heard that Wilber’s had closed, I thought about it for a day or two and thought we needed to do something,” Christopher said.
He called his mother, Andrea, and told her he wanted to do something. She got in touch with some other people and the idea of a concert was born.
“At that time, they were thinking Wilber’s might reopen,” Christopher said. “But I said regardless of what he does, let’s just do something to honor him. Mr. Wilber agreed he would come to the concert.”
Christopher said he and Taylor are doing the concert because Wilber’s Barbecue is historical, having been around since 1962. And Christopher grew up eating Wilber’s barbecue.
“My mom said she could remember sitting me in my baby carrier on the table at Wilber’s,” Christopher said. “Every birthday I had Wilber’s barbecue, eating there and taking it out.
“Many nights I’ve come by off the road at 2 or 3 in the morning coming home from wherever, and would smell that wood cooking. We won’t smell that anymore. I’ve played all over the country and no matter where we are, like when we were in Wendover, Nevada, and someone asked did you bring me some Wilber’s barbecue. Everybody knows Wilber’s.”
Christopher has heard some people say that the inside of Wilber’s needed updating.
“But to me, it was real,” he said. “It took you back to another time. When you went in there, it looked like it always had and I liked that. I liked his barbecue and potato salad. It was all good. And his chicken gravy, nobody’s done that, it was one of a kind.”
Whenever his father’s aunt and uncles would come to Goldsboro, they always ate at Wilber’s.
“It was THE place,” Christopher said. “And it was one of the last places you could get wood-cooked barbecue, no gas involved, just the real deal North Carolina barbecue.”
Wilber’s was also the place where he met his future wife at a birthday party.
Christopher said the loss of this landmark will be a big loss for the community.
“When we found out he had to close, it was like a death in the family,” he said. “It made us sick because he’s been there so long.
“Seems like towns now get further and further away from their roots. We’ve got chain restaurants all over Goldsboro, and you go to the next town and they’ve got the same chain restaurants that we do. There’s no identity anymore. When you lose things like this, you lose your identity. That’s my biggest concern. I hate to lose Goldsboro’s identity by losing these landmarks.”
The two-hour show will start at 3 p.m. on June 23 at the Paramount Theatre. Tickets are $25, available at the Paramount box office, by calling 919-583-8432 or online at www.goldsboroparamount.com.
It will be traditional country music and gospel songs that the Malpass Brothers are known for doing.
They are doing a special song just for Shirley, “Who’s Gonna Feed Them Hogs?” by Tom T. Hall.
“We’re going to do that to give everybody a chuckle and hope Mr. Wilber enjoys it, too,” Christopher said.
“A lot of people don’t have a clue what he has done through the years for the community, the things he’s given to people. Wilber Shirley is just a good man and we want to honor him and thank him for doing so much. I want everybody to come in expecting a good time, and I want everybody to reflect on a different time period. And I hope everybody fills up the theater for Mr. Wilber.”