Tag Archives: Pete Aitkin

Hail To The Wreckers: The Sequel

Yesterday — in a post about Staples High School’s sports mascot — I said I was pretty positive there’s no other team in the country with our nickname: the Wreckers.

No one disagreed.

But Pete Aitkin knows of one school that — many years ago — was also the Wreckers.

Key West High.

The owner of the Black Duck is also a noted speedboat racer. He’s been to Key West many times.

Their original “Wreckers” nickname came, he says, from the long-ago practice of stringing fake lights, to lure unsuspecting cargo ships onto reefs. Locals would then swarm the wrecks, and loot them.

A while ago though, they changed their name. Key West High — which sounds like a pretty chill place — is now the home of the Conchs.

The name — and the mascot — do not instill “nearly as much fear in opponents as the mean-looking Wrecker,” Aitkin notes.

The reason for yesterday’s post was the antiquated — but still occasional – use of “Lady Wreckers” when referring to girls teams.

Several commenters wrote that once upon a time, the term was “Wreckerettes.”

Down in Key West, the cheerleaders are still called the “Conchettes.”

That’s not a great sports name. Perhaps, though, Jimmy Buffett could use it for his backup singers.

Duck! It’s 25 Years Of Karaoke

In 1992, Leigh Henry tried to sell Pete Aitkin a karaoke jukebox.

The Black Duck owner said no.

But he asked Leigh — a 1968 Staples High School grad, with a long and varied music career — if he’d host a karaoke show instead.

Leigh said yes.

Which is why — a quarter century later — the Duck is celebrating 25 years as Westport’s go-to karaoke restaurant/bar.

Leigh is a storied figure in Fairfield County. While still a Staples student, his band — Mandrake Root — opened for the Doors, and Sly and the Family Stone.

Leigh spent 15 years organizing shows, then booked music for clubs and private events. For 3 decades his band Celebration has played weddings and parties. He’s the vocalist in another group — the Leigh Henry Band — and also DJs.

In the early ’90s Leigh was selling karaoke machines, like those in Asia where people pay to sing. But Aitkin thought that if the Duck sponsored karaoke, there should be a host.

Before the opening show, Leigh wondered if anyone would come. He still recalls the first person — a woman named Maureen. She sang “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”

At that moment, Black Duck karaoke took off.

Black Duck karaoke, in the early days.

“Tuesday nights were wall to wall,” Leigh says. He added Mondays too, for 23 years.

Leigh’s karaoke fans like older music — classics. Not a lot of hip hop. The 3 all-time favorites, Leigh thinks, are “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Sweet Caroline.”

The Duck itself plays a huge role in Tuesday karaoke’s long success.

“The vibe is completely comfortable,” Leigh notes. “It’s a great equalizer. There are no pretensions. Bikers, tech guys, yuppies — everyone leaves their attitude at the door, and mucks in together.”

Just another Tuesday at the Duck.

The layout helps too. “There’s a bar where people sit safely. They can engage or not,” Leigh observes. “You can sit at tables. The place is small enough to be intimate, but large enough so there’s a lot of energy.”

Mike “Wolfie” Connors — the popular bartender from Day 1 to 2015 — also played a big role, Leigh says.

Five years ago, the Duck celebrated 20 years of karaoke with a party — and a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Westport’s favorite karaoke spot.

For this 25th, Leigh upped the ante.

Tuesday, June 13 and 20 are “Applause for the Cause” nights. They’re like Relays for Life — except people sing to raise money, rather than walk.

The 1st night is “Only a Pay-Per-Tune”: donate $25 to sing a song.

The 2nd evening is a “Sing-a-thon.” Team leaders who raise $500 earn a 3-tune mini-set. They can perform themselves, or offer their slot to friends.

Leigh’s goal is $10,000 for the American Cancer Society.

Good times never seemed so good.

(To become a team leader, sign up for a song or make a contribution, click here. For more information, email lh@leighhenrymusic.com) 

Brett is one of many Black Duck karaoke stars.

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #81

Everyone knows the Black Duck. A lot of people know Pete Aitkin, who owns it.

Some people know he grew up in Westport: In the very cool house that straddles the raceway between Old Mill Beach and the Sherwood Mill Pond.

Fewer people know there are 2 plaques near the house, honoring Pete’s parents, King and Kathleen Aitkin.

Only Chris Swan, Rick Benson and Leigh Gage answered last week’s photo challenge correctly. But several readers — including Pete’s sister, Melissa Aitkin Beers — added interesting info on the couple, and their house. Click here to see Jaime Bairaktaris’ photo, and all the comments.

The subject of this week’s challenge did not grow up anywhere. But if you know where in Westport he is — and have any back stories about him — click “Comments” below.

Oh My 06880 - July 17, 2016

Pete Aitkin Buys A New Black Duck

If you know the Black Duck — and who doesn’t? — you know the popular riverfront barge/bar/restaurant/hangout shares a name with the Black Duck racing boat.

Owner Pete Aitkin just received his latest toy: a custom-built 30-foot twin 300-horse Merc speedboat.

Last night, the Duck docked at the Duck.

This morning, Pete pulled it out of the water at Compo. He’ll store it till next year.

The Black Duck, with Pete Aitken at the helm.

The Black Duck, with Pete Aitkin at the helm.

The Black Duck — food version — put Westport on the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” map.

The maritime Black Duck did the same for offshore boat racing.

Tutti’s, Tarantino’s, Tarry Lodge: Top that!

(Hat tip: Randy Chiristophersen)