While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Jennifer Cobb

DEVIL’S BACKBONE TAVERN. Devil’s Backbone Tavern was established in 1932 and is located at 4041 Ranch Road 32 in Comal County, Texas. Devil’s Backbone Tavern is known not only for its long-running live music performances but also for what some believe is its haunted history.

Stretching from Wimberley to Blanco, the ruggedly scenic area known as Devil’s Backbone resulted from an earthquake that occurred in the region more than thirty million years ago. The powerful earthquake helped separate the land into two different regions, the Edward’s Plateau to the west and the lower Gulf Coastal Plains to the east. The Devil’s Backbone Tavern is situated on one of the most picturesque spots along this earthquake fault, providing the historic venue with a spectacular view of the surrounding Texas Hill Country.

Ghost stories are an important part of the history of both Devil’s Backbone and Devil’s Backbone Tavern. The most famous of these stories describes a woman who walks down the road and is carrying a baby and calling out for her husband. Some people even claim to have witnessed an entire Civil War battle on the Devil’s Backbone. Others say that the tavern itself is haunted, with some patrons claiming to have encountered ghostly visitors.

Whether or not these stories are true, the Devil’s Backbone Tavern certainly has long been a favorite “haunt” for musicians and music fans alike. In the 1950s a dancehall was constructed at the venue, although it is no longer in use. By the late twentieth century and into the early twenty-first century, the club had become a haven for singer–songwriters. In 2010 Devil’s Backbone Tavern was owned by Helen and Rick Ferguson, who began hosting live performances there in 1994. Some of the artists who have performed at Devil’s Backbone Tavern have acknowledged the venue through their song lyrics. One of the most prominent of these is singer–songwriter Todd Snider, who wrote the song “Ballad of the Devil’s Backbone Tavern,” which he included on his album Happy to Be Here (2000). Snider recalled driving along the Texas Hill Country backroads and trying to find a bar in which he was scheduled to perform. He never did locate that bar, but he did stumble across the Devil’s Backbone Tavern. After going inside to ask for directions, Snider decided to stay and play for the patrons there instead. According to Snider, the song has served as a personal reminder as to why he chose to pursue a musical career. Many other entertainers have visited Devil’s Backbone Tavern. Musician, author, and politician Kinky Friedman has been known to stop by. Actors Jason Earl and Crispin Glover filmed parts of their comedy Drop Dead Sexy on location at the tavern in 2005.

In the 2010s Devil’s Backbone Tavern was open every day. Local songwriters still met every Wednesday at the club to perform their original material, and a variety of other musicians played an acoustic jam session on Friday nights.


Erica Elliot, Interview by Jennifer Cobb, Fischer, Texas, March 19, 2010. Todd Snider, Email Interview with Jennifer Cobb, March 23, 2010. Geronimo Treviño III, Dance Halls and Last Calls: A History of Texas Country Music (Plano, Texas: Republic of Texas Press, 2002).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Jennifer Cobb , "DEVIL’S BACKBONE TAVERN," accessed July 11, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/xdd04.

Uploaded on June 26, 2014. Modified on November 1, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...