As Will Luckey would have said about the celebration of his life held on the grounds of the Tisbury Water Works Saturday afternoon, “It’s all good!” It was a gorgeous September afternoon; tents were pitched on the lawn which rolled down to Lake Tashmoo, overlooking a sparkling fountain. People were encouraged to bring food, and they brought more than enough to feed the several hundred people in attendance.
Will had deep roots on the Island, having grown up here. Family and friends, including many of Will’s former students, mingled on the lawn sharing remembrances of Will, a beloved Island musician who had taught guitar and piano to Islanders of all ages, but had a particular knack for bringing out music in young students.
Also in attendance were five special guests who had flown in from across the country, the members of Will’s old band, Magic Music. Will was a founding member of the band formed in the ’70s, and originally based out of Boulder, Colo., which gained huge popular and critical success and was documented in the movie “Forty Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie.”
As people were settling in, in many cases getting reacquainted with friends who had traveled great distances to be there, the sounds of a bagpipe drew attention to the main tent, where Island musicians, and the original members of Magic Music, would pay tribute to Will. Wes Nagy, a dear friend of Will’s who had organized the musicians, welcomed everyone to the celebration. Leading off the performances were Steven Hart, who played a song called, “You Are My Truest Inspiration,” and Tristan Israel, who sang a spirited folk ballad he wrote called, “I’ll Wait For You.”
Next up was former MVY Radio personality Barbara Dacey, who met Will years ago when she was taking guitar lessons from him. “He was such a great musician,” Dacey said. “I learned not only about guitar but about music in general. And he was such a wonderful person. It was always so great just to talk to Will.” Dacey performed a song she composed called “All That Living,” and she accompanied herself on an East Indian instrument called a shruti box, which was lent to her by Isaac Taylor.
Just before Will’s death, he reached out to Island musician Mike Benjamin and asked if he and Wes Nagy would come play for him. “It was an incredible honor for him to want me to come and play music for him.” Benjamin said. “I explained the situation to my son, and he came along; it was a good life lesson.”
Benjamin and Nagy played a song that had been requested by Will’s wife, Cub. It was a beautiful ballad Will and Wes had written together, and it carried with it a special personal moment shared by Cub, Will, and Wes. “When we would go to a club where Wes was playing,” Cub said, “and we’d be sitting at the bar and Wes would play the song, he would intentionally play the worst note at the most beautiful part of the song, and we’d go, ‘Ahhhh!’”
Cub gave a heartfelt tribute to her husband. She explained how amazing it was that so many people had come out for Will and her and their family. “The one big thing I wanted to say,” Cub said “was that Will epitomized love, he was pure love; and I think that’s why we’re all here, because of his love and everyone here, I think, has felt very special whenever they talked to Will. I think it’s really important that we continue this amazing love that Will shared with all of us, very important that we continue with that love and be loving to each other in Will’s honor. He would like that, and I would like that.”
Cub explained that Will would not have wanted this to be a sad party, and then exhorted the crowd “to give him what he wants!” With that the crowd spontaneously yelled out, ‘We love you, Cub!’”
“Will was the love of my life,” Cub said. “He was the man of my dreams.”
Next onstage were Kate Taylor and Will’s longtime friend, Tim Goodman. About 10 years ago, Goodman produced an album of the Magic Music songs — they had never been recorded in all these years.
“I was lucky to be one of Will Luckey’s worst students,” Taylor said, “but we had fun — didn’t we have fun? How many here were students of Will Luckey (sizable applause), because we are the chosen ones — we are all students of Will Luckey, whether we were sitting with him or not.”
Taylor explained that she and Goodman would sing a song called “Go Rest High on That Mountain” that Vince Gill wrote and sang at the Grand Ole Opry on the occasion of the death of country music legend George Jones. It was a powerful song, made even more powerful by the beautiful harmonies of Tim and Kate.
It was time for the much anticipated Magic Music. So many people, especially folks on the Island, had heard of the band, but relatively few had actually heard them play live. The band took the stage: Chris “Spoons” Daniels on guitar, George “Tode” Cahill on flute, C.W. Milburn on drums; Rob “Poonah” Galloway and Bill “Das” Makepeace alternated on bass, and Wes Nagy sat in on keyboards.
Chris Daniels introduced the band, saying, “This is kind of a missing man formation. If you know anything about the Air Force, there’s an old tradition that when you fly and someone goes missing, they leave a space in the formation, and up here there’s a space where Will would normally sit and play these incredible mandolin parts.” Will played guitar as well; “he was the most amazing finger picker I ever knew,” Daniels said, “he just had a particular style finger picking, so I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks trying to capture it.”
The band played a medley of songs Will wrote, starting off with his signature song, “Bring the Morning Down,” which he wrote when he was still in high school. It was inspired by his sitting on Lambert’s Cove Beach one morning.
Will’s daughter, Carey Luckey, reflected on the kind of day it had been for Will’s celebration of life. “This is the weather I knew was coming for this day; I had no doubt in my mind we were going to have perfection in the sky today. That’s where I see him most these days, in the skies. It makes everyone’s love shine even more in weather like this. He would have loved this.”
A scholarship has been set up in Will’s honor at MVRHS. Checks made payable to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School may be sent to M.V. Public Schools, c/o Marylee Schroeder, 4 Pine St., Vineyard Haven, MA 02568. Include “Will Luckey Memorial Scholarship Fund” in the memo line of the check.