DEVIL’S BACKBONE TAVERN
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).
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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 February 19, 2017, 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.