Mar 16, 2010


Sunday 14th March - Day 35

I haven't mentioned the landscape for days have I? That's because it's pretty dull. And today was the dullest of all. The I-35 stretches from Laredo, Texas, on the U.S.-Mexico border to Duluth, Minnesota, at Minnesota Highway 61. I assume it's a trip to do it from start to finish. It ends up in the birthplace of Dylan after all. But the I-35 corridor that runs from Denton TX to Austin TX is horrible. It's the Texan answer to the M6 between Birmingham and Manchester. Only being Texan it's bigger... 228 miles of traffic. Even on a Sunday. It was sunny too which always makes traffic worse for a rain lover like me. OK it wasn't bumper to bumper, but not far off. And when we got to Austin, a city I love (though as it gets bigger I love it less and less) it really was bumper to bumper, 5 miles an hour stuff. And seemingly all because there was a kite festival in Zilker Park. They should never have given those hippies gas money.

In retrospect, we probably could have made better use of our time than heading to Denton. Especially because it gave us only two nights before we had to be in Austin for SXSW. And nothing between Denton and Austin had any appeal for us. So we set our sights on staying in Fredericksburg and visiting Luckenbach on the way. A total of 312 miles but most of it was awful interstate. The only highlight of the trip was a rest stop when I rang my Mum back in the UK as it was Mother's Day over there. In a 10 minute conversation she was able to bring me up to date with three deaths. (She likes to do that. I expect she's not alone in that.) So RIP to my old headmaster Mr McNally, my uncle Tommy (who I met twice maybe - Mum came from a big family) and the ex-husband of another relative. Happy Mother's Day all.

When we finally got past Austin the countryside started to improve. Texas Hill Country is greener than you'd imagine Texas to be. It undulates a little bit too so even though it's not outstandingly beautiful it comes as welcome relief. It is also home to a legendary country music venue in Luckenbach Texas.

Luckenbach is an unincorporated community. Which means it's not part of any municipality. It appeals to the sort of people who fear big government and believe in the myths of freedom. The sort of people who have bumper stickers that say, "If you think you can trust the government... ask an Indian" but those Indians probably wouldn't trust a man with a bumper sticker like that either. Anyway, that's not why Luckenbach is famous. Nor is it the fact that citizens of the town claimed that one of them had launched the first airplane years before the Wright Brothers. Which seems unlikely for a town that at its peak only had a population of 492 and fell back to just 3. That was when it put up an ad that read "Town — pop. 3 — for sale." And somehow someone thought that was a good deal. Hondo Crouch, rancher and Texas folklorist, bought it for $30,000 in 1970, in partnership with Kathy Morgan and actor Guich Koock. Hondo used the town's rights as a municipality to govern the dancehall as he saw fit. I may scoff, but if Crouch had lived he'd have seen his investment pay off. In 1973, Jerry Jeff Walker, backed by the Lost Gonzo Band, recorded a live album called Viva Terlingua at Luckenbach Dancehall. That album became an outlaw country classic. Four years later (and a year after Crouch's death), Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson immortalized Luckenbach with the song 'Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)'.

I have to apologise here for previously taking the piss out of guys who tape themselves covering songs on guitar so they can post them on Youtube. At least they aren't making slide shows to accompany records so they can post them on Youtube. (The only people sadder than the slide show artists of Youtube are the bloggers who embed the works of those visionaries.)

In the book Are You Ready for the Country? author Peter Doggett wrote that Jennings later told audiences that 'he hated the song and admitted "The guys that wrote the thing have never been to Luckenbach. Neither have I"'. However, many now have. Notable concert appearances in the town have included Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett. Sadly nothing of that quality was on show when we rolled in on Sunday afternoon, the now traditional time to sit out by the creek and have a beer. The old store which sells Luckenbach Texas Population 3 stickers and t-shirts and stuff was actually as cool a vendor of tourist tat as I've ever seen. And if someone really good was playing in the very rustic dancehall then I'd consider selling a kidney or even a gonad if it got me a ticket. But based on what I saw, Sunday afternoons there might be a bit lame if you want great music. The band were terrible and the crowd was made up mostly of guys who had spent way too many hours polishing their Harleys and growing their bellies. If you dig big shiny hogs (either biological or mechanical) then a sunny Sunday afternoon in Luckenbach Texas is for you. If you're in the neighbourhood... it might be worth a look to see what's on.

But Myths are fragile. Sometimes it pays to stay away.

1 comment:

  1. okay but that was a pretty good slide show.