At the height of Chapel Hill’s “Next Seattle” hype in the early 1990s, Superchunk and Polvo both made landmark albums at the Mebane studio. Ryan Adams’ band Patty Duke Syndrome (before he formed Whiskeytown) also made one of the great unreleased albums in local-music history at Duck Kee in 1993.
But Duck Kee's timeline has been temporarily interrupted, and the music community is coming together to assist the man who helped them make music.
In the early morning of Jan. 27, studio owner Jerry Kee woke up to the smell of smoke in the Mebane house that serves as his home as well as the studio. An old portable heater had caught fire, and the conflagration left most of Kee’s recording gear in smoking ruins.
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Thanks to the enormous reservoir of good will the local community has for Kee, there’s been an outpouring of fundraising and benefit shows. A crowd-funding campaign quickly surpassed the original goal of $10,000, raising $11,600 (and counting) as of Tuesday morning.
“It’s been pretty amazing,” Kee said of the outpouring from his musician friends. “Overwhelming and uncomfortable in some ways because I’d rather be under the radar."
A benefit is planned Friday at Kings in Raleigh featuring singer/pianist Dana Kletter, Kee’s bandmate in the mid-1990s band Dish. Schooner, Reese McHenry, Regina Hexaphone and others are scheduled for a March 25 benefit at Durham’s Motorco Music Hall.
“He’s one of the nicest, most unassuming people you’ll ever meet,” said Chris Clemmons, co-organizer and frequent Duck Kee client. “He’s proud of what he’s achieved and maybe surprised at all the support he’s getting, but he’s a humble man of immense talent.”
Duck Kee has had eight locations over the years, with the first in a bedroom of his parents’ house while Kee was in college.
While Kee has been a player himself in plenty of bands (most notably Dish, who made an album for Interscope Records in 1995), the studio is his most enduring legacy.
It helps that Kee’s rates are quite low — $30 an hour, which includes his services as engineer. One way or another, he should have Duck Kee back in business before too much longer.
That will make the rebuilt version number nine — although Kee is considering calling it 8-1/2 in honor of Federico Fellini’s 1963 surrealist comedy-drama, one of his favorite movies.
"But I can make it happen no matter what," Kee said. "It’s like musical instruments, you can get along fine with a cheap guitar or something more expensive. If I get extra money, I can use it to fix up mikes that were damaged or do acoustic treatment. Or I can work without that if I need to.”
What: 9th Incarnation Night 2 (Benefit for Duck Kee Studios) with the Bellbats, Maldora, Dana Kletter, Pinto and more
When: 8 p.m. March 17
Where: King's, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh
Tickets: $10 in advance, $12 day of show
For details on the March 25 benefit at Motorco, go to motorcomusic.com.
Fundraiser: To contribute, got to youcaring.com/jerrykeeandduckkeestudio-1095917