This small Hill Country town attracts visitors with live music and a laid-back atmosphere.
By Kathryn Lemmon
You might be surprised when you first set foot in Luckenbach, Texas. It’s minuscule by all standard measures, despite its larger-than-life fame.
Luckenbach was first marked on the maps because it had a trading post, which evolved into a post office/general store and beer joint as early as 1886. Unfortunately, de-evolution set in, and the town might have passed into history but for the impact of music.
One of the first musicians associated with Luckenbach was country singer and songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker, who, in 1973, found it to be a good low-key location to record an album. Those were simpler times, when stacked hay bales could be used as sound buffers. In 1977, the song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love),” recorded by Waylon Jennings, with guest vocals by Willie Nelson, became a major hit. The town has been famous ever since.
Our vanload of six people happily sang the Waylon tune as we rode together into town. It helped us get into the proper frame of mind. Who knew singing loudly and off-key could be so much fun?
“Let’s go to Luckenbach Texas with Waylon and Willie and the boys.
This successful life we’re livin’ got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys.”
As I learned, the tune can stick in your brain for days. Songwriters Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman penned the ode to the burg, but Waylon and Willie are the ones who everyone remembers.
We arrived at 8:00 p.m. or so on a Wednesday evening. Immediately it was clear that Luckenbach holds firm to its musical priorities. Five guitar players were assembled under live oak trees that formed a natural nook. The audience was spread around wooden picnic tables, with a few folks and their dogs standing at the outside bar. Denim was clearly the clothing of choice and beer in long-neck bottles the preferred drink.
White lights strung outside the buildings offered up a nice glow. No vehicle sounds or outside noise disrupted the music, thanks to the peaceful, remote location. There were even chickens roosting in the trees! I could see four of them overhead, safely tucked in for the night.
One of the largest buildings in town is the Luckenbach Dancehall, with a stage on one end, plenty of open floor space, and more picnic tables for sitting. Like all of Luckenbach, the hall is a no-frills place, highly suitable for dancing and camaraderie. Events are held there regularly.
From where we stood outside that evening, a dry and shallow creek bed was visible. The dryness should be a temporary situation, related to the recent Texas drought.
The general store contains T-shirts and jewelry, among other mementos. Most visitors want to snap a photo in front of the store, where the town name appears on a sign. I’m told highway signs leading to Luckenbach usually don’t stay in their appointed locations very long.
Luckenbach reminds us that music-lovers don’t need fancy clothes or eye-popping venues. Simplicity can be a virtue, allowing the music to take center stage.
The city of Fredericksburg lies approximately 8 miles northwest of Luckenbach and offers an ample selection of campgrounds, some closer to Luckenbach than others. For ease of parking, leave your motorhome at the RV park and take your towed vehicle to Luckenbach. For more information and music schedules, visit www.luckenbachtexas.com; call (830) 997-3224 or (888) 311-8990 for directions.
Fredericksburg info is available at www.fredericskburgtexas-online.com and from the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce, (830) 997-6523; www.fredericksburgtexas.com.