More than 50 years ago, Willie House, a young black man from Kentucky, and his wife arrived on Nantucket, where they were employed as domestic servants for a wealthy Nantucket summer family. Soon thereafter the ambitious Willie remodeled a small, vacant shack in what was then a remote part of town, for the purpose of purveying southern fried chicken. He called it the Chicken Box.
Each summer his business grew in popularity and Willie willingly expanded the facility. TheChicken Box became a popular restaurant and watering place during his first decade. As the business prospered, Willie made the decision to bring live band entertainment to the Island. The Chicken Box soon became known as a Nantucket hot spot for Jazz and Blues. Through Willie’s booking connections in New York City, many great and near great musicians made appearances at the Chicken Box. Muddy Waters was the most famous of all of the musicians to appear.
Early in the 1970’s, Willie’s health began to fail but his loyal local customers and friends assisted him in continuing the operation of the Chicken Box. In 1977, Willie retired and sold the business and the buildings.
The purchaser of the Chicken Box was the eccentric Robert “Cap’n Seaweed” R. Reed. He maintained the giant roadhouse ambiance initiated by Willie. Blues and soul music continued to be featured, and with his foresight and imagination a variety of other popular musical sounds and styles were integrated into the entertainment provided by the now “Internationally Infamous” Chicken Box. Cap’n Seaweed introduced Reggae to Nantucket. Some patrons were doubtful about this unorthodox new brand of music, but over the years, the Chicken Box gained a reputation as the venue where top-notch Reggae bands performed. The Captain’s conditions for the privilege of playing at the Chicken Box was that the musicians had to agree to play music that was danceable and acceptable to the majority of his patrons.
On May 10, 2000, the Captain sold the Chicken Box to new owners, some of whom are former employees and a couple of friends. These new owners are committed to continue the well established tradition of this Nantucket Institution. The Chicken Box will continue to be unpretentious, friendly and relaxing. It will always be the place where people from all walks of life gather for fun and entertainment. Once you have been here you will never forget the experience … or shall we say never want to leave.