The First Day on the Road: Drink Small

inUncategorizedon January 17, 2014

drink b

We visited Drink Small today. I first met Drink in 1981 at Warren Wilson College. I used to tour with him in the early 1990s, with Guitar Gabriel. When Gabe died, I received a telegram from Drink giving me condolences. Cootie Stark, a blind bluesman and Music Maker artist, accompanied me on a visit to Drink’s home around that time. Drink introduced me to other blues artists like Albert Smith, whom we recorded. Throughout Music Maker’s 20 years, Drink and his wife Andrenna played New Years’ parties at our house in Pinnacle, visited our home in Hillsborough, and even were escorted by my brother from South Carolina to Montreal for a gig. We’ve become very close.


This spring when we were planning to visit artists with our week-long road trip, I decided we’d start with Drink. Today, coming in the door with Aaron and B, we found Drink laying far back on his couch, his eyes pointing to the ceiling.


“Tim I have had some hard times, am 82 and just got out from the hospital from surgery to my prostate. I have gone completely blind. I see only black.”

“Do you remember what I look like?”, I asked. He said, “Of course I do. In my dreams I see my old friends and family, but then I see people I do not know. Then I open my eyes and see only black.” It is hard getting used to being blind. Cootie had been blind a long time.


We talked a bit and I introduced him to Aaron and B. Drink sat up and his Drink-ism dialogue revved up; he did not stop talking for nearly four hours. Aaron and I set up the old camera and the dark box, while Andrenna and B got Drink into his suit jacket. We positioned him in a chair by the old piano and proceeded to take photos, then B recorded some video. It was a wonderful afternoon.


B asked me to get my guitar, and Drink and I began to play. Drink lit up and dug in – he had not lost any talent since the last time I’d heard him play. Later Andrenna told me that this was the first time he picked up his guitar in three months. She said that Drink had been up since early in the morning waiting on us; he needs something to look forward to. At the end of the visit, I presented Drink with a donation from Music Maker to help meet his needs. He was so pleased, and thanked the world for Music Maker’s help. He reminded us it would be his birthday at the end of the month.


We packed up and drove three and a half hours to Covington, GA to see David Bryant. This is another story though.


A wonderful first day on the road!


— Tim Duffy



Showing 3 comments
  • enonomore

    Man, it’s so good to see this kind of thing still going on. I can imagine it’s not much different than when John and Alan Lomax traveled around recording blues and folk musicians. It’s guys like Drink (and organizations like Music Maker) that prove that the MS John Hurts, Furry Lewis’, and the Bukka Whites are still among us.

    Thanks for posting. It’d be awesome to see some video from this trip!

  • Corinne

    Video is coming! Stay tuned and thank you for your kind words!

pingbacks / trackbacks
  • […] Tim, B and Aaron went out on the road last week, visiting Music Maker artists across the South. Along the way they visited artists, worked to help them meet their needs, recorded and documented them, and got caught up on these artists lives. We wanted to share these visits with you – the first day, the group stopped to see Drink Small, and Tim wrote about their day on the blog here. […]

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