In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Winston-Salem BluesCaptain Luke, Macavine Hayes, and Whistlin’ Britches
  • Joanna Welborn (bio)

Captain Luke, Macavine Hayes, Whistlin’ Britches, and I settled down to a table in the small front room, lit by Christmas lights strung around the ceiling, r&b playing on the boombox. It was a Saturday morning in April, and the three elderly bluesmen had offered to show me around the drinkhouses of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A round of “chicken,” or moonshine, was ordered, and Macavine and Whistlin’ Britches were one-upping each other with insults and dirty jokes. Captain Luke played it cool in the corner, sipping a can of Natural Light and smoking a cigar. After his doctor had ordered him to give up the moonshine years ago, Luke made the switch to beer, which helped out with his hobby of fashioning ashtrays, lamps, and model-sized cars from old beer cans.

Captain Luke and Macavine have been friends for decades, playing gigs together in juke joints and drinkhouses around the North Carolina Piedmont: Luke singing in his deep baritone voice and Macavine playing a rough and tumble acoustic guitar. They met Haskel Thompson (nicknamed “Whistlin’ Britches” by Captain Luke because of the way his pants swish together when he walks) a few years ago through the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a nonprofit in Hillsborough, North Carolina, that helps pioneering southern musicians gain recognition and meet their day-to-day needs. Haskel’s unique talent is accompanying his friends’ songs by clicking his tongue in highly complex rhythms with a sound as loud as a drum rim shot (and by dancing suggestively). Over the past fifteen years the three of them have played both locally and internationally with Music Maker—everywhere from Argentina and Europe to Australia.

Our visit to the drinkhouses was two years ago now. These days Luke doesn’t spend as much time driving his friends around in his Buick and stopping by their favorite haunts for a drink and a couple laughs. After Haskel had his leg amputated from complications with diabetes, he was forced to move from Luke’s apartment to an assisted-living facility, where his old friends would visit him and sometimes break into an impromptu performance in the courtyard. But he has learned to dance with his prosthetic leg and still makes it to local gigs. And Captain Luke still finds time to entertain his new fans around the world, touring with Music Maker. This past January, though, Macavine Hayes passed away peacefully after spending his last afternoon in a drinkhouse. He will be missed. [End Page 75]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Everyone coming and going from the drinkhouse acknowledges and pays respects to Captain Luke, the unofficial leader of the group. He also chauffers other artists to out-of-town gigs and around Winston-Salem for an afternoon’s entertainment.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Captain Luke and Macavine Hayes (center) visited Haskel “Whistlin’ Britches” Thompson (right) every week or two at his assisted living home, the Reynolds House, where Macavine played guitar in the courtyard for the residents.

All photographs by Joanna Welborn.

[End Page 76]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

A former cook and cement pourer, Macavine Hayes grew up in Tampa, Florida, where he met blues legend Guitar Gabriel in the 1960s. For years they ran a juke joint together and traveled all over the South playing in drinkhouses from North Carolina and Georgia to Florida.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

The three friends share laughs at a drinkhouse over a round of “chicken” (served in plastic cups), smoke Cherokee cigarettes, and occasionally dance.

[End Page 77]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Even after a leg amputation, Whistlin’ Britches shows he can still get up and dance.


Click for larger view
View full resolution

Macavine Hayes and Captain Luke joke in Luke’s kitchen. Every room in his house shows evidence of his folk art: ashtrays, cars, planes, and miniature scenes made out of empty beer cans.

[End Page 78]


Click for larger view
View full resolution

After eyeing an admiral’s hat in a variety store decades ago, Luke gained...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 75-80
Launched on MUSE
2009-08-13
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.