Life Care News
A Hope Of True Information

Late Jerry Jeff Walker, Hondo Crouch Families Unveil


Luckenbach TX, Nov. 30, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Nearly 1,500 people from across the United States attended the Jerry Jeff Walker tribute concert in Luckenbach Texas to witness Django Walker, son of the late Jerry Jeff Walker, and Hondo Crouch’s daughter, Cris Crouch Graham, unveil a bronze statue Luckenbach and Susan Walker commissioned Philadelphia, Pennsylvania sculptor Clete Shields to create.


The bronze memorializes the notable friendship forged by country music legend Jerry Jeff Walker and Luckenbach’s founding visionary Hondo Crouch and the indelible mark they left on the unassuming corner of Texas Hill Country. The monument comes two years after Walker’s passing and nearly half a century after his legendary “¡Viva Terlingua!” album recording in Luckenbach’s dancehall.  


Jerry Jeff’s wife Susan was the inspiration behind Shields’ creation to reunite in perpetuity two Texas icons whose soul-deep friendship helped ignite Texas’ declaration of music independence. 


“A lot happened between those two men. And a friendship formed that was more than special; it was eternal,” said Walker. “When they met, Hondo had just bought Luckenbach, and shortly thereafter Jerry Jeff recorded “¡Viva Terlingua!” in the Luckenbach dancehall. A year later, Jerry and I were married in the bar here with Hondo as our best man. There were so many days and nights spent here during that time, with Jerry Jeff picking and singing under the trees right here, watching Hondo spin his magic.”


Hondo and his partners began operating Luckenbach in 1971 to rescue it from decay and dissolution and celebrate what was small and simple. Hondo became the self-declared ‘imagineer’ who personified the Luckenbach pastoral wisdom that “here, everybody is somebody” and “music and magic get made here and the rest of the world gets left behind.” Jerry Jeff idealized and was transformed by that vision and when Hondo died in 1976, Jerry Jeff’s broken heart produced “A Man Must Carry On,” a double album dedicated to Hondo.


Reflecting further on what the sculpture conveys, Susan said, “Jerry Jeff and Hondo are perched knee to knee on a bench, rascals exchanging radiant grins. An aura crackles around them. Jerry Jeff and Hondo are back together in Luckenbach Texas, and they’re staying. A few steps away, there’s a rural mailbox with Hondo’s sign ‘Luckenbach Texas Pop. 3.’ I guess now we should make that 5.”


The bronze commission for Shields, who also created the eight-foot bronze of Willie Nelson outside Austin City Limits and has been commissioned by Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson, was made possible by ticket sales, sponsorships, and pro-bono headline performances at the 2021 Jerry Jeff Walker Memorial Concert at Luckenbach. The sculpture is nestled under Luckenbach’s signature centuries-old live oak trees beside the original bar and general store built in the 1880s.


Shields suggested to Susan some words be engraved on the bench, which she selected from Jerry Jeff’s “A Man Must Carry On” liner notes. Hondo, a known whittler, would enjoy that their words would be “carved” upon that bench. Hondo would often rest on a bench like that with a small pocket knife, a perfect scrap of wood, and animals, spoons, and jewelry would appear in his gnarled hands. One was a simple, elegant wooden cross Hondo whittled and gave to Susan on her wedding day. It was hanging on a chain near her heart at the unveiling.


Clete reveres his medium and its timelessness. “That’s bronze. You could pull it up after 4,000 years beneath the Aegean, it would look just like that.” Shields predicted where the sculpture will become smooth and shiny over the years, polished by the touch of thousands of hands, rumps, and jeans. “The bench. The shoulders, when all those countless arms drape across those shoulders. The hands.”   


Following the unveiling and selfies with the statues, Django loped onto the bandstand platform, a towering presence whose first chord called a generational audible. The Austin music fusion survivors of the 1970s edged aside to make room for younger songwriters and voices to emerge, yet the night held true to the spirit of Jerry Jeff Walker.


Django called the downbeat for Jerry Jeff’s veteran band of Chris Gage, Steve Samuel, and Billy Brad Fordham who played the entire night. He had chosen a lineup of talent and friends he knew from the road, including 26-year-old Nashville singer-songwriter William Beckmann and Jamie Lin Wilson from D’Hanis Texas near San Antonio, who told the fans, “Jerry Jeff songs were in my brain since birth.”


The musical tribute to Jerry Jeff evolved into storytelling when Billy Jim Baker, a professional clown and songwriter who wrote the title song of Jerry Jeff’s 1978 album “Contrary to Ordinary,” shared a memory about persuading both Jerry Jeff and his friend-in-mischief, Texas writer Bud Shrake, to perform together in a circus while wearing full clown costumes and makeup. 


Baseball great Tim Flannery, singing his tribute to Jerry Jeff “Last Of The Old Dogs,” was emotion wrapped in song. Flannery then delivered with the late Chris Wall’s “I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight.”


While all this was underway, Tom Scott from Columbus, Ohio, was sitting on a bench away from the stage so he could smoke cigars with John, his friend and neighbor. Scott won the “who knew Jerry Jeff when” medallion for the evening – in early 1963, Scott was in Marine training when he found 21-year-old Jerry Jeff playing a bar in Virginia Beach, Virginia strumming guitar with a folded matchbook cover instead of a pick, Scott recalled. “Broke. He didn’t have a nickel.”


Wade Bowen performed “I Love You,” Jerry Jeff’s love song to Susan, “because it was the favorite song of my dad.” Bowen said the night’s singers and songwriters were talking about which songs they wanted to play and he made a beeline to claim that one.


Steve Earle ambled on stage with a record of his own. Earle had played the 2021 memorial concert for Jerry Jeff and in 2022 released an entire album in dedication, “Jerry Jeff.” As he tuned for “Mr. Bojangles,” he told concert fans, “I’ve been doing this song ever since I was 14 years old. Played it on my guitar until I was 19 years old, the year I met Jerry Jeff. Jerry Jeff was, by far, the best performer I ever saw.”


After the music bowed to silence and the quick hiss of longnecks opening had faded, fans folded their lawn chairs, danced a last shuffle across the gravel tripping on moonlight, magic, and music, and Luckenbach emptied.


As the door to Wade Bowen’s tour bus opened, a chuckling procession of musicians and their guitars filtered onto benches and boxes they arrayed around the bronze monument to friendship. They serenaded Hondo and Jerry Jeff with their love songs, drinking songs, Texas songs, and quiet songs of beauty. There, in the glow of amber lights strung between the trees, under the Luckenbach Moon.


(Adapted with permission from Earl Casey.)


Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.