On This Day: Waylon Jennings Scores Biggest Hit of His Career With ‘Luckenbach, Texas’ in 1977

by Jim Casey
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Waylon Jennings scored the biggest hit of his career when “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart on May 21, 1977. The song remained at No. 1 for six weeks, the longest reign of any song from Waylon’s catalog.

Waylon Jennings spearheaded the 1970s “Outlaw” movement with classics like “I’m a Ramblin’ Man,” “Amanda,” “Luckenbach, Texas,” and more. In 1977, Hoss released his most successful solo studio album, Ol’ Waylon, which has been certified Platinum by the RIAA for sales of 1 million units. The lead single, “Luckenbach, Texas,” buoyed the success of the album.

Let’s Go to Luckenbach, Waylon

Penned by Chips Moman and Buddy Emmons, “Luckenback, Texas” actually name-drops Waylon and Willie Neslon, among others, in the chorus. “Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas / With Waylon and Willie and the boys.” Moman, who was also a successful producer, knew the song was perfect for Waylon but felt the maverick may not record it because it mentioned him by name.

But the pitch had Waylon intrigued when he heard it. “The best way to plug a song to me,” Waylon explained in 1991’s The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits by Tom Roland, “is to say, ‘Here’s a song that you can’t do, but I’d like for you to hear anyway.’ I’m a fool for that.”

Waylon recorded “Luckenbach, Texas” in Nashville with some last-minute help from Willie Nelson, who added a vocal to the final verse. The single debuted on the charts on April 16, 1977. On May 21, it went No. 1 for the first of six weeks. The tune also crossed over to the all-genre chart, where it peaked at No. 25.

Not surprisingly, the song had a booming impact on the city of Luckenbach. Curious fans flocked to the tiny Texas hamlet to steal road signs for souvenirs. “The funny thing is,” noted Waylon in 1991, “is that Chips and Bobby had never been to Luckenbach, Texas, and neither have I.”

Waylon eventually did make it to Luckenbach, performing there at a Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic in 1996.

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