Welcome to Luck, TX
In 1975, a rising Willie Nelson signed to Columbia Records on the condition that he maintain creative freedom. His first project, like Nelson, was just left of mainstream. Red Headed Stranger, a concept album, spun a tale of a fugitive on the run after he'd killed his wife and her lover. Record executives were wary of the sparse arrangement, but Nelson persisted. It was his time to call the shots.
The milestones that followed paved for Nelson a path toward the freedom to create at will – and began the evolution of an artist who would soon be known for his rogue stylings and unwillingness to compromise his vision. The album gained Nelson's first multi-platinum certification, earned him his first number one hit with “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain”, and made clear that when Nelson was at the creative helm, he could do little wrong.
Furthermore, his road to “Luck, Texas” had begun.
On the heels of the album's success, Nelson set his sights on a film version. The stars aligned at Austin's legendary Armadillo World Headquarters when he met publisher and screenwriter William Witliff; the two began writing a script based on the album. In 1979 the pair pitched the film to Universal Studios who, along with proposed star Robert Redford, passed on the project. Undeterred, Nelson and Witliff ultimately decided to finance the film themselves, calling upon close friends to invest. The set, nicknamed “Willieville”, was built by a team of University Of Texas architecture students across from Nelson's Pedernales golf course, a country club property he had purchased the same year the film script was finalized. Nelson, fittingly, would star as the Stranger.
While the original screenplay ended with the town burning down, Nelson had grown attached to the set and called for a change in order to preserve the property. The star built his own home on the sprawling land, just a short drive up the road from the set, and Luck, Texas was born. Nelson's connection to the property never waned, and soon the “town” became his ostensible clubhouse. Luck's landmark World Headquarters building, the interior unchanged, was Willie's go-to hangout spot. Equipped with poker and pool tables, a full-length bar, and a makeshift boxing gym upstairs Nelson had everything he needed to escape the limelight – if only for a second. Headquarters has long played host to a regular rotation of Nelson's friends and contemporaries, gathering to play cards and pass around the guitar – eliciting a cache of collaborative creations.
The bootprints left behind at Luck belong to artists and characters who have made indelible contributions to American roots culture. Over the years the town became a true creative hub for the likes of Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, and Merle Haggard.
Many of the stories told and songs played will remain behind the Headquarters doors, but the spirit of creation and camaraderie is heavily present in the town to this day. Behind the withering facades that dot the borders of the dusty strip of road lies a location that is full of soul – a symbol of the artistic freedom and uncompromising spirit that landed Nelson in this very place.
The lore of the property had for years remained somewhat of a mystery, only to be experienced by only a handful of lucky family and friends. In 2012, when a fortunate group of barstool dreamers asked to borrow the key, the seeds for the Luck Reunion – an event and cultural collective inspired by the town's very spirit – were planted. With the blessing of the Red Headed Stranger himself, we hope to honor the creative origins of the magical space, and contribute to the all-inclusive and fascinating culture of the illustrious town.