From 1991-94, Guitar Gabriel, Captain Luke, Macavine Hayes and I would spends days, upon weeks, upon months and years when we were not doing a show, going from drink house to drink house. We’d visit friends and I was always on the lookout for musicians; I met many. These drink houses are just someone’s home – you go in and sit in the kitchen or living room, and people are hanging around. Some are sleeping, some are sharing some food – it’s kind of a local elderly community center. Each drink house has a personality, some are rough, some are open 24/7, others just in the afternoons with great food, some only all night. They would sell dollar shots of moonshine, vodka and beer for the most part.
At every one of these places folks smoked and they had ashtrays made out of cut-up beer cans. The designs were incredible, very much like the old style of quilts made before 1900. I do not mean one or two ashtrays, I saw over a hundred of these among all the places we went. You see, Captain Luke had a vision driving one day. He saw a tossed out beer can and it looked so shiny he decided to make something out of it. He got a staple gun and staples and found wood and started production. Each tray is unique – some of them are lamps, others boats, many of them cars with little family figures in there, airplanes, motorcycles. He was retired and living on a small income, and he would spend hours upon hours each day working on them, always picking up cans from the drink houses. During different periods he would focus on different cans. He would take commissions to build out of Budweiser, for example.
He sold them very reasonably, sometimes at $30, but most of the time much lower, on trade. He was proud that every drink house in town had his work. One fellow had a place in his basement – the whole bar, tables, chairs, lamps, and walls, were all done by Luke and his cans. Very impressive indeed.
“Drink house” is not a usual name for these places. In the rest of the South they are called Juke Joints. Captain claims he started calling them drink houses in the ’40s and that he is the source for naming these establishments. I have no idea how to verify it, but with all the interesting, intriguing words and art he comes up with I will go with it.
Over the years Music Maker has bought many such pieces. At one time we were just inundated by them. In the last five years I have given pieces to special friends of MMRF, as awards to interns, and to other artists; the collection is really dwindling down. But that is a good thing. It is what the Captain would want, for his artwork to be in as many homes as possible, to bring some of his joy and a remembrance of his spirit to all that have supported Music Maker.