Luke McKnight – new single, new hip, and new outlook

Luke McKnight, lifelong bluegrass performer and grandson of mandolin master, Jesse McReynolds, has suffered from one of the less often discussed misadventures of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the strict restrictions throughout the US, especially during the early lockdown period in March and April, many hospitals completely stopped offering elective surgery of any kind, and people in need of relief had to wait several months for treatment.

Luke was one such, in need of hip replacement surgery at age 39 owing to a genetic bone disease he suffers from. Living in extreme pain made this a very troubling year for him, which should have been among the more joyous of his life. He had signed a contract with Turnberry Records to produce a solo album, and found a new romance with Megan Darby, Director of the Bluegrass Music Program at Glenville State University in West Virginia. Bluegrass cute!

The diagnosis came in during February, after an MRI showed the disease had cut off blood flow to the hip, but no hospitals were willing to do the surgery. He had to wait until November 12 to have it done.

Let’s have Luke share the story…

“The surgery that I had to have done was a full hip replacement on my right hip due to a generic bone disease called Avascular: osteonecrosis. It’s simply a lack of blood flow to the bone that connects the leg to the pelvis, and causes deterioration. Honestly, I needed this surgery done months before I did it. But due to COVID and several other factors it just wasn’t possible. Finally, after going through several channels from friends and referrals, we found the perfect surgeon in Charleston, West Virginia. I knew the whole time that I wanted to get the surgery done in West Virginia, so I could do my rehab there.

It all just really worked out very well. The surgeon told me that once he got started, he soon realized that this was the worst hip that he had ever worked on. The bone was literally broken in half in the socket, and had been that way for months. It was the most pain that I ever thought possible. But as soon as I woke up from the anesthesia I could tell that there was improvement.

I was sent home the next day exactly 24 hours after the surgery began. I am able to walk better now than I have in all of 2020 with the help of a walker, for a couple weeks probably. I am positive, confident, and motivated to completely recover and continue my pursuit of carrying on my family’s music and tradition.

I was born to be an entertainer. I have no doubt about that. And I’m not gonna let some little bone disease get in my way of sharing music with people. It means too much to me.”

As it happened, McKnight was on a waitlist for surgery, but a cancellation came up and, given the degree of pain he was suffering, the doctor got him right in with little more than a week’s notice.

The first single from his new album was released on October 31, It’s Gonna Take A Train, a gritty, bluesy, medium-tempo grasser that came from a friend of his.

“This song was sent to me by a good friend of mine Jeff Hyde, the co-writer. I got to know Jeff well during my 5 years of touring as a bus driver with Eric Church, as Jeff is in the band as a utility player (banjo, guitar, and mandolin) and backup singer. We shared a lot of common interests, both coming from bluegrass backgrounds, and both spending years around the Grand Ole Opry.

I had asked him if he had any songs sitting with a grassy vibe, and he sent me about 8 songs immediately. The single was a a no brainer the first time I heard it. In fact, I couldn’t believe that nobody had already grabbed it. Once the recording process began, it became evident that it should be the first song released on my new project on Turnberry Records.

It was exactly the sound I was after… solid lyrics and drive! I also knew immediately who would play banjo on the cut. I told my co-producer, Steve Thomas, that this song has Robbie McCoury written all over it. So we got him to come in, and he nailed it just like he always does.

So as far as the song goes, between the writers and the lyrics and the musicians, I think that this single portrays a lot about the direction that I want to go in. You never know what you’re going to hear from me!”

For now, outside of encouraging everyone to request It’s Gonna Take A Train from the favorite DJs, Luke has nothing on his schedule but recovery, including regular physical therapy sessions. His doctors suggest about six weeks before he can completely return to normal use of his legs, but given how badly his hip had deteriorated, it could be up to three months.

He is taking the so far, so good approach.

“My recovery from surgery is going very well. All the doctors and physical therapists are very optimistic that I’ll make a full recovery. They also seem to think that I’ll progress in recovery faster because I’m only 39 years old. I was walking up and down the halls of the hospital 20 hours after the surgery.

The downside is that I’m already guaranteed to need another replacement on my left hip because the disease is there too. There is no way to know when I will need it, as it progresses at its own speed. However, it will not bother me near as much now that I have had this one done, and know that it’s not the end of the world.

This was the first surgery that I’ve ever had, so I was very anxious and afraid. I believe next time will be different. Surgery will never be fun, but thinking about it won’t lead to panic attacks anymore. (LOL)

I do have to say that I could not have done this without Megan and her encouragement. She has been the rock that I needed to get through this. I will spend a lot of the future trying to repay her for all the good she has done for me. I’m a better man because of her. I’m a stronger man because of her. And ultimately I will have a better music career because of her ability to encourage me and stand behind me and believe in me like nobody else ever has. She pushes me to always try harder and do better no matter what I’m doing. And I’m the kind of man that needs that. I admit that. I need somebody to kick me through the door sometimes and get me moving.”

Everybody loves a happy ending to a sad story, and it looks like Luke and Megan have just that.

Best of luck to you both!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.