Written by Lisa Ledwith
When asked how he found Salida, Jimmy Luchetta chuckles and tells his favorite joke. “I was born a couple blocks from here. Didn’t get very far, did I?” While geographically this soft-spoken, laid back Salidan might not have made it far, he’s accomplished much in his lifetime in the Arkansas River valley.
Jimmy’s maternal grandfather moved to Colorado from Italy in the 1890’s. His family originally worked the narrow gauge railroads around Gunnison and Sargents until his parents moved to Salida full time just after he was born in 1952.
Jimmy enjoyed his Salida childhood. “We pretty much ran free–we were outdoor kids.” In 1964, The Beatles played Ed Sullivan and Jimmy says for him, and many musicians his age, this created an infatuation with music. On Saturday mornings, he and his friend Jimmy Trujillo watched American Bandstand and practiced Beatles songs on their guitars.
He joined his first band, The Cosmonauts, and “it was immediately an obsession. You just couldn’t not do it.” At 13 years old, The Cosmonauts booked bars, particularly The Country Club in Smeltertown. They played parties, school dances, and rented the Scout Hut for $20–charging 25 cents at the door. “We were our own promoters,” he laughs.
Jimmy went to college in Grand Junction, met his wife Emma and moved back to Salida. While music remained his passion, he always worked. When Climax closed in the 80’s, jobs were scarce. “You had to hustle,” he says. “I did pretty much everything there was to do in this town.” He worked at the quarry, owned a construction company, drove a rafting bus, worked at Monarch and, eventually, settled at the golf course for 25 years.
Jobs changed but music remained. “There’s always been music in this town,” he says. When FIBArk needed a band in 1980, Jimmy and his friends rallied. They evolved into The Lazy Aliens, a Salida band spanning 30 years. The original lineup (Denny Daley, Chris Thompson, Deke Ruston, J.N. Bates and Jimmy) changed over time, but the Aliens remained a staple in the Salida scene until their final gig in 2012.
Town has changed but he says, “The place hasn’t changed, just the dynamic of living here.” He points to the buildings, the mountains, the landmarks. A self-described bar-band musician, he misses The Vic, calling it, “The last of old school Salida.” But he says Salida is still a friendly town and holds no bitterness about the changes. “Why would you?” he asks. “Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. But it is what it is. There’s no going back.”