The week after the SXSW conference and festival was over, Asleep At The Wheel staged a tour to old Texas dance halls. The tour had a double purpose – one was to hold concerts with Asleep At The Wheel with musical friends, the other was to put the focus on a Texas tradition that is threatened by obsolescence. I visited Luckenbach for a daytime concert during the tour.
On the tour Asleep At The Wheel held night concerts in four dance halls around Austin, and visited several other dance halls during the days. The band also had different music guests for each night: Dale Watson, Lee Ann Womack, Hot Club of Cowtown, Heybale! and the Queebee Sister. Thursday was a day with now big concert at night, but a daytime concert at the Luckenbach dance Hall with High Plains Jamboree.
Luckenbach is a small “town” just outside of Fredricksburg, some 80 minutes west of Austin. It is a must for all visitors to Austin to take a trip to Luckenbach. The town says it has 3 inhabitants. The whole town consists of a combined store, post office and bar, a hat shop, an outdoor stage and the dance hall. The town’s slogan is “Everybody is someone in Luckenbach, Texas”, and with only 3-4 inhabitants, that is no lie.
The Dance Hall at Luckenbach
The town also has it’s own song, Luckenbach Texas performed by Waylon Jennings and The Highwaymen plus many others. In the song Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff and Hank are mentioned, and that goes to the dance hall where most of the country legends have played some time or other. At its peak in 1904 the town had 492 inhabitants, but by the 60’s the population had shrunk to 3, and in 1970 Hondo Crouch bought the town for $30.000. The post office closed the year after and was turned into a bar. The dance hall was opened in 1887 and has been in operation for 130 years.
Luckenbach is also known for Wille Nelson’s 4th of July concert that attracted thousands of attendants when it was held in the late 90’s. Today there is live music in Luckenbach every weekend, and also on most of the week days. And often someone sits in the bar playing guitar and singing.
The day I visited, the tour bus with the attendants at the Asleep At The Wheel Dance Hall tour came early for a concert with High Plains Jamboree. For us Norwegians, it is good to know that the female member of the band, Brennen Leigh, has her great grandmother from Norway. She has performed several times in Norway, is intent on learning to speak Norwegian, and the country and bluegrass fans in Norway know her well.
High Plains Jamboree is an old school band, performing with one microphone, where the soloist leans closer than the others, just like recordings were done in the 50’s. The band has not released an album yet, but they are well played, true to their ideals, and the dancers were active from the first song.
All photos are © Per Ole Hagen and must not be used without written permission.