Waylon Jennings – Luckenbach, Texas

17th July 2023 · 1970s, 1977, Country, Music

Around the turn of the century I made a musical pilgrimage to the tiny Texas town of Luckenbach, once immortalised in song by Waylon Jennings.

In the opening lines, the country music legend declares that: “The only two things in life that make it worth livin’ / Are guitars that tune good and firm-feelin’ women.”

He goes on to persuade his latest lucky lady that she should go to Luckenbach with “Waylon, Willie and the boys” – the Outlaw Country posse of himself, Willie Nelson (who sings on the final chorus), Johnny Cash, Kris Kristoffersen and maybe David Allan Coe.

None of them were there when I visited.

I passed through while driving from Austin to San Antonio through Texas Hill Country – a strangely flat region that includes what the guide books call the “quintessential German town” of Fredericksburg, where you find invitations to snack on a bratwurst washed down with a foaming Pilsner; especially at its annual Oktoberfest.

But I digress.

Luckenbach, which I visited solely because of the song, turned out to be little more than a crossroads with a barn-like saloon bar where my friend Steve, who lived in Austin and played pedal steel guitar, had told me there were gigs at the weekend when the likes of Waylon and Willie would occasionally turn up if you were lucky.

This wasn’t a weekend and Luckenbach was deserted.

I wandered into the only occupied building, a souvenir shop done up as a General Store from a Western set in the 1850s. There was a faint smell of weed and a young fellow at the counter clicked ‘Play’ on a tape recorder as I crossed the threshhold so that the song came through a set of tinny speakers.

“Howdy!” I said cheerily (because people really do say that there). “Don’t you get sick of hearing that song?” “Sure do,” he replied without looking up from a comic book.

I bought a couple of postcards and a bumper sticker and got back in the car to drive on to San Antone.