Those reading this who are “of a certain age” will hear echoes of a famous song when we hear the name of Luckenbach, Texas: “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas, with Waylon and Willie and the boys…”
That song by Waylon Jennings was released in 1977. It brought international attention to this tiny Hill Country village ten miles southeast of Fredericksburg, and raised it to almost mythical status. It also established in the world’s eye what locals had known for years: that Luckenbach stands as a tribute to some of the greatest musical performers who have ever walked on stage.
Luckenbach didn’t start out as a world-famous honky-tonk, of course. European immigrants started settling the area in the late 1840s, among them brothers Jacob and August Luckenbach. When the first post office opened in 1854, the settlement was called South Grape Creek, after the nearby flowing body of water. The village grew steadily, adding churches and a school, and the post office briefly closed, only to open again in 1886. At this time, the hamlet’s name was changed to Luckenbach to honor Carl Albert Luckenbach, Jacob’s son.
In the early 20th century, Luckenback enjoyed robust population growth, with a peak of nearly 500 around 1905. However, tough times resulted in people moving to greener pastures, and by the early 1960s it was considered a ghost town.
Enter John Russell “Hondo” Crouch.
Named after the Hill Country town in which he was raised, Hondo gained national renown as one of the best swimmers in the nation when he was in high school. Dubbed the “Swimming Cowboy” because he’d wear a Stetson with his trunks, he brought athletic accolades both to himself and the Hill Country. He later became a rancher and swimming coach in Fredericksburg, and was beloved for his colorful personality.
Hondo was briefly the butt of jokes when he and a couple enterprising partners bought the rundown and practically abandoned town of Luckenbach in 1971. They renovated the original general store and intended to have it serve as the centerpiece of a “living museum” of sorts. The Luckenbach post office closed the same year, and Crouch issued tongue-in-cheek press releases such as the town having its only parking meter stolen. Local media published these stories, and they went nationwide. The humble village became a tourist attraction.
The little town’s popularity snowballed. Crouch and company planned events to draw curious visitors, and their 1972 “Luckenbach World Fair” brought over 20,000 people to town! Willie Nelson was among the performers at the event, and visits often to this day. Crouch gave his visitors the same warm welcome he gave celebrities who stopped by, and became known by his pet phrase, “Everybody is Somebody.” Sadly, Hondo passed in 1976 from a heart attack at only 49 years old.
Luckenbach was well on its way to becoming a major tourism spot when Hondo died, and that reputation was launched into the stratosphere with the 1977 release of Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).” Since then, the bar and stage at Luckenbach have become synonymous with the best of live country music.
Luckenbach, Texas is just one of the hundreds of amazing attractions you’ll find in the Hill Country! While you explore, arm yourself with the most up-to-date information with the Hill Country Travel App! The FREE download provides up-to-date information about over 20 towns, local businesses, events, and much more. It’s available on both iPhone and Android!
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