At the Scott H. Biram concert I attended about three weeks ago, I had my first opportunity to take part in something I had only heard about in country and blues songs up until that point: white lightnin’. Pure grain alcohol. Bathtub gin. MOONSHINE, baby!
I got to the venue pretty early, as I had an interview scheduled with Scott H. Biram. He’d just stepped out for some dinner, so I hung around the merch table until he arrived.
A bald giant of a man in a Hank III T-shirt, black shorts, and combat boots approached me and asked if I was “with the band”. I wasn’t, but it’s always fun in an admittedly snobbish way to tell people that I’m there to interview the artist. He was impressed, asked why, and when I told him about my radio show and blog, he asked me lots about that.
After a few minutes of chit-chat, he excitedly (and when I say excitedly, I mean, like, “bust out of his skin” excited…he was barely able to contain himself as we made our polite conversation) told me he had something I had to try. WHOO! I was fully expecting some kind of crazy drug invitation. Instead, he reached into his pocket and pulled out something…
I could tell by the shape of it that it was a pint-sized Mason jar. And I laughed. Then, as he pulled it from the shadows and I could see it clearer, I realized it was wrapped in a red handkerchief!! Then I laughed a LOT. How hillbilly could you be?!
But I was intrigued.
He informed me this was “real good shit, not like that other rotgut shit them other guys make.” He’d even given it strawberry lemonade flavoring. I wasn’t sure. We’d just met and all…
So I looked to the angel on my right shoulder for some wise and profound guidance. He was nowhere to be found.
“He’s out havin’ a smoke break,” I heard a sly voice from my left shoulder say. I turned to find the little devil that resided there. He looked me right in the eye and very eloquently said, “Come on, man, just have a teensy sip… You knows you been hearin’ all them country music heroes of yours talk about this all your life! When you evar gon' have this opportunity again?"
Seein’ how the angle had no input and the devil was makin’ lotsa good sense to me, I figured I’d give it a go. Who cares that I’d only known the big scary man for a grand total of 3 minutes and I was about to ingest some kind of homemade illicit material??? He “seemed” OK :)
As I brought the jar to my lips, I saw the liquid…that seemed to have some kinda chunks of something solid floating in it (strawberries, I was sure…he said it was strawberry lemonade flavored, right?!?!?). It’s aroma was something that I could only describe as something quite like that of some sort of liquid you’d pour somewhere into a car.
In one last attempt at sensibility, I looked at my new friend and said, “There ain’t nothin’ in here that’s gonna hurt me, is there?” He politely assured me there was not…and as I took my snort he felt the need to tell me that, “Some of what those other guys put in theirs CAN hurt you though! My shit’s all medical grade…I’m really into chemistry and everything.” Into chemistry?!?!?!
I drank just exactly enough to get my lips wet and to feel a little trickle of something going down my throat. WHHHHHHHHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My lips burned and that stuff lit up my insides! Yow! Listen to the George Jones song called “White Lightnin’”. There’s not an exaggeration in it.
I calmly stood there for a few seconds, waiting to lose my vision or the functionality of my legs. My moonshine supplier told me he was going to go outside and have a smoke. I stood there a few more seconds, wondering if my hearing would escape me, or if I should expect to go into convulsions. I didn’t…and what the moonshine pusher-man had just said began to register. I had to stop him!!! “If you’ve been drinking that moonshine, DON’T LIGHT A CIGARETTE!!!! YOU’LL BLOW YOUR CHEST OUT!!!!” I played it a little cooler than that.
We hung around outside a bit, me still wondering when paralysis would set in. Scott H. Biram came walking up the sidewalk and the rum runner wasted no time in walking right up to him and offering him some of his product. Scott laughed it off at first. OH GREAT…NOW I’VE DRANK SOMETHING THAT EVEN SCOTT H. BIRAM WON’ TOUCH!!
He gave in and took a big swig. Then asked the ‘shiner if he was going to start tripping on LSD in the middle of his show. I HADN’T EVEN THOUGHT OF THAT!!!
I seemed OK so far. Scott seemed OK so far. A girl took some, too. Her first question was if she’d go blind. (I thought I was being irrational in my blindness concern; I didn’t realize it was a legitimate fear!) She seemed OK though.
After all this, I suddenly began to worry about germs. I’m a bit of a germ-o-phobe and it dawned on me, admittedly late in the game, that I’d just taken a nip from a community jar! I thought for a few minutes and then realized that I’d drank 100% pure grain alcohol….that jar was the cleanest thing in St. Louis that night!
So I put all my fears away and decided to enjoy the night. I was offered more moonshine time and again, but I figured I’d quit while I was ahead. My favorite part of the night was when a girl that Moonshine Marvin thought was just the cat’s bananas walked into the club and he immediately walked over to her, with no type of introduction, told her he had something she just HAD to try. Any guy that dumb surely doesn’t have a nefarious bone in his body!!
I learned a lot about moonshine that night. I learned how the bathtub gin makers brew theirs and what made this guy’s different. Medical grade. Sterilized. All kindsa good stuff. I learned about the process. My man was a scientist AND an artist!!! I also learned he made $100 per pint of his brew.
I don’t have any grand moral of this story or any punch line, though the experience was fraught with them – for me, anyway. But, at least, now I have a moonshine story.