Written By: Greg Forest

Luckenbach is an unincorporated community thirteen miles (19 km) from Fredericksburg in southeastern Gillespie County, Texas, United States, part of the Texas Hill Country.


It consists of 9.142 acres (37,000 m2) between South Grape Creek (a tributary of the Pedernales River) and Snail Creek, just south of U.S. Highway 290 on the south side of Farm to Market Road 1376. This location is roughly 50 miles (80 km) north of San Antonio and 69 miles (111 km) west of Austin. The Luckenbach website lists “412 Luckenbach Town Loop, Fredericksburg, TX 78624” as the physical address for GPS navigation.


On December 15, 1847, a petition was submitted to create Gillespie County. In 1848, the Texas Legislature formed Gillespie County fromBexar and Travis counties. While the signers were overwhelmingly German immigrants, names also on the petition were Castillo, Peña, Muños, and a handful of non-German Anglo names.

Its oldest building is a combination general store and saloon reputedly opened in 1849 (1886 is more likely based on land improvement records of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission) by Minna Engel, whose father was an itinerant minister from Germany. The community, first named Grape Creek, was later named after Minna’s husband, Carl Albert Luckenbach, who was then her fiancé. They would later move to another town which became Albert, Texas. Luckenbach was first established as a community trading post and was one of the few that never broke a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians, with whom they traded.

Citizens of the town claimed one of them (Jacob Brodbeck) had launched the first airplane years before the Wright Brothers.

Its population increased to a high of 492 in 1904, but by the 1960s, Luckenbach was almost a ghost town.

An ad in the paper offering “town — pop. 3 — for sale” led Hondo Crouch, rancher and Texas folklorist, to buy Luckenbach for $30,000 in 1970, in partnership with Kathy Morgan and actor Guich Koock. Crouch used the town’s rights as a municipality to govern the dance hall as he saw fit.

Modern Luckenbach

Today the town maintains a ghost town feel with its small population and strong western roots. One of its two main buildings houses the remnants of a post office, a working saloon, and a general store. The other is the dance hall. The post office was closed on April 30, 1971 and its zip code (78647) was retired. The general store remains active as a souvenir shop where visitors can purchase a variety of items, including merchandise featuring the town’s iconic motto: “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach.”

Country music

Luckenbach’s association with country music began in the summer of 1973, when Jerry Jeff Walker, backed by the Lost Gonzo Band, recorded a live album at the Luckenbach Dancehall called Viva Terlingua. That album became an outlaw country classic.

Four years later (and a year after Crouch’s death), Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson memorialized Luckenbach with the song “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love),” co-written by rock and soul record producer Chips Moman and keyboardist Bobby Emmons. In his 2000 book Are You Ready for the Country?, author Peter Doggett recalls that Jennings later told audiences that “he hated the song and (had) admitted ‘The guys that wrote the thing have never been to Luckenbach. Neither have I.'” Waylon eventually played one show in Luckenbach on July 4, 1997.

Notable concert appearances in the town include Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and Lyle Lovett. The little community is still an active home to country music as of 2013, where folks gather by the score to listen to area musicians and drink cold beer, particularly Shiner Bock, a local favorite brewed by the oldest brewer in Texas.

Country Rock artists Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock later covered the Jennings/Nelson song as a duet as the two performed earlier. It’s also been recorded by musician/actor Christian Kane.

Guinness World Record

“Pickin’ for the Record” was a fundraiser held in Luckenbach on August 23, 2009, for the organization, Voices of a Grateful Nation. AGuinness Book of World Records was broken for the most guitar players gathered at one time to play (continuously, at least 5 minutes.) The Luckenbach record broke the standing German record by 50, with the official count at 1868. The day before the Texas event, Elvis Presley’s guitar player made a similar attempt in Louisiana and only signed up 800 pickers.

Sign above post office in Luckenbach, Texas

Luckenbach hosts a wide range of visitors for live music events each weekend, including bikers, bankers and everyone in between, with a separate area for motorcycle parking and car parking, usually in the grass. On Sundays, it is common for people to bring instruments and those in the crowd entertain each other, taking turns performing under the trees just outside the bar. No hard liquor is allowed, and no law enforcement is necessary as the crowd tends to self-police.

There are recreational vehicle camping spots, and a small creek that runs nearby where the signs state “No Swimming Allowed”. This is usually ignored, and it is common to see parents there with their children. Areas are set up for washer pitching. Occasionally, local and regional celebrities drop by on a Sunday, as this is the most relaxed day to visit. There is no charge to visit. The signs leading to the town are often stolen as souvenirs by tourists. Legitimate souvenirs are available at the general store and include postcards, t-shirts, sarcastic and humorous signs, and the local newspaper, the 8-page monthly Luckenbach Moon.

Luckenbach was the setting for the short lived sitcom Lewis and Clark, which co-starred town owner Guich Koock and Gabe Kaplan.


Courtesy of Wikipedia