No, Jerry Jeff Walker’s ¡Viva Terlingua! wasn’t the first landmark album of the great progressive/cosmic country scene and movement that sprang out of Texas in the early ’70s. It wasn’t even Walker’s first or biggest claim to fame over an epic career that spanned decades and genres ranging from psychedelic rock to folk to country to Caribbean cowboy jams to jazz: that honor will always belong to “Mr. Bojangles,” the song he wrote back in the ’60s that would become one of the most iconic (and oft-covered) American classics of the last century. But even if the late Walker (who was born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, N.Y. in 1942 and passed away Oct. 23, 2020) wasn’t officially the first maverick gypsy songman to spark the Texas music revolution, he was always its most colorful and entertaining — just as his ¡Viva Terlingua! holds up as arguably the greatest snapshot of the scene in its glorious heyday and an unimpeachable gold standard for how to bottle good-times lightning.
Though it wasn’t released until November 1973, this August marks the 50th anniversary of the album’s recording — an occasion that will be celebrated in blow-out fashion Aug. 18-19 at Luckenbach Dancehall, right where Walker and his infamous Lost Gonzo Band recorded the project — part “studio,” part live in front of an audience packed to the rafters. The weekend kicks off with a special screening of the massive, multi-part documentary, They Called Us Outlaws – The Cosmic Cowboys, Honky Tonk Heroes & Rise of Redneck Rock, and will also feature two nights of music in the dance hall featuring a host of Walker compadres spanning multiple generations, from Michael Martin Murphey, Ray Wylie Hubbard and Bob Livingston to Todd Snider, Jack Ingram and Jerry Jeff’s son, Django Walker. But if you can’t make it out there for the party in person — or if you’re already counting down the hours and just need a little pre-game music — we’ve put together this here Texas Music Presents playlist on Spotify to help you hoist a few beers or sangrias and get in the ¡Viva Terlingua! (and Luckenbach!) spirit.
It’s 50 tracks long (naturally), kicking off with a poem read by Walker’s own Luckenbach Obi-Wan, Hondo Crouch, and followed by ¡Viva Terlingua! in its entirety. You’ll also hear other great songs by Walker plucked from the same golden era, versions of many of Terlingua’s songs (and other favorites of Walker himself) as recorded by their original writers (from Murphey, Hubbard, and Guy Clark to Gonzo bandmates Gary P. Nunn and Bob Livingston), and a whole bunch of more recent, toast-worthy covers of Walker songs, be they from his own pen or just blessed by his association.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering — yes, you’ll find Waylon and Willie’s “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” here, too. Call us basic, but damn that tune still hits the spot — every time.