Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas

While in Hill Country a few weeks ago, we took some advice from the 1977 country song and headed for Luckenbach, Texas, where there “ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.” Waylon and Willy could join us only in spirit, (Waylon Jennings died in 2002 and Willie Nelson was in New York City promoting his new book) but, hey, everybody’s somebody in Luckenbach, so we figured we’d be welcome even without an escort.

From Fredericksburg, the route to Luckenbach passes through bucolic ranch country.

Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.netYou aren’t really sure you are approaching Luckenbach until you actually arrive – there being no urban, let alone urban sprawl, here.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net(That’s the “town” center straight ahead.)

Luckenbach isn’t a town as much as it is a state a mind. Not that it wasn’t once a town – while it started off small when the first settlers came in the late 1840’s, the area (called South Grape Creek at that time) already had a post office by 1854. While that post office closed sometime during the next few decades (no one seems sure when or why), the town continued to grow. By the time the post office reopened in 1886 (now serving Luckenbach), the town boasted a general merchandise store and saloon, cotton gin, blacksmith shop, dance hall, church, and school. The town’s growth continued for a few more decades; by 1904 Luckenbach had a population of almost 500. That number fell to about 20 by the 1920s and – with the exception of a brief period of growth in the 1960s – it’s stayed at about 20. The town (actually an unincorporated community) currently claims a population of 3.

Luckenbach probably would have become just another disintegrating collection of buildings had it not been for Hondo Crouch. Crouch bought the town site in 1971 and set about creating a culture and mythology that transcended the town’s physical reality. Various concerts and festivals and an unexpected hit country record in 1973 brought attention to Luckenbach. Attention increased over the years as the town’s namesake song became a national hit in 1977 (shortly after Crouch died) and Willie Nelson chose it as the site for his annual Fourth of July picnic.

Today it is still a state of mind more than a real place, but the physical structures that give credence to that state of mind are very photogenic.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Although the post office closed in 1971, the 1851 general store (with its saloon in the back) is still in business as an odd combination of history and commerce – part souvenir shop, part museum, and part bar.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

There are several employees getting ready for the day and the friendly lady behind the counter in the store is busy (a shipment of goods had just arrived). Still, she chats with me as she works, showing me merchandise as she unpacks it (baby outfits perfect for a soon-to-arrive grandchild) and discusses the latest happenings (some creature has been disturbing the chickens) while reminding me that there is music here all the time. Along the way the conversation turns from her grandchildren to cats to armadillos. As I am about to leave she finds the pictures from her daughter; cheerful images of a pretty woman laughing and smiling over the beach towel wrapped armadillo cradled in her arms.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

If it weren’t 10 am I’d buy a beer and just settle in for a spell and have a pleasant wait to see what happens next. The rustic stage, picnic tables and benches, and assorted sheds under the oak trees out back look perfect for enjoying a little music over a beer with friends. It’s exactly what you imagined it would look like, only more so. However, when you arrive early on a weekday morning, as we did, everything is quiet, as if it is all just waiting for the evening’s music to begin.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

The original dance hall (renovated in the 1930s and probably not since) is more than quiet – it’s literally packed away, the wood floor swept clean, benches neatly stacked on tables.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

A sign by the door is a stark reminder that this “state of mind” is also a physical place. . . and one that requires money to maintain.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.netAfter surviving for a century, the 1881 cotton gin and blacksmith shop are gone, swept away in a flood in 2002, but – at least for now – Luckenbach remains a physical place as well as a state of mind.

Luckenbach, Texas, is open for business seven days a week, with a variety of – mostly free –musical offerings each week. It’s also available for private events. While it was quiet when we visited, traffic cones, rows of portapotties, food stands, and signs made it clear that this can become a very active place when musicians take the stage.

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

Luckenbach Texas Hill Country - ExplorationVacation.net

The Luckenbach website has stories on the history of the town, as well as information on current events. Luckenbach’s story has been highly romanticized over the years; The Man Who Dreamed Up Luckenbach is a more sobering (and probably more realistic) take on how the Luckenbach that exists today came to be.

This post is linked to Travel Photo Monday at Travel Photo Discovery.

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10 thoughts on “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas”

  1. I have been here several times! At night when there are locals (who are amazing musicians) singing in the bar. I have also been there during the day when the other locals are singing outside. You said it perfectly… Luckenbach is a state of mind! Great photos and great information! THANK YOU!

    1. Oh, I bet it is great when there are musicians around! Next time I’m down there we’ll stay in Comfort and take in some music in Luckenbach. Thanks for stopping by!

        1. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll have a post coming eventually on Comfort – but it will be short because Comfort is basically closed on Weds when we were there! It looked really cool, so I am hoping to spend time there on our next trip.

  2. I live so close, and yet I’ve never been to Luckenbach. Looking at your photos, I think I need to make the drive over there. Part of me thinks doing Willie’s 4th of July picnic would be fun, but the part of me that doesn’t like crowds shivers at the thought. I

    1. Yeah, I think a big event would be a bit too much. They have music pretty much all the time – make a little road trip to Hill Country, spend some time in Luckenbach, stay in some place like Comfort and you’ll feel live you’ve stepped back in time. And lots of photo ops too!

  3. I grew up listening to wylon, thanks to my dad! I sure wish he was still around for my kids.. Hes still here in our hearts and thankfully in music.. My son knows who he is and hes 20 now. So he lives on!! Lets not forget him, nor this town…

    1. I wish I’d appreciated him more when I was growing up and he was recording, but it took me awhile to really appreciate the Outlaws – great music that will live on.

Your turn!