Getting Luckey in Reno

Guitarist Luckey Walker takes a break from Alaska to play locally

Luckey Walker plays frequently at Abby’s Highway 40, 424 E. Fourth St. There is no cover charge. Call 322-9422.
As the clock counted down ever closer to Christmas, I made my bunker destination Abby’s Highway 40 bar on East Fourth Street. Remembering that the day after Christmas was going to be Boxing Day (observed in Canada, Australia and New Zealand), I decided to reflect on that metaphor and heed the holy words of my king, Elvis Presley, to enjoy a blue Christmas before the inevitable eclipse of peace on Earth.

There is plenty to be blue about. In 1555, Nostradamus foretold, “Come the millennium, month twelve, in the home of greatest power, the village idiot will come forth to be acclaimed the leader.” Spooky major. And that’s just for starters. Ever read Revelation?

Walker may be the middle name of our lucky president-elect, but it’s the last name of the man holding court in this bar. His name is Luckey Walker. He was in the middle of a set when I turned off Fourth Street and into Abby’s.

A gravelly voice was wailing, “Lord, have mercy on me,” when I walked in. A longhaired figure was bent over a keyboard pounding out notes, while another unbilled musician played guitar. Even though Walker is billed as a one-man show, that’s hardly ever the case. Walker says he’ll turn his stuff on and leave it on for the omnipresent “jammers” every night.

“I basically have an open mic every night of the week,” he says.

Walker performs at Abby’s almost every night of the week, not so coincidentally.

“I’ll play for two or three hours and come back, and there will be a different crowd,” he says. “The younger crowd usually starts drifting in later. The people seem to move in waves.”

Lucky for Luckey, he can adapt.

“I try to play for all age groups … I don’t hit everything, but I try to hit a nerve,” he says.

When not at home in Idaho, you’ll find Walker playing at Ernie’s Old Time Saloon in Sitka, Alaska. He’ll play in Reno until the end of March before returning to the inside passage.

A friend of mine familiar with Alaska wants to know if Walker’s heard of Hobo Jim, a local character who haunts the bars and has a knack for making everyone drink—especially the girls. Walker just laughs.

“I’ve heard of him … never heard him play,” Walker says. “There’s a lot of local players up there. But with the gig at Ernie’s in Sitka, nobody really wanted to do the winter up there, so I just decided to start coming down here for the winter.”

Walker points out a CD on the jukebox. It’s a local band, the Atomiks.

“They’ve played here before,” he says. “Hopefully, they’ll play here again.”

He points out another one. It’s a Luckey Walker CD.

“Yeah, I’ve got mine on there too,” he says. “I don’t have enough copies of it to sell, but I’ve been working on it for the past 10 years.”

On playing in Reno, Walker says he likes the freedom that comes with being unattached to the casinos.

“I like to do my originals and rock out more, so even though I played a bunch of casino gigs at first to get equipment, they don’t really let me cut loose,” he says.

When Walker does cut loose, his music has quite a range.

“There’s some different styles,” he says. “I just call it ‘space rock.’ The last tune fits that description the most, but there’s a country rock tune, a funk tune, a couple reggae-type tunes and then a blues rock tune that has a real fast tempo—almost kind of a punk rock tune. Even though there’s three songs on the album that have ‘blues’ in their titles, they’re not really blues songs like standard blues songs.”

Walker has been playing piano since he was 6 years old and guitar since he was 11. Why?

“Probably because of the Beatles, but I changed over when I saw Todd Rungren’s Utopia,” he says. “That and Frank Zappa’s later stuff. I like to keep learning.”

So do I. That’s why I brought my harmonica. Acrylic guitarist Steve Larkins showed up, and the eternal jam session continued.