Mandy Marie Luke is just about the smilin'est guitar player Indianapolis has ever seen. The 27-year-old honky-tonk crooner picks and grins for crowds all over the Midwest and South as the leading lady for the Cool Hand Lukes.
The rhinestone cowgirl, who was raised among cattle on a 400-acre Missouri farm, picked up guitar at 13 and was quickly added to her father's band.
"We played three nights a week, four sets a night in every single honky-tonk from Missouri to Texarkana," said Luke. "That's how I grew up: breathing in cigarette smoke and watching bar fights."
But don't be fooled by Luke's wide grin and casual banter; she wasn't always so comfortable onstage. When Luke first started playing with her pops she'd crouch behind her amplifier and "if there was a curtain, you could bet dollars to doughnuts that I'd be behind it," Luke said.
Thankfully she overcame her stage fright, because Mandy Marie and the Cool Hand Lukes is a band in demand. Rounded out by bassist Morrison "Mo" Foster, 45, guitarist Rick Weaver, 45, and drummer Lewis Scott Jones, 37, the band is booked up well into 2008 with nightclub gigs and appearances at rockabilly festivals and hot-rod shows.
Luke is looking forward to releasing her record and hittin' the road.
"There's nothing like riding in a [Chevrolet] Suburban with your best friends in the world and eatin' gas-station hot dogs," she said.
The guitarist took a few minutes to play a quick round of Either/Or with Indy.com.
Waffle House or IHOP?
Aw, that's easy: Waffle House. I would have chosen the Huddle House if that was an option. In my hometown we have three things: the Route 66 Wagon Wheel Inn, the truck stop, and the Huddle House.
Piggly Wiggly or Schwegman's?
Piggly Wiggly because the name is more provocative.
Pabst Blue Ribbon or High Life?
Pabst Blue Ribbon.
Fringe or rhinestones?
Rhinestones. I'd dress like Dale Evans every day of my life if I could. Unless we're talkin' about the movie "Rhinestone." Then fringe.
Fender or Gibson?
The Fender Telecaster was God and Leo [Fender's] gift to the world. Telecaster is my favorite word ever and just mutterin' it makes me shiver in twang.
Jimmy Dean Sausage or Bob Evans?
Jimmy Dean, of course. Bob Evans never had a No. 1 hit. But you know what will override the both of them is the home-raised sausage I have fillin' up my freezer right now. It's raised up and packaged by Bob Luke, my granddad. You never buy sausage when you grow up like I did.
Roller derby or demolition derby?
That one's easy -- roller derby.
Carl Perkins or Perkins Family Restaurant?
Between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., I'm goin' with Carl Perkins. After 2 a.m. I'm goin' with them Southwest Eggrolls.
Nashville, Tenn., or Nashville, Ind.?
Nashville, Tennessee. Why go to the Little Opry when you can have the big one? And I like hangin' out in all the places Hank Williams peed, so definitely Nashvegas, Tenn-o-see.
Hillbilly or redneck?
Ozark Mountain hillbilly. I got real burnt out on them redneck jokes.
Rock 'n' roll or rockabilly?
Neither one of those sounds like honky-tonk to me. I'm going with rockabilly, with a rock 'n' roll attitude.
Puppies or cowboy babies?
That's a good one, Neal. I've got to stay true and go with cowboy babies, though. One of these days I'll have a powder-blue trailer full of 'em.
Branson, Mo., or Pigeon Forge, Tenn.?
Actually, I've played both and I've got to choose Pigeon Forge just because Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountains are bigger than my Ozark Mountains.
Moon Pies or Ho Ho's?
I spend half my day walkin' around my house spinnin' Webb Pierce records, eatin' Moon Pies and wearin' nothing but a pink Telecaster and cowboy boots. You tell me.