The day we went to Luckenbach was an exceptional day. Our goal was to see Luckenbach and then head to the Enchanted Rock on our way to Fredericksburg.
If you are interested in finding “the loop” to this small town, use a GPS and when it says—You have arrived, you will see a sign and an old rusty truck. Turn on that dirt road and you are on the loop. If you pass by it, there are a few houses down the road and a sign that says you missed it.
The focal point—the post office, is a fascinating part of Old West history.
In 1849 the main part of this building was a trading post for both pioneers and the Comanche. When you walk up to the porch, you feel like you have gone back to the 1800’s. Sadly, people have carved or written their names on the building, but the old trading post has that special worn, old-West character.
A German named August Engel bought the building in 1886. His daughter Minna, named the town after her fiancé, Albert Luckenbach.
At the time Engel bought the trading post, it had become a post office. A general store and beer joint were added on the back. The town boasted of a blacksmith shop, the post office and consolidated school.
Over the years, the steam-powered cotton gin was built on Grape Creek but as the years went by the community began to die out. By 1929 the cotton gin was closed.
The town stayed in the Engel family until 1970 when Benno Engel retired as postmaster and put an ad in the paper—town for sale, pop. 3.
Hondo Crouch, Guich Koock, (an actor), and Kathy Morgan soon bought the town. They created events around the town such as their own world’s fair, Ladies State Chili Bust, and Mud Dauber Festival. Daily “song-pickin” went on under the 500-year-old oak trees, and music in the dance hall.
Hondo was a colorful dude with white hair and beard. He wore jeans and a battered hat, red handkerchief and boots. He became known as the “Clown Prince.” Hondo was a storyteller, philosopher, whittler, guitar-playing singer, and kept things lively in that little town.
In 1973, country singer Jerry Jeff Walker recorded an album there with the Lost Gonzo Band and Luckenbach’s notoriety had begun. Four years later Bobby Emmons and Chip Morman penned the song, Back to the Basics of Life. Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson made it a hit. Now and then the two would add Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson into the mix. The song became a hit known around the world.
As for Walker, I barely remember him, but you may remember one of his best songs—Mr. Bojangles.
If you are ever on the road looking for a bit of Old West history, stop by the Luckenbach loop and sit a while. They’re still playing country music, and now and then Willie Nelson will host a picnic on July 4th.