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Easter with Willie Nelson

The circle remains unbroken in Luck, Texas
Jim Caligiuri, 3:07pm, Wed. Apr. 3, 2013
photo by Jim Caligiuri

Thanks to an invite by local PR maven Cash Edwards and her husband, KGSR deejay Roger Allen, I was fortunate enough to visit Luck this past Sunday. It’s not exactly a secret, but not really well known ether that the set for Willie Nelson’s 1986 movie Red Headed Stranger – called Luck, Texas – still stands out by the lake near Driftwood.

During the past couple of South By Southwests, it’s been home to the Heartbreaker Banquet. A much longer tradition happens to be the gospel “service” held every Easter and Christmas Day.

The church there is so tiny that people shuffled in and out for most of the performance by Austin’s eternal gospel group, the Bells of Joy. The congregation spilled out on the lawn in front of the church, with families and dogs milling about the small town hoping that Nelson, who lives in the area, would show up.

Willie doesn’t always participate in these events. It depends on whether he’s in town or not. Yet there he was, the soon-to-be octogenarian, singing and playing guitar along with his sister Bobbie and the Bells of Joy for most of a 90-minute set.

I don’t think anyone thought twice about drinking beer before noon while attending the church of Willie Nelson. Nestled in a serene Hill Country setting, a couple of Luck’s buildings deteriorated to the point of having to be knocked down over the years. The whole thing seems pretty flimsy, and was initially built to be burned down before Nelson salvaged it after the film’s completion.

I ran into local musicians James Hyland, Mario Matteoli, and Matt Hubbard. The latter two, I learned, are members of Nelson’s extended family. After Willie concluded the set with a grin-inducing rendition of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” we were invited to a family member’s house down the road from Luck for a buffet of barbeque and homemade fixings.

Thanks to all involved for making me feel like a member of Willie’s family for a day. It made for an Easter I’ll never forget.

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