Will Luckey, a founder of Colorado’s first jam band, led life of mentorship

The accomplished musician, songwriter, teacher and member of '70s band Magic Music has died at age 68

Will Luckey smiles, while holding the mandolin, in Vail in 2016. The accomplished musician and one of the founders of Colorado’s first jam band, Magic Music, passed away on Saturday, Aug. 17.
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Will Luckey’s life was filled with song.

One of the founding members of Magic Music — dubbed Colorado’s first jam band — lost his life Saturday morning at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital due to complications from an aggressive form of cancer.

“Will and I just connected,” said former bandmate and director of Colorado Music Hall of Fame Chris Daniels, who met Luckey at an antiwar rally called “Woodstock West” in 1970 at the University of Denver. “We played music all that day and then went over to a friend’s house in Cheesman Park and played music almost all night. He asked me to come to Martha’s Vineyard and play music with him there. So, I left my home in Minnesota and hitchhiked out to start playing music with him there. Over the next six years, I played with Will in one form or another — four of them in Magic Music.”

This photograph captures the moment Magic Music members Chris Daniels, playing guitar at left, and Will Luckey, playing guitar at right, first met, during Woodstock West on the University of Denver campus in 1970. Randy Welton plays sax.

Growing up on Martha’s Vineyard, Luckey’s musical ability shone from an early age. As a boy, he would craft songs in the vein of folk poet Bob Dylan — an ability that would eventually secure him regular gigs, when he was just 14, at popular Martha’s Vineyard coffeehouses.

Often called the “spiritual leader” of Magic Music, Luckey — who lovingly bestowed lasting nicknames on his bandmates — was known for his jovial nature and unrelenting passion for performing live.

After high school, Luckey briefly attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs, but ultimately escaped to Boulder to set out on a musical journey. Years later, in 1991, he majored in piano at Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Luckey and fellow bandmates opened up for some of the top groups of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell and Richie Havens. Members of Magic Music embodied the flower child vibe by living in converted school buses in Eldorado Canyon and busking on the streets of Boulder.

“There are three things that I remembered most about Will,” Daniels said. “First is his incredible spirit, he put out more love than a locomotive. Second, was his finger-picking guitar style. He was a phenomenal player and songwriter. And third was the fact that he asked me to change my life, and I just trusted him. I agreed to do it. I am a musician because of Will Luckey.”

Daniels and Luckey performed together at the 28th annual Folks Fest, at Planet Bluegrass, in Lyons in August 2018. The two also appeared together in 2017’s “40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie”—a documentary by Lee Aronsohn that chronicled the beloved and elusive band’s history and its 2015 Boulder Theater reunion.

“Will had an incredibly smooth high voice —he was a great songwriter,” Daniels said.  “He was the nicest guy I ever knew and he played guitar better than anybody I know.”

In addition to lighting up stages and street corners throughout the country, Luckey was devoted to inspiring others to hone their craft and tap into their talent. He left Colorado in the ‘80s to pursue a career in private instruction. At his successful and always-booked modest recording and teaching studio on the Vineyard, he taught piano, mandolin, guitar, bass, voice and composition to students young and old.

“Will and I were both teachers,so we talked a lot about teaching, the love of our students and the typical frustration that teachers have about administrative issues,” Daniels said. “He had some incredible students including Bill Murray the actor, and Carly Simon the famous singer and songwriter. I think the thing we both loved was that by teaching, we learned. That’s the magic of teaching — you learn as much as you teach.”

Luckey, the third child of Marine Gen. Robert and Cary Walker Luckey, was born in 1951 in Bethesda, Md. He is survived by his sister, Laura; wife, Diane; children, Anna, Carey and Ben; daughter in-law, Angela; grandchildren, Emerson and Isla, and many others who loved him during his lifetime.

“My dad’s music is threaded throughout my life, my childhood in particular,” said daughter Anna Luckey. “With the music also came all the musicians, which just made for an incredible flow of energy. Looking back, I can see how special my ‘normal’ was. I think my favorite thing about my dad was his generosity of spirit. It was impossible to be in his presence and not come away with an infusion of positive energy.”

Luckey will be buried in a private family service on Martha’s Vineyard. There will be a celebration of his life with music on Sept. 21.

Daniels also is planning on holding a tribute in Boulder with fellow musicians for Luckey. The details of that event have not yet been released.

“I think the thing that everybody remembers about Will was his glowing spirit,” Daniels said. “He was the heart of the band.”

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