- Tara Cassady
The Little Rock music community lost one of its most beloved figures earlier this week. Luke Hunsicker died early Monday morning after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 29.
Music fans across the country knew him as the rangy, charismatic bassist in American Princes. He joined the band as it was blossoming from a local favorite to a national touring act signed to North Carolina's Yep Roc Records.
Followers of the local music scene remember him as one of the area's most in-demand bassists, who, at one time or another, played as a member of 613 Mob, Big Boots, The Evelyns, Silver Swirly, Sugar and the Raw, Them of Delphi and Under Rues.
Friends and family remember him as a "Renaissance man," someone who "could do a little bit of everything really well," according to his wife Sydney, a Fort Smith native whom he met at an American Princes concert in Chicago and married three years ago.
He drew. He worked with pastels. He sewed. He sculpted, earning the awe of high school friends as a senior when Parkview decided to purchase "Bucket Boy," a self-portrait sculpture, from the torso up, coming out of a five-gallon bucket. And he cut hair in a barber chair in his house. Usually in exchange for a six-pack.
In fact, cutting hair very nearly became a profession. He initially turned down the Princes' offer to join because he wanted to go to cosmetology school and was planning to go again recently.
But according to his friend Jack Lloyd, music was the art he was most passionate about for the last eight years.
The Princes' Collins Kilgore and David Slade remember the first time they saw Hunsicker play bass. They were at opposite ends of White Water Tavern, watching him play with The Evelyns, and they met in the middle to say what the other was thinking: This guy needs to be in our band.
"I'd never heard lines like that," Slade remembered earlier this week. "The melodies were brilliant. And he made them seem so effortless. I've played with him live for years. Thinking about it now, that's one of my favorite memories. It hit me, like seeing anyone else never has."
Beyond his musical contribution to the band, his bandmates remember his as a steady, calming presence.
"We all had to spend a whole lot of time together on the road, and there are a lot of tough times, where people are prone to wig out," Kilgore said. "But Luke was always there to tell people to chill out, to know when circumstances weren't all that serious."
Slade remembered him being constantly engaged with his friends and family.
"He was constantly keeping in touch with people, not just in Little Rock, but around the country. He took so much joy in people's good fortune."
"He got to know people so well," echoed Mike Motley, who first befriended Luke at Parkview High School and later played with him in Sugar and the Raw. "If he gave you advice on something, you could pretty much take it to the bank. We used to joke when we had problems that the answer should always be, 'What would Luke do?' "
Even when he got sick, Motley said Hunsicker continued to provide guidance to his friends.
"He helped everyone else deal with it. He guided his friends and family through his terminal illness. He refused to let it get to him. You could joke with him about anything all the way up to the end.
The last time I saw him, I knew he wasn't doing good, and I probably wasn't going to see him again. We had a good talk. I kept telling him, 'I love you, man,' so we started talking about that movie, 'I Love You, Man.' "
"He taught me a completely different definition of what it meant to love someone," his wife Sydney said on Tuesday. "Even more so over the last two years, during the time we got to spend together because of the way friends and family took care of us and let me take care of him. Nobody's ever seen a support system like we've had, and it's still going."
At press deadline, memorial arrangements were still being made. Check Rock Candy for details and more memories of Luke.