In 1977 in the midst of the glory days of bands like Supertramp, Kansas, Eagles, Rush, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Fleetwood Mac, Santana and Pink Floyd, a catchy song started being played everywhere that served as a countrified counterpoint. Waylon Jennings rendition of Luckenbach, Texas was that song.
I remember it grabbed my interest and introduced me to the concept of “outlaw country” music — artists like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jessi Colter, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, and Hank Williams, Jr. I never had much interest in the country genre before that, but the music being produced by these outlaws blended right into what I liked somehow.
Out of that experience, I have maintained a curiosity about the namesake of the song, and what goes on there. After a fun weekend spent in nearby Fredericksburg (read the story), we decided to go have a look. Luckenbach’s heritage goes back to the 1840’s when a trading post was established at the place. Settlers and Commanche’s traded here. Eventually, a post office and community was established and the population grew as high as 500 people, but it gradually died out and became what might be called a ghost town. In the 1960’s the town was purchased in its entirety for $30,000 by a guy named Hondo Crouch who fostered the activities that take place there now.
Following are images from an afternoon and evening at Luckenbach. Captions, when provided, appear before the related image(s).
Nowdays, Luckenbach is a picturesque collection of weathered, wooden structures (a souvenir shop, a dancehall, and a bar) set in a grove of old shade trees. Chickens peck and scratch their way around the yard free range style. Beer and barbeque are on sale and are a fine complement to hanging out.
People were cruising into Luckenbach by a variety of modes — from European sports cars to …
… this guy who came galloping down the road on his bull …
I thought myself fortunate to arrive one a Sunday afternoon where following a couple free performances at the small bandstand the Sunday afternoon pickers circle convened. I was originally just going to stop for a beer and to look the place over, but I discovered a campground within earshot just across the creek so I ended up staying overnight.
It looks like there were at least eleven pickers in the circle along with assorted harp players and singers …
The chickens that wander everywhere started heading up into the trees around dusk …
The old bar is a collecting place for all kinds of odd stuff …
Luckenbach is situated on South Grape Creek …
Introduced as the poet laureate of Luckenbach, Walt Perryman recited a couple of his poems during a break in the music …
LUCKENBACH TEXAS by Walt Perryman
Luckenbach is not just a bar, it is a lot more than that
It is a place to get married, go to Church, or buy a hat.
When they have a Picker’s Circle, it does not take long
Before someone is singing a good old Gospel song.
We have had many funerals out here, too.
Mike Baudat, Hondo and Marge to name a few.
Some people say it’s haunted out here and that may be,
But all of the ghosts I have met have been friendly to me.
I have heard some people say it is like magic out here,
I have heard others say it is just the cold beer.
The Picker’s Circle singing gospel songs under the tree,
may not be heaven but it is the next thing to me.
Dusk faded to dark as the music kept going into the night …
Luckenbach mood music ….