“Hey Buckaroos, It’s Scamp Walker time again.” That’s how original Cosmic Cowboy Jerry Jeff Walker introduced his legendary ¡Viva Terlingua! — an industry-changing album that captured Walker’s “gonzo country” sound, a laid-back country base with notes of “outlaw” rock, blues, and traditional Mexican norteño and Tejano styles.
And now … it’s Scamp Walker time again.
On Aug. 18 and 19, Walker’s son, singer-songwriter Django Walker, will produce a two-day 50th-anniversary celebration of the album, in partnership with the town of Luckenbach and filmmaker Eric Geadelmann.
Kicking off the festivities on Friday night is a special preview screening of They Called Us Outlaws, the highly anticipated six-chapter, 12-hour documentary on the history and legacy of the Outlaw country-rock movement of the Cosmic Cowboys and Honky Tonk Heroes, directed by Geadelmann and presented in association with the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. A short film on Jerry Jeff was created exclusively for the event to celebrate the legendary album and highlight the story of Luckenbach’s Hondo Crouch and his friendship with Jerry Jeff, along never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with luminaries past and present.
Friday night’s highlight will include an evening of “Songs & Stories” in Luckenbach’s famous dance hall, hosted by Django alongside numerous protégés of Jerry Jeff, plus members of the Lost Gonzo Band and several Cosmic Cowboy luminaries. The celebration continues on Saturday with an outdoor dance under the Luckenbach moon.
“Music brought my Pops so much joy,” Django says, “and ¡Viva Terlingua! captured the joy in the not knowing, as I like to say — as in, ‘Where’s he going with this?’ ‘What’s going to happen next?’ ‘How is this going to turn out?’ This 50th Celebration is an extension of that mystery — ‘Who’s going to play? ‘What’s going to happen next?’”
Recording ¡Viva Terlingua! was a Sangria wine-fueled merrymaking time — “wild and wooly,” according to Jerry Jeff. “About 900 people showed up to that little dance hall,” he noted. “Hondo had to come up and tell them to get down out of the rafters. The old dance hall wouldn’t make it.”
The album features unforgettable tracks that have become anthems for Texas music lovers: “Sangria Wine” (written by Jerry Jeff and inspired by a crazy night in Florida’s Coconut Grove); “London Homesick Blues” (Gary P. Nunn), the Austin City Limits theme; “Desperados Waiting For A Train” (Guy Clark); “Redneck Mother” (Ray Wylie Hubbard); and “Backsliders Wine” (Michael Martin Murphy). Along with Jerry Jeff, the Lost Gonzo Band musicians on the album included Nunn, Robert “Cosmic Bob” Livingston, Michael McGeary, Herb Steiner, Craig Hillis, Mickey Rafael, Kelly Dunn, Mary Eagan and Joanne Vent. Produced by Michael Brovsky and recorded and remixed by Martin Lennard, the album was released by MCA Records (1973).
Today, the legacy of ¡Viva Terlingua! lives on, inspiring new generations of musicians and listeners alike. Jerry Jeff Walker’s ability to weave tales of love, loss and life’s simple pleasures, combined with the vibrant backdrop of Luckenbach, continues to captivate audiences worldwide.
Cover photo by Scott Newton