ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Strumming his guitar outside coffee shops in Old Town and collecting tips in its case. Playing “Malagueña” on a Gibson Super 400 electric guitar at Soldier Field in Chicago with fellow Air Force members. Bringing the sounds of the Wickham Brothers Trio to the Territorial House in Corrales in the ’70s.
Those were among the favorite musical moments of Lewis O. “Lewie” Wickham, a guitarist and songwriter who died April 11 at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center in Albuquerque from complications related to emphyzema, lung problems and asthma at the age of 75, according to his younger brother Hank Wickham.
Originally from Grants, Lewie Wickham began exploring his passion for music playing with his father as a child. As a teen he entered the Air Force in Yuma, Ariz., and fell in love with the guitar. He joined a traveling group of Air Force musicians called Tops In Blue. “Malagueña” was the only song he then played, his sister Jean Rodarte recalled.
When he returned from the Air Force, he played music for tips at spots like the Purple Turk on Central Avenue, once a well-known hang-out for University of New Mexico students, she said. He also belonged to several local bands, including the Wickham Brothers — himself and his brother Hank — and the Wickham Brothers Trio, which included their younger cousin, Johnny Dagucon, as well, Dagucon said.
Lewie Wickham put out eight albums, wrote much of the music he performed, and won a New Mexico Music Award, playing music his brother called “New Mexican,” describing it as infusing jazz, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and country.
Wickham often took his children on the road with him to gigs in California and Las Vegas, Nev., where part of his act included telling jokes and doing stand-up routines. When no family member could watch the youngsters while he was on stage, he brought along his pit bull, who let the children jump on the hotel room bed, but would never allow them to leave the room, Rodarte said.
He is survived by two children — Lisa Wickham and Lewie Wickham Jr. — both of Albuquerque, and an adoptive daughter, Erica Briscoe, who now lives in Oklahoma, as well as his brother Hank and three sisters, Vera, Jean and Jane, all of Albuquerque, and numerous nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by two daughters, Leslie Wickham and April Wickham, who died in childhood at 4 years old and 10 days old respectively, both from cystic fibrosis, a cause to which he often donated money that he raised by playing music, his daughter Lisa said.
His family and friends are raising funds for a memorial celebration that will include food and live music and take place most likely in the summer, she added.
His ashes will be scattered over a rocky piece of land on Laguna Pueblo that Wickham liked so much he wrote the song, “Rough Rugged Edge,” about it, his brother said.