As we approach Captain Luke’s 86th birthday, I was thinking about the first time I ever encountered him, or Music Maker.
I used to work at a music store in Durham, NC. The store was flanked on either side by restaurants, one deserving Michelin stars and the other one a cavernous failing music venue; the kind of place that smells like stale beer and bleach if you get there too early.
Seeing as I lived a ten-minute walk from where I worked, this was my neighborhood bar and my place to grab a beer after clocking out. I’d even go there occasionally when I hadn’t worked that day. Most of the time, the bar was empty and any manner of musician was touting their wares on the stage. Usually, the music felt more disruptive than anything else. Looking at the performance calendar one day, I noticed something that stuck out to me: “Music Maker hosts Captain Luke’s 80th birthday party.” I liked the look of that.
Walking into the bar that night was very different than most. First of all, you could hardly get in the door it was so packed, and Cool John Ferguson was destroying his guitar on stage. I wiggled through the crowd to the bar and along the way I found an older man surrounded by much younger women, wearing a captain’s hat, sunglasses and an ascot. He had a big smile, interrupted only by a mini cigar with a plastic tip sticking out of the corner of his mouth. The undulating crowd shoved me right in his direction and without pause, he grabbed my hand with both of his and engaged me in niceties that I could hardly hear over the music.
I was charmed. Where was I? Could this possibly be my neighborhood dive bar? Could this space contain us? In the presence of a true rock star, there is electricity that penetrates your bones. It is unsettling and exhilarating. This great man, I knew, could only be Captain Luke. I remember thinking I hope I live till I’m 80, and in that moment, Captain Luke made me feel like I could do anything.
— Aaron Greenhood