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The Big Magic of the Tiny Town of Luckenbach

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.

Memorabilia at the Luckenbach bar

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.”

Visitors listening to music in Luckenbach TX

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.

Luckenbach Texas dance hall

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 in Luckenbach.

Country musicians playing in Luckenbach, Texas (sometimes mistaken as Lukenbach)

Luckenbach, Texas, 14 miles from Fredericksburg, 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 signs (aka Lookingback Texas)

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.

Hondo Crouch, the self-proclaimed mayor of Luckenbach Texas

They took make believe titles (Hondo was the self-proclaimed mayor) and invited everyone who visited to join in in the laidback, 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.

Verse from the poem Luckenbach Moon by Hondo Crouch on the wall in Luckenbach, TX

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 Luckenbach 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 at Luckenback Texas

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.

Luckenbach 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.”

Memorabilia in Luckenbach, Texas

Signs for Luckenbach, Texas

Getting to 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 Luckenbach, Texas? What did you think?

Luckenbach, Texas, is a charming two-building town filled with music and fun | The Big Magic of the Tiny Town of Luckenbach

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What do you think about The Big Magic of the Tiny Town of Luckenbach?

  1. Tim April 17, 2015 at 6:11 pm #

    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. Lisa April 18, 2015 at 11:15 am #

    This is my kind of place! I love all of the cool memorabilia in that bar. What a cool find:)

  3. Kathryn Burrington April 20, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    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.

  4. Tami May 5, 2015 at 11:50 pm #

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

  5. Charles McCool May 7, 2015 at 7:43 pm #

    Cute town.

  6. Larissa June 4, 2015 at 12:01 am #

    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!)

    • Laura Longwell June 4, 2015 at 10:58 am #

      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.

  7. Camels & Chocolate June 4, 2015 at 12:14 am #

    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!

    • Laura Longwell June 4, 2015 at 10:59 am #

      It does have a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? 🙂

  8. Federico June 4, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    Definitely a new town for me! That sign with the “population: 3” is epic !

  9. Abi June 15, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

    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.

  10. Leah July 4, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    Fantastic photos 🙂 Not sure Texas is for me, but this place does sure look interesting!

  11. Vivian Brown July 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm #

    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!

  12. Vivian Brown July 9, 2017 at 9:36 pm #

    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!!!

  13. Sue Fuller October 7, 2019 at 9:40 am #

    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.

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