- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
John Luskey has lived a life full of music, full of entertainment.
The earliest performances came from his father, John, who would return home from working a shift as a Prince George’s County police officer while Luskey’s mother, Mary was making breakfast for the kids.
“My father would sing to her, make up songs,” said Luskey, who lives in Welcome. “I was watching him. My mother would smile. I realized that girls like it when guys sing.”
Luskey, who grew up taking piano lessons from his grandmother, Lucille Harris, soon was picking up the violin, clarinet, French horn, and when he was about 12, he stumbled upon his father’s old guitar collecting dust in the attic.
He started playing and landed in his first band when he was 14. It was with a bunch of older guys, and he thinks they called themselves Anonymous. What he does remember is his fellow band members taught him the ropes of being in a group, the stage etiquette, the way to play for a crowd.
It wasn’t until high school when he and his friend Buster Morgenstern, a singer, worked out a trade. Luskey would teach him guitar if Morgenstern would give him singing lessons.
Soon, Luskey, Morgenstern and their buddy, Ronnie Smith, a keyboardist, would walk the hallways of Surrattsville High School and burst out into three-part harmony. (Luskey would go on to be in bands with Smith and Morgenstern, such as His Boy Elroy and Midnight Special.)
Nearing graduation and being a member of rock bands, Luskey, influenced by Billy Joel, James Taylor and hair band stalwarts Van Halen and Bon Jovi, was preparing for his close-up.
“From the time I was a teenager up to my early 20s, I knew I was going to be a rock star,” Luskey said. “I mean, what else could I be?”
His more levelheaded parents suggested he go to college, just in case Rolling Stone didn’t come calling for a cover story.
Luskey knew that he would have to move to music meccas such as New York, Nashville, Tenn., or Los Angeles to be noticed and submerge himself in the industry in hopes of making the connections he needed to succeed.
Instead, he started working in radiology at Children’s National Medical Center and played gigs on the side.
He worked five days a week and played music five nights a week. He later started working in the information technology department at Children’s before deciding he wanted to give music a solid go.
He got bass player Jack Bannister and drummer Dwayne Taylor to commit to be in his band — the John Luskey Band, and when Taylor’s then-girlfriend, now wife, Maggie, heard some of Luskey’s original songs, she suggested he ditch rock music and focus on writing and performing country tunes.
Rock songs are more about symbolism, Luskey said.
Country songs are narratives.
“It’s a novel in three minutes, 30 seconds,” he said.
Anything can inspire him, he said — his dog, his brother Dan, his girlfriend Brandi Duffield and her daughter Bailey, 12.
A long drive home from Florida to Maryland, with the tires beating rhythmically on the concrete of Interstate 95 brought about “Lord Willing,” a song about getting home, one that was scribbled on the back of a Taco Bell napkin.
Other tunes spring fully formed from his mind, such as his Billboard award-winning “King of the World,” a song that came together in about 30 minutes.
Another song, “When She Cries,” also won a Billboard award.
Pretty prestigious gigs started coming in quickly for the band.
They were opening for country singers Trace Adkins, Travis Tritt, Gretchen Wilson and Kenny Chesney.
They performed all over the country and the world, places such as Moscow, Beijing and Brazil.
But Luskey knew the industry worships youth with the coveted consumer demographic being people 14 to 30, he said.
He works a “real job” in cybersecurity but is determined to stay in the music industry.
Armed with his song-writing skills, he and some other musicians — Pink’s guitarist Justin Derrico, Bush’s bassist Corey Britz and Bill Appleberry, a producer for “The Voice,” formed The Farm, a group that writes and pitches songs in Nashville, hopefully catching the ear of an established performer.
The group’s name comes with its own tag line.
“Our songs grow on you,” Luskey said.
While he is focusing on writing, he will not be giving up performing anytime soon.
The John Luskey Band, joined by Smith on keyboards, Morgenstern on acoustic guitar and Ricky Simpkins on fiddle, will open for Lynyrd Skynyrd on Saturday at the Patriot Center in Fairfax, Va., for the 10th annual American Freedom Foundation benefit concert.
“We were looking for someone to represent the [Washington,] D.C., and Virginia community who had a following,” said Ted Hacker, co-founder of the American Freedom Foundation. “[The band] has played many times over the past few years in the area and was highly recommended as a performer with a high-energy show who would be a great complement to Skynyrd.”
Luskey is excited about performing for a band he grew up blasting in his speakers when he was a long-haired kid.
“We’re talking about a legend,” he said of Syknyrd. “How many shows have I played at least two of their songs a night? And to open for them in a freakin’ indoor arena? I’m one of the luckiest guys in the whole wide world.”
Lynyrd Skynyrd, a band built on a Southern rock sound is a bridge between country music and rock ‘n’ roll, Luskey said.
“I guess that’s a bridge I’ve walked across,” he said.