Some places I visit in Texas feel like such a time warp. In my travels as a writer, I get to see all types of towns in Texas, each of them with their own unique flair and history.
One of the coolest places on the map in my book is Luckenbach, Texas. Just a short and scenic drive out in Fredericksburg’s direction, this tiny cowpoke town, with a recorded population of 3, attracts some of the biggest voices in country from around the Hill Country.
Having an appreciation for country music will get you further around these parts, where names like Jerry Jeff Walker, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson have graced the stage for guitar and singing performances. Those are the famed nights that locals remember, memories that echo in the walls of the well-waxed dance hall that now houses weekend acts.
Located 13 miles from Fredericksburg, south of U.S. Highway 290 and on the south side of RM 1376, this site, once known for being a Comanche trading post, now serves as the Hill Country’s exclusive hideaway for music lovers and those looking to get away from the glittering city lights for an evening.
When you arrive, it might not be readily apparent what all of the talk is about in this small town. Known for drawing people of all types from Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Houston and everywhere in between, the parking lot is liable to be full of all manner of vehicles, from motorcycles to farm trucks, from hybrid cars to horses.
Just follow the music, which will draw you to Luckenbach’s famous and defunct post office, now a colorful general store and saloon.
It’s like stepping back in time as you order your drinks and head outside where men and women warm up their instruments — dozens of well-worn guitars, harmonicas, wash boards.
Get there on a Friday or Saturday night and you’re in for a real treat. Musical styles range from bluegrass to country to folk and rock, picking circles included. This is a great way to showcase new local talent, along with those more established acts in the Hill Country.
A little history about one of the littlest towns in Texas:
Rumor has it that the community goes back to the year 1849 after a petition was submitted to create Gillespie County. The official date is unclear, but sometime between that time and 1886, the historic post office was established, which still stands today and was converted to a store and saloon in the early 70s.
Census records show that the population grew in the early part of the 20th century to include 492 people, but by the 1960s almost everyone had left and Luckenbach had become largely a ghost town.
In 1970 the small trading post-turned-town was put up for sale, with local rancher and writer Hondo Crouch taking an interest in it. He purchased the land later that year for $30,000 and went on to be the self-proclaimed mayor of Luckenbach, seeking to remake the post office as a country music destination for Texans all over.
And even more than that, it served as a place for the town and neighboring city folk to mingle and cut loose for a night out, country anonymity that couldn’t be replicated on Austin or San Antonio’s paved city streets.
Crouch’s style was coy and much of the facts surrounding his life come straight from family friends and his children in posthumous biographies. He was a creative and liked to poke fun at modern big city attitudes, going so far as to found a new community to embody this spirit.
The community’s motto, “Everybody’s Somebody in Luckenbach”, was brought to life in big ways when the town put on events like Luckenbach World’s Fair and the Texas Women Only Chili Cook Off, which would bring media attention and staggering crowds looking to see what all of the talk was about.
Crouch passed away in 1976, but not before instilling this fun-loving attitude in the town for generations to experience decades down the road.
Nowadays, songwriters, musicians, and people from all walks of life make the venture out to the small wooden shacks for the weekend, to converse and unwind in that special Luckenbach-type of way. The kind when you make new friends and even learn a few songs while you unwind after a rough week at the office.
Two-step your way to a happier weekend, the Texas way. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are social times around the dance hall and saloon, so saddle up for a while.
On days when time seems to move too fast, it’s good to know there are places just a drive away that seem to slow life down, for a time at least.
Check out their calendar for an updated list of shows to plan your next weekend out to the hidden Texas town.
Luckenbach, Texas (map)