I’ve always downplayed the stuff you always hear about America being in danger of losing its rich heritage, due to the young generation not being in tune. My thinking was, so what if they don’t remember the name of our country’s first president, William Shakespeare?
Then, during a recent visit by my 21-year old nephew, Greg, I came to a rude awakening about how serious an issue this really is. We were driving through the Texas Hill Country, about an hour from San Antonio. We were heading east on U.S. 290, just having left Wheeler’s—the self proclaimed home of the “The Best Burger in Fredericksburg”. I made a right onto a narrow two-lane. “Where we going, Uncle Mike?” Greg asked.
“I’m on a mission to Luckenbach!” I declared. ”I need to stop and get a tee shirt.”
“Cool with me,” Greg answered and immediately returned to whatever he was doing on his Android.
His nonchalant answer disturbed me, and so I pressed. “You know about Luckenbach…right?”
“Nope. Never heard of it,” he said, not bothering to look up from his device.
I almost stopped the truck. “What do you mean you’ve never heard of Luckenbach!”
“Luckenbach, Texas” is, of course, the title of a famous country song by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. It’s true Texas and an important piece of Americana. Its legacy needs to be preserved in annals of history along with other great American titles like, “This Land Is Your Land” and the “Hokey Pokey”. A friend who visited Luckenbach back in the day told me that she once saw singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker (of “Mr. Bojangles” fame) passed out there under a picnic table. This kind of stuff has got to be saved for posterity.
Greg’s unawareness concerned me, and I hoped that it was not indicative of our nation’s youth as a whole. And so I contacted the world-renowned cowboy think tank, The Billy Bob and Buford Bean Foundation, LLC, to check this out. Surprisingly, they had not done any research whatsoever on the subject. Thus, I decided to conduct my own survey.
First, I asked a couple of college students I met who hail from Austin, Texas. They’d never heard of the song, either. “I can’t believe it!” I said to them. “Isn’t that the State Song?”
“No,” one of them, a Texas-tall blond girl, answered. “The state song is ‘The Yellow Rose Of Texas’.”
“Well, ‘Luckenbach, Texas’ should be it.” I said. Of course, I also believe that “Mardi Gras Mambo” ought to be the Louisiana State Song. One day I’m going to start a campaign about this sort of thing.
“Child,” I continued, “do you know who Willie Nelson is?” Thankfully, she did. There is still hope.
Next, I contacted my editor, Lauren, to give her a heads-up about this scandalous gap in cultural awareness that seems to be pervading today’s youth. Surely, this is a story that’s screaming for front-page attention. “Loo-kin-what??” she answered.
I was aghast. Lauren may be from Boston, but that is no excuse in my book. I called my brother in Maryland and asked him about it. Same response. Apparently, the legacy of Luckenbach is lost amongst youngsters and Yankees alike. If this trend continues, the responsibility for its preservation would default to men who wear sleeveless denim and guzzle longneck Lone Stars. We can’t let this happen.
This is why I’ve decided to take it upon myself to start a movement to preserve the memory of this great song. To that end, I implore everyone who believes in the great things that America stands for—the freedom of speech, of religion, and of passing out in public places—to make a pilgrimage to Luckenbach sometime soon. Buy a tee shirt in the old post office-turned-gift shop and bar. Get there for happy hour and enjoy some back porch pickin’ and reduced prices on longnecks (not just Lone Star). Have a neighborly chat with the three locals. Get lost on the way back. I’m not telling you to do anything that I haven’t done.
And while you’re there, be sure to check under the picnic tables and let me know of any Jerry Jeff Walker sightings.