The Big Magic of the Tiny Town of Luckenbach

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The Luckenbach Texas General Store

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.

Wall filled with memorabilia and signs

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.”

People in a bar filled with signs and memorabilia on the walls

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.

Empty dance hall with stage
Luckenbach’s famous dance hall

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.

People listening to man playing guitar
Hanging out in Luckenbach

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.

Luckenbach Texas, est. 1849

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.

Small bust of Hondo Crouch wearing bandana

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.

Happened in Luckenbach this month cept the potato chip man came by and then there was the moon
Verse from the poem Luckenbach Moon by Hondo Crouch

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).”

Bumper stickers on the wall

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.”

Music memorabilia hanging from the ceiling
Signs for Luckenbach, Texas

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?

Luckenbach, Texas, is a charming two-building town filled with music and fun

16 thoughts on “The Big Magic of the Tiny Town of Luckenbach”

  1. Very cool. I had heard the name before via the country songs sung about it but never really thought of it as a real destination. Your article changed my mind.

  2. Kathryn Burrington

    I’ve never heard to Luckenbach but your photos really bring it to life. Sounds very different from anywhere I’ve been before – would love to visit one day.

  3. This town looks like a lot of fun. Texas has never really been on my bucket list, but perhaps I ought to reconsider!

  4. What a cute place! Texas is one US state I am so embarrassed to say I still haven’t been. One day and love tiny towns so glad to know about Luckenback (sounds so European, actually!)

    1. Laura Longwell

      It’s a great place. Interestingly, this area of the Hill Country is very European in certain ways. The German heritage of the founders is still very present — there’s tons of German food, German traditions like an awesome Christkindl market in December, and it wasn’t long ago that German was still regularly heard in town. Certainly an unexpected thing in Texas.

  5. Camels & Chocolate

    What a fun place! I just want to go to Luckenbach so I can say the name over and over again: Luckenbach. Luckenbach. Luckenbach. It would never get old!

  6. I am FASCINATED by Texas – and despite visiting Manhattan several times I’ve yet to make it down South. Looking forward to visiting one day and exploring the whole huge place. Thanks for more inspiration.

  7. We love the Texas Hill Country! To all the world, if you have never been to Luckenbach, Texas, STOP what you are doing and go there right now! It is a pilgrimage and a prayer and you will never be the same! We have been going there for the past 10 years, it is the spiritual center of the universe! Go soon and you will never stop asking to go back! While there look for Behrends Feed Mill….and ask Monroe to show you the fast Armadillo! And hike to the tip of Enchanted Rock, you will see God’s face from the top! The music will feed your soul, the beauty of the Hill Country will steal your heart. It will become your favorite destination!

  8. It’s Me, again! Just when I believed Luckenbach Texas could not be better…. We were there, July 3, 2017, with Fri, Karen and Monroe Behrends… Celebrating life, friends and just plain happiness…and Our 20th Anniversary, Charlie and I have been married 20 years on July 4th! We were enjoying live music and cold Lone Star beers… when, under the disguise of taking my picture, Charlie had me to stand in a certain place “for a photo with the Armadillo”.. what a huge surprise, he got down on 1 knee, and asked me, all over again to spend forever with him. Yep, I said, yes, and was totally blown away by his gift, an almost 5 karat Lone Star cut Blue Topaz ring, from nearby Mason Texas! Lordy, he is a good man, I would marry him all over again..and he knows that I love Luckenbach Texas .. what a marvelous romantic gesture! And Karen and Monroe Behrends were in on it! I almost fainted, all there, in this special, timeless place, surrounded by”friends we hadn’t met yet”… Thanks to all those who congratulated us… Luckenbach, where “Everybody is Somebody” and time stops to let you revisit where you find true basics of love!!!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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