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Happy birthday to The Barrel
The "cast" of Captain Luther and the Prozac Cowboys is, from left, Johnny Potato Salad (Ted Tuck), Captain Luther Howdy (Scott Adams), Dirty Sanchez (Mike Terrell) and Israel Long (Mike Long).

Anniversary celebration

What: The Monkey Barrel's 16th anniversary celebration featuring Captain Luther Howdy and the Prozac Cowboys
When: 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: 115 Washington St., Gainesville
How much: $5
More info: 770-297-0116

Exactly 16 years ago as of Friday, when only a few nightspots dotted the downtown Gainesville square, Chris Jones opened the doors to The Monkey Barrel for the first time.

He pitched the new watering hole and eatery as the place for the young and hip to hang out and enjoy some wheat-crust pizza and beer - and that reputation is what keeps "The Barrel" still rolling today.

"The first night we were open we gave away food, and Saturday night we gave away the food and charged for beer," Jones said. "We were extremely busy, and it went smooth as silk. And it was so positive and made me feel good."

That euphoria didn't last past the weekend, though.

"On Monday we went down in flames. We went from smooth to that we didn't even know what we are doing."

But through the venue's ups and downs, it has managed to be a mainstay on the downtown square.

Jones recently took back ownership of The Barrel and said the locals who frequented his restaurant in their younger days now come and hang out with their children and have a couple of beers before the bar scene really gets going.

Beyond pizza and beer, Monkey Barrel is known for local music of all genres.

Jones said the live entertainment that began just after opening "just happened because I had a stage" and typically featured friends, employees or just patrons to the bar who performed on the weekends.

"It is kind of the same as it is now," he said.

And to celebrate the 16 years since his grand opening, Jones is welcoming back old friends who made up one of the first bands to play at The Barrel - Captain Luther Howdy and the Prozac Cowboys.

"They are all pretty talented. What I like about them is that they fill up the restaurant and bring in a production," Jones said. "It is not all about music; it is all visual, too. They put on a show to entertain."

Scott Adams, lead singer of Captain Luther Howdy and the Prozac Cowboys, said Jones helped create the original band.

"It was me and Ted Tuck that were in the bar 16 years ago when ... Chris asked us if he would run and get our stuff and play for the night," Adams said. "Actually, he said ‘I can't pay ya but can you play for beer?' And that's what we did, we played for beer.

"It was such a good turnout, and people really liked us a lot. And he said ‘Would you like to play another night?' So we played the next week, and it kept on going from there."

Tuck, an original member of the band, has performed with other bands over the years and decided to rejoin Captain Luther Howdy for the anniversary weekend.

"This is a special thing for us because we started there, and we love Monkey Barrel and its history," said Tuck, also known as Johnny Potato Salad in the band. "It is great to come back 16 years later and be playing all weekend and getting back with the original members just for the show.

"The original band when Scott and I played, we did, like, funky dance stuff, old funk and we did cool retro songs you don't remember, TV theme songs and commercials and that kind of crazy stuff."

Adams, whose stage name is Captain Luther Howdy, said the band will play mostly retro and disco music this weekend.

"We have a complete new set, we are still going to play our favorites - the favorites that people are going to expect - but we are doing a complete medley so there is very little time in between songs," Adams said. "It is more dance oriented. ... One second we are playing Billy Idol then next second we are playing Pink Floyd and the next second we are playing Britney Spears."

Other members of the band are drummer Mike Terrell, known as Dirty Sanchez, and bass player Mike Long, known as Israel Long.

"Everybody has a persona, everybody in the band wears a costume," Adams said. "Which is something that we have done for a long time; we aren't just a band, we actually put on a show. We don't look at it as just a gig, we look at it as a performance."