The first person I saw when I entered the bar in Luckenbach, Texas, was a man in his late 50s dressed in a green camouflage do-rag and long, khaki duster…with fringe. I was dressed in a very standard black sweater and black coat to protect against the unseasonably cold temperature. The only thing visibly Texan about me was my cowboy boots, the embroidery hiding under my jeans. We were not exactly two peas in a pod, this biker and me.
We approached the bar at the same time and placed our orders. As I pulled out my wad of cash, the bartender returned with our drinks from the other side of the bar.
Before I could hand over the dollar bills, the stranger pulled out a $10. “This should cover both,” he said to the bartender. Then, turning toward me, he smiled, “welcome to Luckenbach.”
Visiting Luckenbach, Texas, is like coming home to a place you’ve never been before. Walking through the door of this two-building town–it only has a dance hall and combination bar and general store–there is a feeling that everyone is a regular, maybe even friends and family.
Then one of the performers starts to ask where people are from–Alberta, Kansas City, San Antonio, Cincinnati. Despite the geographic distance of the origins of the patrons on this Tuesday night, everyone settles into the easy country groove.
Fourteen miles from Fredericksburg, this is not much more than a wide place in the road. Its oft-stolen road signs famously show, “Luckenbach, Texas, population: 3.”
This tiny hamlet in the Hill Country was settled in the late 1840s and 1850s by German farmers, including Jacob and August Luckenbach. The general store and post office–the heart of what remains of the town–were established in 1886. A cotton gin was operated nearby with varying levels of success until 1929.
In 1970, the local legend John “Hondo” Crouch and a few partners responded to an ad that offered the town for sale. Envisioning a town where music and magic get made, Crouch and his friends established a place where the rest of the world gets left behind.
They took make believe titles (Hondo was the self-proclaimed mayor) and invited everyone who visited to join in in the laid back, unique atmosphere. Within a few years, they established “hug-ins,” the Luckenbach World’s Fair, and the Mud Dauber festival. The events drew hundreds and then thousands to the tiny place, and they continue to draw big crowds today.
Luckenbach quickly became a place not just to escape but a venue for some of the best (or at least the most passionate) in country music with daily performances in the bar. In the 1970s, Jerry Jeff Walker first put the town on the national radar, followed a few years later by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson with their song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).”
Today, the historic, welcoming town draws people from across the world to drink beer underneath 500-year-old oak trees and listen to music in the memorabilia-studded bar. The daily performances continue and larger ones with country music greats garner crowds on many weekends while the festivals started by Hondo and his crew dot the busy calendar.
This is a special place with a vibe unlike any I’ve experienced before where the motto sung by Waylon and Willie continues to ring true–“everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach.”
Where is Luckenbach, Texas?
Luckenbach is a 75-mile road trip from Austin, Texas. The closest large town in the Hill Country is Fredericksburg, which is 14 miles northwest. From US Highway 290, take RR 1376 to 412 Luckenbach Town Loop.
Have you been to here? What did you think?
Monday 28th of November 2022
Did a telecom project in the area in the 70s. A drunk DEA agent tried to get me to wire tap Waylon, Willie and The Boys. Offered me big bucks. What an a... you can guess the rest. Telecom paid me all the money I needed. Instead I played horseshoes with silver dollar sized washers with locals because the yard was too small for real horseshoes. Great place, great people, y'all come back, hear?
Tuesday 26th of July 2022
Went there few years ago for the 1st time and I loved it. It felt so peace full listen to the music. I really loved it. I want to go back one day. Have a nice place there.
Friday 14th of January 2022
Went to visit a friend in San Antonio and he said " I'm taking you to a place you'll never forget and will always bring a smile to your face whenever you think about it" well he sure was right!!!!@
Friday 14th of January 2022
That's the truth :)
Monday 17th of May 2021
Been visiting the most laid back and pleasant to be present there place in all of my traveling over the last 40 years, which no other atmosphere can compare to. The friendliest people with loving and the most welcoming hearts I have ever seen as in Luckenbach, Tx. I would travel 9 to 10 hours of driving just to capture the moment of great hospitality and great entertainment in reality for a weekend, thank you.
Monday 7th of October 2019
I visited luckenbach in the late 70s while I was stationed at Ft. Hood. Loved it! Hope I get back to Texas for another visit.