************************************************************************ Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for the Townes Van Zandt mail-list Please email corrections and suggestions to: email@example.com (Len Coop) First developed: April 1996 Last update: 21 Jan 2008 ************************************************************************ CONTENTS:
27 Apr, 2008 - Updated Q12, with basic info on Townes The Movie, late, of course. Added info on Richard Dobson's "Gulf Coast Boys" to Q11. 21 Jan, 2008 - Updated Q11, with new info on Robert Hardy's upcoming and long-awaited biography of Townes. Updated Q13, advice on what albums to collect. 6 Apr, 2007 - Updated Q11, with new info on John Kruth's and other biographical works on Townes. 17 Nov, 2005 - Added Q19, guitars played by Townes stimulated by Jinder. (minor edits 2/7/07 & 12/30/09) 15 Jun, 2004 - Updated Q2, biographical information. 30 May, 2001 - Updated Q2, biographical information, thanks to Robert Hardy. Other minor updates throughout. 23 Mar, 2001 - Updated Q15, with some detailed discharging from Jeanene on the Newology anthology and why it has been so delayed. 28 Oct, 2000 - Updated Q11, with more detail on the biography underway by Robert Hardy. 28 Nov, 1999 - Updated Q11, with more detail on the biography underway by Robert Hardy. Updated Q18, concerning the Hedgepath article. Changed the links and instructions for Q1, The AboutTownes mail list, which moved starting this month. Renamed and updated Q2 with biographical information supplied by the Van Zandt Society via Jeanene. 11 Oct, 1999 - Updated Q11, mentioning the several biographies that are in the works. Changed the order of the questions to be more logical. 1 Oct, 1999 - Added Q18, link to the long article on Townes by William Hedgepath. 31 Dec, 1998 - Added questions about Townes' musical influences and where the cemetary is located for paying respects, and updated several questions including recommended albums, tape trading and publications with info about Townes. Updated links to Marq's and Jeanene's websites. 14 Feb. 1998 - Updates on the 4 CD box set, change in address of the about-townes mail list, and addition of Q16, concerning Townes and Jeanene's divorce, as answered by Jeanene herself. 26 July 1997 - Update lyrics URL, Jeanene's web page address, Lubbock or Leave it address. 18 Feb. 1997 - Began updating this FAQ since Townes' passing away. Updates include how to join the about-townes mail list, links to the Blue Sky and Lone Star Webstation web pages, removing the question of how to find townes tour schedule, and news concerning the 60-song box set. 21 Aug 1996 - Fixed Townes' birthday (was off by 2 years!) 24 July 1996 - Updated Songs recorded by others and removed from this FAQ, now at tvzothers.html Changed URL to Austin Music Network (but I noticed the schedule is not up to date). Added Q15 - "What is happening with that 3 or 4 CD compilation project" 16 June 1996 - Updated Q9 2 June 1996 - Updated Q9 - Frans Bevers' list of TVZ songs performed by other artists. 28 May 1996 - added index to questions, a few edits here and there, added links to URLs. 11 May 1996 - updated Q9 - Songs recorded by others. Added some URLs to web pages for lyrics and Diry Linen Concert listings. Misc few edits.
It's an electronic means of communicating news and information related to this great artist, his songs, news, new releases, and tapes. A majordomo-run version of this list was set up Jan 1997 by Topher who runs the Guy Clark web pages. From 1998-late 1999, the list moved to listbox.com. Since Nov. 1999, the list moved again Twice and is now part of Yahoo! Groups, and is run by Jeanene Van Zandt and friends. The list has medium- high traffic (currently 800 to 900 posts per month), and quite a bit of off- topic, but friendly (and usually Texas music-related), discussion. go to Yahoo! Groups: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AboutTownes or using email: Post message: AboutTownes@yahoogroups.com Subscribe: AboutTownesfirstname.lastname@example.org Unsubscribe: AboutTownesemail@example.com List owner: AboutTownesfirstname.lastname@example.org As for websites, Townes Van Zandt Central, at http://www.townesvanzandt.com, run by Jeanene Van Zandt. The site has sound files, merchandising, and other information. The Yahoo Groups website offers file uploads, chat, polls, and other nice features. Also, there are two major fan-run web pages for Townes; the Blue Sky pages run by Len: tvzindex.html and A Lone Star Webstation run by Marquetta: http://www.lonestarwebstation.com/townesdex.html between these, quite a bit of information is available, plus links to other web pages such as the 1997-arrival TVZ Record Collection by Bill Campbell (moved to Marq's pages 1998).
Townes is a songwriter and singer who usually performs original material, while occasionally performing traditional folk and blues classics, especially those of a major early influence, Lightnin' Hopkins. He has recorded ten studio albums and released five live recordings on a variety of labels before his death. Currently, (May 2001), 25 albums have been released and several more are upcoming. Townes was born on March 7, 1944. He grew up in parts of Texas, Colorado, Montana, and elsewhere. He spent his Jr and Sr years in High School (1960-62) at Shattuck Military Academy in Minnesota. He lived in a number of areas growing up, but is most strongly associated with the Houston/Austin axis of the '70s, and has lived in Nashville since the 1980s. Although none of his recordings sold extremely well, several of his songs have been major hits for other artists (especially Pancho & Lefty and If I Needed You). He toured the world regularly, usually appearing alone with his guitar, although he has appeared with Guy Clark on some tours, and fronted various acoustic and electric bands, mostly throughout the 1980s. More on Townes' lineage and biographical data (provided by the Van Zandt Society and Jeanene Van Zandt, updated 5/26/01 with info provided by Robert Hardy): On Townes' Lineage: We have traced the lineage of Townes Van Zandt this far back. Do you have anything going farther back and can we get this information registered with The Van Zandt Society? (contact Jeanene Van Zandt). Jacob Van Zandt Sr. was born about 1750, came from Holland with the Moravian Colony that settled in Pennsylvania and later moved to North Carolina. He married Catherine Moon of Virginia who was born in 1751. About the beginning of the 19th century they moved to Franklin County, TN. Both are buried in Salem TN. Jacob Van Zandt Jr. was born in 1786 and died in 1834. He married Mary Isaacs, born in 1795 and died in 1840. Both are buried in Salem TN. Isaac Van Zandt was born in Franklin County, TN July 10, 1812. In 1833 he married Francis Cooke Lipscomb born in 1816. He died October 11,1847 and is buried in Marshall, TX. She died in Ft. Worth in 1909 and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery there. Isaac Lycurgus Van Zandt was born January 5, 1840. He married Ellen Henderson who was born in 1849 in Shelby County TX. He died in 1935 and both are buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Ft. Worth. Townes' paternal grandparents were: William Lipscomb Van Zandt was born Feb. 3, 1875 in Tarrant County TX. He married Bell Williams [born June 30, 1882] also of Tarrant County TX. He died April 8, 1948. She died in Feb. 24, 1965. Both are buried in Dido Cemetery, Tarrant County. Townes' family: Harris Williams Van Zandt born 1913 in Dido Community, Tarrant County, TX. He married Dorothy Townes of Houston, TX in 1940. He died in Houston in Jan. 1966. and she in Sept. 1983. Both are buried in River Oaks Cemetery in Houston. Townes' sister is Donna Spence. Townes had a brother William Lipscomb Van Zandt (Bill), born in Fort Worth, Texas on May 5, 1949. Bill graduated from The Kinkaid School and the University of Texas at Austin. Bill worked in the computer industry and taught computer classes. He passed away Aug. 20, 2009 at age 60. Marriages and children: John Townes Van Zandt was born March 7, 1944 in Ft. Worth Texas. He married Fran Petters in 1965. The marriage produced a son, John Townes Van Zandt II born April 11, 1969 in Houston TX. Townes and his first wife (Fran) were divorced on January 16, 1970. She later remarried, changing her last name to Lohr. Townes married his second wife, Cindy Morgan, in Nashville in September 1978 (they had lived together since late 1974); they were divorced on February 10, 1983 in Travis County Texas. Cindy later remarried, changing her last name to Lindgram. Townes third and final marriage was to Jeanene Munsell, who was born in Corpus Christi, Texas on February 21, 1957. The pair met in Austin TX December 9th 1980 the day after John Lennon was killed. They took up residency together that very day. They were legally married March 14, 1983 ten days before the birth of their first child William Vincent. Their second child, Katie Belle Van Zandt was born nine years later on February 14, 1992 in Nashville, TN. They were divorced May 2, 1994 although they remained extremely close and bought a second home together on Old Hickory Lake in Mt. Juliet TN which Townes named Bayou Self. When off the road back home in Tennessee, Townes split his time between the family home, The Ponderosa when he was behaving well enough to be around the children and Bayou Self when he wasn't. Townes died at the lakehouse in Mt. Juliet of a heart attack following hip surgery on New Years Day, 1997, the same day his idol, Hank Williams, passed away. Jeanene and the children were by his side. Some of his remains (ashes) are buried in the Van Zandt family plot at Dido Cemetery, Tarrant County, Texas which is on land donated to the town by Townes' ancestors.
Currently, the mail-list about-townes (see Q1 above) can be considered Townes' fan club. The best place to go for merchandise including CDs, videos, T-shirts, and posters, is Townes Van Zandt Central, at http://www.townesvanzandt.com - LC 31/Dec/1998
There are many interviews where Townes was asked this question, and usually he mentions Lightnin' Hopkins, Hank Williams, and Bob Dylan, among others. Here is one fairly recent (1991) answer by Townes: "Up until Elvis hit, which was when I was about 9, it had been totally Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell and Roy Acuff. I used to hear it on my dad's radio as he would drive up and down from oilfield to oilfield. Then Elvis hit and Ricky Nelson and Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry. Seeing Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show was the starting point for me becoming a guitar player. My sister had two or three of her girlfriends over to watch it, and they were screaming, and I was just a little kid, barely allowed in the room. I just thought that Elvis had all the money in the world, all the Cadillacs and all the girls, and all he did was play the guitar and sing. That made a big impression on me. As I got older, I would search for things to listen to as opposed to listening to whatever was being played, and I discovered Lightnin' Hopkins, and then Booker White and Muddy Waters and all of those guys. Lightnin' Hopkins had a big effect upon my guitar playing. I had been totally strumming the guitar, but listening to Lightnin' I realized you could play separate notes. Bob Dylan came along about that time and I heard 'The Times Thay Are A Changing'. He was using a regular guitar and regular words and putting them together and coming out with songs that meant something, and I've been writing songs ever since." One magazine interview (published Aug. 1987) listed these as Townes' favorite LP's: 1. Hard Again - Muddy Waters 2. Mozart's Violin Concertos Nos. 4 & 5 3. The Times They Are a Changin' - Bob Dylan 4. Sticky Fingers - Rolling Stones 5. Automobile Blues - Lightnin' Hopkins 6. Atlantic 12 String - Blind Willie McTell 7. Tchaikovsky - Piano Concertos - Van Cliburn 8. Richard Dobson's first LP 9. Complete Hank Williams 10. Old #9 - Guy Clark 11. Surrealistic Pillow - Jefferson Airplane 12. Waiting for the Naked Girl to Call - Tim Henderson - LC 31/Dec/1998
The artistic reason: the intensity of his lyrics, often dealing in stark terms with depressing topics, are not commercial, although several of his romantic songs have sold many copies for other artists (e.g. Doc Watson, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Don Gibson). The pragmatic business reason: a lack of exposure, his long-standing health problems and an average of only 1 new studio album every 7-8 years for two decades. He has been known to put on somewhat erratic shows at times as well.
also see Q13. What albums by Townes should I buy?. Townes originally recorded his first several LPs for Poppy records from 1969 through 1973, which then went bankrupt, only to re-emerge as Tomato records, which re-issued the LPs in 1977 when they issued the 1973 concert "Live At The Old Quarter", and then the 1978 studio release "Flyin' Shoes". These were also released on cassette and 8-track tapes. In 1987 he released "At My Window" on Sugar Hill Records, and has subsequently released CDs and cassettes on Sugar Hill and other labels in the USA and abroad. The Poppy/Tomato albums were reissued by Rhino in the 1990s, along with "First Album" (previously the LP "For The Sake Of The Song", which was the only LP he refused to issue on CD in the 1980s), and the previously unreleased "The Nashville Sessions" from 1973. His most recent recordings include "No Deeper Blue" (1994, Sugar Hill), "A Far Cry From Dead" (1999 Arista Austin), and "In Pain" (1999 Normal). See the TvZ Blue Sky home page - URL: http://ippc2.orst.edu/coopl/tvzdisco.html for a complete discography.
Carefully; very carefully :-) Since Townes has gone as long as eight years between recordings of new material, many of his songs are performed in concert for several years before being recorded. Those looking for tapes of concerts may try the tape traders network, now with many "deep catalog" traders, at http://www.tapetracker.com.
Many songs with chords and lyrics may be found at the Blue Sky web pages: http://ippc2.orst.edu/coopl/tvztabs.html. A songbook [For The Sake Of The Song] was published in 1977, and is sometimes available from Jeanene Van Zandt's website, Jeanene has a full lyrics book that has yet to be published. Bo Sjogen has transcribed lyrics from most of Townes' songs and can be found here:
There are more than 3,600 recordings of Townes' songs by others, full list, with listings linked by each song from the Guide to TVZ Songs. If you would like to submit either commercial or non-commercial cover songs that others have recorded, be sure to contact Frans and Hans.
While this question is no longer relevant since 1/Jan/1997, you may wish to contact his former booking agent, Keith Case: Keith Case and Associates 59 Music Square West Nashville, TN 37203 615-327-4646 Phone 615-327-4949 FAX
Remarkably, up until March, 2007, no books had been written exclusively about Townes. Townes' 1977 songbook, "For the Sake of the Song" [edited by Joseph F. Lomax, published 1977 by Wings Press, usually available], is perhaps the best source to date, as it has a brief biography by Lola Scobey, an introduction by John M. Lomax, and words and music to 14 songs. We count at least eight book-type efforts that are either in the works, are just completed, or are finished but await the right publisher to come along: 1. A new TvZ songbook was put together by Jeanene in the fall of 1998, but it is waiting for the right publisher before it gets released. 2. In March 2007, a biography by John Kruth, "To Live's to Fly - The Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt" published by Da Capo Press (March 30, 2007). collected reviews 3. Robert Earl Hardy has signed a contract with the University of North Texas Press to publish a biography of singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt in the spring of 2008. UNT Press is a top-tier academic publisher with a highly respected line of books in the field of American (particularly Texas) music and cultural history. The book titled A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt will draw on meticulous research that spanned eight years, including interviews with Van Zandt's family, colleagues and friends (Mickey Newbury, Jack Clement, Guy and Susanna Clark, Mickey White, Rex Bell, Dan Rowland, Richard Dobson, John Lomax III, Van Zandt's brother and sister, cousins, and all three of his ex-wives, among many others). Websites now available from Robert Hardy and the Univ. of N. Texas Press. 4. A biography by William Hedgepath (see Q18), which is said to have been in the making since 1972, and that it is mainly waiting for the right publishing contract. 5. Another biography is in preparation by Larry Monroe (KUT Austin DJ, interviewer and friend of Townes) together with Harold Eggers (Townes' friend and road manager for many years). Harold has started a website/blog on Townes, available at: http://townesvanzandt20yearshfe.com/. 6. Wrecks Bell and Don Morris are close to releasing a book of remembrances about Townes. A couple other works are out there with references to Townes: Richard Dobson wrote "The Gulf Coast Boys" which was published Jan 1998 and is about Townes, Richard, Rex Bell, Mickey White and others during the era when they played and traveled together as the Hemmer Ridge Mountain Boys. See the webpage http://nativetexas.com/_pages/dobson_gcb.shtml for more info. Da Capo Press in 1997 released "Songwriters on Songwriting : The Expanded Version" by Paul Zollo, editor of the wonderful SONG TALK magazine. This book is 52 of his really great, technical craft talks with the nation's great songwriters. His interview with Townes Van Zandt done in Nashville in 1990 is included. Nanci Griffith has a book out entitled "Nanci Griffith's Other Voices : A Personal History of Folk Music" that mentions Townes' influence quite a lot. Goldmine published a comprehensive career retrospective in the late 1980s. Musician had a major interview with TvZ and Steve Earle in summer 1995 (re-published in Australia in late 1995; Rhythms? ). TvZ CDs get reviewed in most magazines which cover folk music. Townes has been written up in many more periodicals such as Acoustic Songwriter and No Depression, but a comprehensive compilation is not available at this time. -LC 21/Jan/08 & 27/Apr/08
Rake Films released the only feature documentary on Townes thus far, "Be Here To Love Me", see http://www.townesthemovie.com/. This is an excellent film for fans and those curious about creative genius vs. self- destructive habits. The director, Margaret Brown did an excellent job; the movie has received very favorable reviews for the most part. The film is widely distributed on DVD. Townes performed 2 songs (Waitin Around To Die, Pancho & Lefty) in "Heartworn Highways", a 1981 released film featuring numerous Texas and alt-country performers including Guy Clark, Steve Earle, The Charlie Daniels Band, Rodney Crowell, Steve Young, Richard Dobson, and numerous others, filmed during 1975-76. Re-released on DVD with numerous bonus performances in 2004. The tour of holes and such by Townes with Cindy and Geraldine is a major highlight in the movie. There was a 30 minute TV special about TvZ on Dutch Television around 1990. The name of the program: All along the Watchtower: interview and studio performance). Other places to look is for videos taken at various venues. Look out for a 3 hr show from Woolwich Tramshed in London 1987, where a TV film crew reportedly filmed the whole thing. He appeared on Austin City Limits twice (including in 1976), on Texas Connection twice, on American Music Shop at least once (the Nanci Griffith special), and gave a brief interview in Nanci Griffith's Other Voices, Other Rooms video (1993). He has appeared on numerous FM radio shows, and had concerts broadcasted or performed live in the studio, including a BBC session for Mary Costello in the early 1990s. The Austin Music Network features in-studio videos of Townes, and has aired a 60 minute special, filmed Jan 17, 1995. At least six movies feature Townes songs: "The Big Lebowski" (1998) (a critically acclaimed movie by the Coen brothers) - Townes rendition of "Dead Flowers" is perfectly matched to the tone at the movies end; "The Stepmom" (1998) starring Julia Roberts, who sings the first verse to "If I Needed You"; "In Bruges" (2008) w/Colin Farrell and Ralph Fiennes featured "St. John the Gambler"; "Crazy Heart" (2009) featured "If I Needed You", the song was loosely based in part on TVZ and other Texas/Country Troubadours; Tim Blake Nelson's movie "Leaves of Grass" (2009) features a live version of "Rex's Blues" and other signs of Townes throughout, plus Steve Earle is in the cast. "Lawless" (2012) features Emmylou Harris singing "Snake Song" after Ralph Stanley Sings a Nick Cave song, "Fire In the Blood".
Review "TVZ - discography with comments" at: http://ippc2.orst.edu/coopl/tvzdisco.html Currently (2008) there are 13 original studio, 11+ re-packaged studio, and 18+ live albums, covering ca. 122 original songs and 48 "cover" songs (see "TVZ - A guide to his recorded music at: http://ippc2.orst.edu/coopl/tvzguide.html) The strongest consensus seems to be that beginners should start with Live At The Old Quarter (LATOQ) stunning performances, solo, of many of his major songs as of 1973) and his 3rd album "Townes Van Zandt" (1970), which was a re-strategizing production of several songs from the somewhat strangely produced first album "For the Sake of the Song (1968), and backs off from the intensity of his most brilliant and gripping "Our Mother the Mountain" (1969). That 3rd album is lightly produced, immediately compelling, and can sustain repeated listening without producing fatigue or excessive loss of body fluids ;-) After starting with the two above, I would obtain them in this approximate order: "At My Window" - 1987, "Flying Shoes" - 1978, "Our Mother the Mountain" - 1969, "High, Low, & In Between" - 1972, "No Deeper Blue - 1994, "Nashville Sessions" - recorded 1977, released 1993, and Delta Momma Blues, released 1971. I am less enthralled by another early album "The Late, Great, Townes Van Zandt" - 1973 (his least focused and most over-rated, yet perhaps recorded at the peak of his genius), and while most shun his first album "For the Sake of the Song", I find it rather quant and a neat contrast to his more accessible 3rd album mentioned above. The later studio albums are mainly re-recorded songs with added production (so use modern studio practices but without Townes input), such as "A Far Cry From Dead" - 1999, and "Texas Rain" - 2001 (Townes with Guest artists), which are both interesting efforts that canot be dismissed. His best live albums other than LATOQ include Rear View Mirror - recorded 1979, released 1993, "Road Songs" - 1994 (all great cover songs), and "In Pain" - 1999. Next I would get "Live and Obscure" - 1987, which for some reason (production most likely) I rate lower than I would like to - These are well rehearsed live tracks when Townes had a full band, during a great era of his career. It is a nice change of pace from all his live and studio releases in any case. I believe no album captured the live feel of Townes with his Band in the 1980s, but this does come close at times. The live series produced by Harold Eggers (and Townes in some cases), including "Road Songs" and "In Pain", above, plus "The Highway Kind" and "Absolutely Nothing" in particular, are quite collectable and not without interesting and unusual takes, and can be viewed as a fantastic, almost bootleg archive, It is doubtful that new or casual fans should seek out very many in the series. More likely I would suggest next "A Gentle Evening With Townes Van Zandt" - recorded 1969, released 2002, and the oldest available studio recordings "In The Beginning" - recorded 1967, released 2003. This was trumped a bit in digging up the past by the 2004 release of "Live at the Jester Lounge (Houston Texas 1966) which is a real gift to those fascinated with the development of genius in folk musicians. If you want to get to know Townes via songs + interviews, check out "Last Rights (US) / Documentary (Europe)" - 1997. Other than perhaps the reissues such as "Best of" and "Anthology", I like nearly every album. These reissues are unnecessary because they are completely recycled material and mostly offer no benefit to Townes' Estate, but otherwise are not bad as reissues. One reason a "Best of" compilation does not make sense to true fans is because 90% of his written songs are real gems, and none were true hits excepting Pancho and Lefty, and so cherry picking is wasted effort. Some people do not like Townes' last live works, because his voice tended to stray off key and become strained. I think as a matter of taste, that this is a minor fault and that these performances actually served the nature of the music ("In Pain" is a fitting title and good example of this). There are several tribute albums and many many covers of Townes' songs, so if you don't especially like his voice do seek them out. Check out Nora Jones, Cowboy Junkies, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Paul K., etc. In summary, get any three early albums, especially those listed above, and you will be hooked and want to seek the remainder out. - LC updated 21/Jan/2008
When the song was written in the '60s, it was meant to be humorous and it probably was. Townes has introduced the song saying that he once performed it for the Japanese embassy and they liked it - so it can't be that bad. I believe he performed it later in his career because, as a simple talking blues type song, he has not forgotton how to perform it. It was not in Townes' character to try to be offensive.
July 1996 - This project is a major retrospective of Townes work, with re-recordings of 60 of his songs. So far, other artists have contributed vocal and instrumentals on 30 tracks. There are promises from several other artists including the Cowboy Junkies and Sonic Youth to help with more tracks. The producers are seeking financial support to help finish recording, mix and master this long-awaited effort. LC - as per conversation with Jeanene Van Zandt, July 24, 1996 Jan. 1997 - Details for the project were brought up to date by Kevin Eggers, and posted at the Blue Sky pages at: http://ippc2.orst.edu/coopl/tvztomato1.html Feb. 1998 - The project has been delayed due to disputes about production values between Tomato records and the estate of TVZ. Specifically, many of the tracks are claimed to be overproduced, with female backup vocalists and other such excesses. I have heard a few of the tracks myself and agree that they tend to be overproduced. On the bright side, hopefully, these issues will be resolved and the basic tracks, which Townes laid down mostly between 1988 and 1990, sound great, and are well worth waiting for the right versions. - LC Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 09:20:39 -0600 From: "Jeanene Van Zandt"
Subject: Newthology >I really hope this doesn't end up abandoned and forsaken, eternally lost, Yea well, too bad Kevin decided to put the Johnson Wax Singers, out of tune, off time and on another planet, mudded all over 30 of Townes precious tracks or it would all ready be out. Oh please Kevin, more string and horns! (added after Townes died) Remember that step of artistic control everybody keeps forgetting about. Oh and by the way the Townes vocal track of Marie with Willie is STOLEN! It's my vocal track from "NO Deeper Blue" that when I was trying to help Kevin before I heard all the crap he had added to Townes's tracks after he died and before he died with out his artistic consent, I took it down to the studio to see if it would work because when Townes recorded that collection he was saying "No new songs!" Marie was new at the time he did those recordings, and I might add with the condition that Kevin sign a contract that all his advances were paid back and that he would finally be accounted to for past royalties. Kevin got his recordings, Townes never saw any accounting. Kevin was hot in the studio to get it out 3 months after Townes died and I was helping him all I could...till I heard the stupid doo whop crap he had added and we were all buddy ,buddy till I said, "You have to take those background ( really foreground singers) OFF!" Then I was the she devil from Hell. You folks will just have to wait till Mr. Eggers Conforms! Sorry, Hope we're not holding up your lives! All Kevin Has to do is push one button and get those stupid singer OFF and compensate us for Townes' Marie vocal or that record would already be out. It also could have something to do with all the DIFFERENT people he got advances money from using Townes' name. I heard he's asking a million dollars for the recording. Good Luck! Can you believe that he has a recording of two dead Texas legends, Townes and Doug Sahm singing "Two Girls" which was Townes' favorite track and he put those stupid singers on that too! Townes would be mortified! Townes said in an interview in '95. "if they are waiting for me to die to put that out, so I'll be less trouble to them, they are making a big mistake, cause Jeanene will still be here!" Townes must have seen the future! Jeanene Van Zandt > P.S. Are they really called the Johnson Wax Singers? No, they are The Chromatics. Two sisters and a brother. And it's not their fault either. Here's the story. While Townes was in Austin during one of the recording sessions Townes took time to do a benefit that was going on and the Chromatics were also on the ticket. As was Townes' habit many times when he was recording, if he was around other musicians or ran into one in a bar, he'd say, Hey, I'm recording a record why don't you drop by and play some. He did the same on this evening and asked the Chromatic to drop by and sing on a few songs, which they did the next day. Which is fine, that's what Townes wanted to do that day and he was right there. We have no problem with them being on those songs. When the recordings were finished Townes was sent his tape copy of the recordings (which I still have) and the singers were on about 5 songs out of the 60, which is reasonable. As far as Townes knew before he died the record was finished and he was extremely proud of it. These are the tapes Townes played for his friends saying, "Here's my new record. It only has to be mixed and mastered!" There was never any talk about adding any more background vocals. But somewhere between then and Townes' death, Kevin took it upon himself to call them back into the studio and put them on 25 more songs. According to written statements and testimony from people who were in the studio, Kevin had them in the studio singing all day and into the dawn and that's exactly what it sounds like. Very tired singers. That's why I say it isn't their fault. Putting them all over the album has totally messed up the diversity and dynamics of the album as a whole. When mixing began here in Nashville I went to the studio to represent the Estate as the Executrix (female for Executor for those of you not in the probate biz) and it was then that it was discovered what had been done. It freaked me out so bad, I cried. As each song rolled by I begged, Oh No, not on that one too.... and on and on it went till I was sick to my stomach with a deep sinking feeling. The droning drags down the recordings and all you remember about the song is "nothing", it's totally distracting to the point that you forgot what song you just heard. I immediately contacted JT (Townes' eldest son) and he flew up here. I played him copies of the "new versions" and he too was sickened. We both immediately wrote letters of disapproval and sent them registered mail to kevin and got the lawyers after him. I guess when Will turns 18 next week he too will be sending a letter. He thinks it sucks also. All we want is the record to be put back the way it was that Townes loved. It is his career that will be damaged. The producer would take the backlash from the press, but the general public doesn't care about producers, they'll think Townes did it on purpose, which he did not. We are not asking for the moon. We contacted him immediately and even stated that it would be wise to fix it now so he would not incur the cost of having to go back and redo the mixing which in a digital studio is very expensive. Townes was very insistant that the clause in the contract about his rights passing to us was in there. He had good reason! The last time I left the studio the tapes were being sent to New Orleans to be orchestrated! OH BOY! Jeanene Van Zandt
Excerpted from Jeanene Van Zandt's response to a query on about-townes: > When I read Jeanene's posts they give the impression that she and Townes > were inseparable. > But I understand that he had moved (or rather was kicked out) from their > house in Smyrna to an apartment in Nashville. > And that Jeanene had divorced Townes. ...if you are referring to divorce as two people not loving each other and going their seperate ways, well that never happened to me and Townes. We Loved each other the same from the moment we met until he took his last breath. We have sixteen years of history and two and a half (JT) children together and Townes never referred to me as anything other than his wife till the day he died. If you are asking if there is a stack of papers down at the courthouse that says I was no longer liable for his actions or responsible for his debts, you bet there is which right now as I go through an IRS audit for him as the Executrix to his Estate and the natural and legal guardian to the two minor heirs who's inheritance is at stake I am so thankful. He gave his songs to me and he knew that they would be protected and would stay in his family till they belong to the folks 100 years from now. - JVZ Jan 6, 1998
Some of Townes' ashes were laid beneath a headstone in the Dido Cemetery in Dido Texas just outside of Ft. Worth. It is in the Van Zandt Family plot just to the left, close to the entrance. - JVZ Jun 30, 1998
The article in question, it seems, is not available, but another article from the same era by that author is available in full, "Townes Van Zandt - messages from the outside". This was published in Atlanta's Hittin' the Note magazine back in May 1977. The article was mailed to me by Jeanene back in 1996 to add to the Blue Sky pages. The article included two nice photographs of Townes, which I could scan in - but it would look pretty bad, being a photocopy and all. The article mentioned by Lola Scobey quoted Townes talking about his depression and included him saying "There's been times when my hands--I took them--and I have the feeling, a very strange feeling, that if I had a machine and could just chop my hands off, then everything would be fine". If anyone knows of such a quote in an article by Hedgepath, please let us know.
[material added by other sources in brackets, otherwise posted by Jinder 5-11-2005] pre-1968 After seeing the effect Elvis had, a Harmony guitar became his christmas present (presumably ca 1956-7 [7th grade as per TVZ interview 3/28/71]) because he solemnly promised his father that the first song he'd learn would be Bobby Helms' 1957 hit "Fraulein". The Harmony was "almost plastic and had a heavy black finish". Guitar lessons came with the guitar but were too boring [3/28/71]. [Ovation - When I knew TVZ he was playing an Ovation. I once called it "plastic" and he informed me that it was 'fiber glass". I think I irritated him with that one. reslems on about-townes 9-19-1999] ca. 1968-ca. 1971 Gibson Hummingbird, J45 or similar (back cover shot of "Our Mother The Mountain") ca. 1971-ca. 1979 [It seems implied that one or more Martin guitars were used over this period - LC] Martin D35 (up 'til and including the "Late Great..." album period) [D35 Martin...that was the guitar on "Rear View Mirror" and "Roadsongs." That guitar had a lot of bass overtone and was hard to mike properly. (This period was before the ubiquity of acoustic pick-ups built in guitars.) The Martin was customised with "RJ" in mother of pearl in the neck I think he got it in a pawnshop, it probably went the same way. - Ruester 3/29/04 and ealier postings on about-townes] [Townes told me once that while parting in Austin he found himself alone at closing time with nothing to drink and decided to go to an after hours club with a friend he''d just met that night. The club wound up be an after hours gay club but had booze but was also in a real sleazy part of town. After drinking for several more hours he left and was confronted by some jerks that beat him up and stole his Martin. His last comment on that was "I really liked that guitar". - Skip 9-19-1999] ca. 1973 A red Gibson J45 or J50 slope-shoulder [seen in "Heartworn Highways" and in "Be Here To Love Me", including where Townes is at the the Austin club Castle Creek with Rex Bell and Mickey White. This guitar was loaned to Townes for making the movie by his amigo Richard (Ricardo) Dobson, who later lost it in a divorce. It had been customized a bit, with a hand-carved ebony bridge made by Guy Clark - R. Dobson 2-28-2006] ca. 1977-ca. 1983 Epiphone EJ200 (jumbo) or similar (late '70s/early '80s pics-according to Steve Earle, Townes "Hated (this guitar) so much he shot it full of holes") (3/11/77 observed playing this by ND) ca. 1983-ca. 1990 Takamine F340S Dreadnought or similar (Houston '88 footage, various '80s pics... there is a Harold Eggers quote saying about how the guitar was nicknamed "The Tin Man" because it was prone to being trebly..."He (Townes) loved that guitar, but if the treble was turned up too high you could really hear it ring." ) ca. 1991-ca. 1996 Gibson J200 ('91/'92 onwards...I believe this was made by Gibson luthier Chip Phillips, who said "Every time I saw him since he got that guitar, he was very appreciative. Townes wasn't a materialistic person, but you'd have had a hard time prying that guitar away from him. It was his pride and joy.") [Townes got the J-200 through a Gibson endorsement. According Phillips a friend of Van Zandt's, the instrument has a spruce top, maple back and sides, a maple neck, a rosewood mustache bridge, and factory-installed SORS (Symbiotic-Oriented Receptor System) electronics with a piezo-type saddle pickup and built-in preamp. - about-townes 12-9-2000] [It's a Gibson J-200--it's big enough to hide behind--and sometimes, I swear, my guitar plays itself. Guitars are alive--I say that and people go, 'Yeah, far out!'--but I mean it. My guitar is alive! That wood ain't dead yet, you know?! - TVZ, New York Times, 11/24/1994] [When Townes died he had 3 guitars. I gave Tin Man to Katie Belle which she makes up Blues songs on in open tuning. I gave the J-200 to JT (you may have seen him play it on the ACL tribute). Will, who started playing just before Townes died; Townes called him a natural, got the custom TVZ & Newman(sp?)Jones (who makes guitars for Keith Richards) electric guitar. It's a beauty. Will has never played again since Townes died. Jeanene Van Zandt 9-19-1999] I'm curious to know what Townes' choicest pick of guitar was as I regard him as a general all-round doyen of both playing and great tone.