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U.S. Post Office in Luckenbach, 1850-1971
Everybody's somebody in Luckenbach.
Location within the state of Texas
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Luckenbach (// LOO-kin-bahk) is an unincorporated community thirteen miles (19 km) from Fredericksburg in southeastern Gillespie County, Texas, United States, part of the Texas Hill Country. Luckenbach is known as a venue for country music.
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 Ranch 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 from Bexar and Travis counties. While the signatories 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 (perhaps really a faulty spelling of "Gap Creek", the literal meaning of "Luckenbach" in German), was later renamed after Engel's husband, Carl Albert Luckenbach. They would later move to another town which became Albert, Texas. Luckenbach was first established as a community trading post, one of a few that never broke a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians, with whom they traded.
Luckenbach's population increased to a high of 492 in 1904, but by the 1960s it was almost a ghost town. A newspaper advertisement offering "town — pop. 3 — for sale" led actor Guich Koock and Hondo Crouch, a rancher and Texas folklorist, to buy Luckenbach for $30,000 in 1970, in partnership with Kathy Morgan. Hondo's wife, Shatzi paid for the town, and Guich's wife, Patricia, worked as the bartender and bookkeeper giving their husbands all the glory. Guich used the town's rights as a municipality to govern the dance hall as he saw fit. The town has been host to many unique festivals including the Luckenbach Women's Chili Cookoff and The 1st Luckenbach World's Fair, where Willie Nelson made a surprise appearance.
Today Luckenbach maintains a ghost-town feel with its small population and strong western aesthetic. 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 motto "Everybody's Somebody in Luckenbach", postcards, T-shirts, sarcastic and humorous signs, and the local newspaper, the 8-page monthly Luckenbach Moon.
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Luckenbach's association with country music began in the summer of 1973 when Jerry Jeff Walker, backed by the Lost Gonzo Band, recorded the live album Viva Terlingua at the Luckenbach dance hall. The album became an outlaw country classic.
In 1977, after Crouch's death in 1976, Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson vaulted Luckenbach in the national spotlight with the #1 country and #25 Pop charting song "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)". 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. The locals hated the song after a while, mainly because it had nothing to do with Luckenbach at all." Jennings' only show in Luckenbach happened on July 4, 1996 at the annual Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic although the set was reportedly[weasel words] marred when he had a near miss with a half full tallboy of Lonestar beer thrown from the crowd.
Between 1995 and 1999 Luckenbach hosted Willie Nelson's Fourth of July Picnic after several years of skipped or irregular Picnic gatherings. Beau Burton, a regular performer in several acts that performed in music events during the 1990s, began a musical partnership with the singing bar tender Jimmy Lee Jones. While acting as band manager/drummer Beau developed a relationship with a Willie manager, Larry Trader. Prior to the first picnic, Beau and Jimmy used all their resources to persuade Mr. Nelson to bring his picnic to Luckenbach. Beau leaned hard to promote the bach, as the locals called it, creating videos from the first picnic, lobbying every year to bring a full video crew for the whole show. In 1998 Broadcast.com provided the satellite link then streamed a massive video production all over the world, via the World Wide Web. Over 30 acts performed that year. The actual show producer was Jack Yoder a music support and tour manager that worked for decades with lots of named big acts, including Bob Dylan.
The shows were great and filled with diverse talent. Jimmy Lee Jones and the Texas Hill Country Band members, Steve Aamann, Lyndia Day .Randy Rosenbaum, Grant Brown, and Beau Burton played powerful progressive Texas country Rock which Beau and Grant called Goat-Rock. Willie loved their show based on solid Texas songwriter covers along with their original tunes and the act did numerous opening performances for Mr. Nelson. Beau often said he felt bad bringing all the profit to the bach from Willie's picnic, as it caused a great disturbance to the old ways of operating the music sanctuary.
Luckenbach, in the mid to late 1990's was the new center once again for innovative outlaw music. Gary P Nunn, Tommy Alverson, Rusty Wier, Monte Montgomery, Joe Ely, Jimmie Lee Jones and the Texas Hill Country band Billy Shaver and Robert Earl Keen played high energy Texas styled music that Nashville would not even admit was country Music. Texas outlaw country was reborn. The stars of the 1990s were certainly the Billy Joe Shaver Band with son Eddie Shaver on guitar. Never has there been the most purest form of Texas Honky Tonk down home music. You can't have a conversation about the musicians that played there without talking about Robert Earl once fiddle-man Kimbo Keating, the master old school fiddle- guitar guy that train everyone to great heights including Monte Montgomery. Kimbo was the master of swing music inspired by the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt. Kimbo was schooled by fiddle man Caesar Massey who played for Bob Wills. During that period the radio station KFAN operated by Jay Fritz was a good counterpoint and promoter to the new Texas sound. Country rock artists Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock later covered the Jennings/Nelson song as a duet as well as Radney Foster and Pat Green. It has also been recorded by musician 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. The Guinness world record was broken for the most guitar players gathered at one time to play (continuously for at least five 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 but only signed up 800 pickers.
Luckenbach hosts live music events each weekend. On Sundays, it is common for visitors to bring instruments and take turns performing informally with others in the crowd. Occasionally, local and regional celebrities drop by. There are recreational vehicle camping spots nearby, along with a small creek. Areas are also set up for washer pitching.
- Lt. Colonel Alfred P.C. Petsch—(1887–1981) Lawyer, legislator, civic leader, and philanthropist born in Luckenbach. Served in the Texas House of Representatives, World War I, and World War II.
- Jacob Brodbeck—Teacher and reputed builder of a heavier-than-air flying machine well before the Wright Brothers. The flight-worthiness of his plane is disputed.
- The horror film The Naked Witch was filmed in Luckenbach in 1960. It was directed by Larry Buchanan.
- Luckenbach was the setting for the short lived sitcom Lewis and Clark, which co-starred town owner Guich Koock and Gabe Kaplan.
- "The Luckenbach website". luckenbachtx.com. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- "Texan Inventor Jacob Brodbeck Makes World's First Powered Flight". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
- Reid, Jan (2004). The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. University of Texas Press. p. 92. ISBN 0-292-70197-7.
- "Luckenbach General Store". Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- "Read The Luckenbach Moon". Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- "Luckenbach Events". Retrieved 12 February 2013.
- Watkins, Melanie. "Petsch, Alfred PC". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 12 February 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Luckenbach, Texas.|
- Luckenbach from the Handbook of Texas Online
- Official site for Luckenbach and the Luckenbach Dance Hall
- Texas town rooted in country music, a November 2004 CNN article (from web archives)
- Luckenbach, Texas lyrics