As submitted by Dave Williams:
        Townes article
        Tue, 23 Feb 1999

Hi Jeanene, Len

My name's Dave and I live near London, England. I have been a great fan of
Townes' for about 6-7 years now. I really enjoy the websites and think it's
great that there is so much info about Townes on the Net. When I first heard his
music and then tried to find out more about him it was really difficult. No-one
seemed to know who he was.

I send you a transcription of an article that appeared in the English newspaper
The Guardian back in August 1998 (The Guardian is also the only English paper
that printed an obituary for Townes, which is already on the Blue Sky site). I
meant to send it to you last year but I lost the file but then managed to find
it again. The article in my opinion is honest and sympathetic, and I learned
some new information from it. I thought you might like to read it and share it
with all the other fans via your websites. Maybe they'll be interested to know
that Townes got some press coverage over here in England.

I was lucky enough to see Townes live three times on his visits to London, and I
met him backstage twice. The second time he signed some album covers for me,
which at the time seemed a pretty corny thing for me to ask him to do, but now
those signed covers are some of my most treasured possessions. I still love his
music and try to spread the word as much as I can. A number of my friends are
now also dedicated fans. I play his songs most days, I think the 'Live at the
Old Quarter' album is probably my favourite. To Live's To Fly is possibly my
favourite song, but then there are so many beautiful ones to choose from.

Kind regards

From the Gaurdian UK - August 1998

Legend Of The Fall

On a freezing night, December 3, 1996, a wiry Texan stumbles onto the stage of the Borderline on London's Charing Cross Road. Shaking and fumbling his guitar, he gives a mesmerising performance until he's cleared away for the disco. This has been his last gig. A month later he will be dead. Townes Van Zandt was a great American writer who turned his life into a great American novel. He was a romantic ruin of the road who acted like a reincarnation of a twenties bluegrass guitarist. He toured the southern states, half-hobo, half-musician, making just about enough to eat and get drunk, sleeping on people's couches, fascinated by the dream of freedom on the open highway that stretches across American culture from the pioneers to Jack Kerouac. Van Zandt's broken-down ramble through Texas, Colorado, Tennessee and beyond finally brought him to Charing Cross Road. It seems astonishing now that he drifted in and out of London that night without fanfare: the critics were already queuing up to hail a legend. When he died, on New Year's Day 1997, aged 52, he was called "the James Joyce of Texan songwriting" and "one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century". The past 18 months have been perhaps the most successful of his career.

Van Zandt once told a friend he was afraid that "people will only know who I am after I am dead". All his life, record companies clumsily tried to market his lyrical journeys to the end of night as country songs, but when he finally started to find his place in the nineties it was closer to Seattle than Nashville. "I'm the mould that grunge grew out of" he joked. The grunge band Mudhoney covered his work, and when he died he was recording an album for Geffen with Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth. Now Townesfests and TV specials in the US are acclaiming a lost genius. His protege Lyle Lovett has recorded four of his songs on an album to be released next month and Lyle's ex, Julia Roberts, sings his mysterious love song If I Needed You in a forthcoming film. Van Zandt also haunts the soundtrack of the Coen brothers' The Big Lebowski, performing the Jagger/Richards song Dead Flowers. His cracked, whisky-brown voice makes the lines eerily his own: "I'll be in my basement room/with a needle and a spoon."

"When I first heard his records," Townes Van Zandt's widow Jeanene says, "I thought the guy had lived for a thousand years. His songs are almost like old English ballads." In Pancho And Lefty, which is regularly performed live by Bob Dylan and was a hit for Willie Nelson, Van Zandt tells the story of two outlaws. Pancho is gunned down in Mexico, while Lefty survives. The words suggest more than their author would ever say: Pancho's death is juxtaposed with Lefty's lingering half-life on the run. "Living on the road, my friend, was gonna keep you free and clean," it goes. "Now you wear your skin like iron and your breath's as hard as kerosene."

The lines are autobiographical. Yet Townes Van Zandt was born into a life of wealth and privilege. His father was a corporate lawyer and vice-president of an oil company. The Van Zandts were one of the founding famiIies of Fort Worth, Texas - there's even a Van Zandt County testifying to their intimate connection wvith the history of the state. Townes preferred to step back into this past rather than follow in his father's footsteps. He was like an innocent version of Jack Nicholson's drifter in Five Easy Pieces, the talented son of an elite family who chose to remake himself as a nobody. "He remembered coming home one day and his father was crying because he had to lay off 3,000 men" Jeanene says. Townes saw his father as a sensitive man, but a trapped one.

It was when he was studying law at the University of Colorado, with a career as a lawyer or maybe a senator stretching out ahead of him, that Townes Van Zandt decided to find out in Jeanene's words, "what it was like to fall". Up to that point he had been an exemplary student. At his private school in Minnesota he loved Shakespeare and wrote sonnets. But at college he started to drink suicidally, as he would for the rest of his life. In his song Fraternity Blues he puts a light-hearted gloss on his alienation from college life, telling how he went to a fraternity party with his jug of wine to find it full of preppies "drinking whisky sodas, brandy alexanders, frozen daquiris and reciting the Greek alphabet to one another". Townes ended his fraternity days in disgrace by vomiting on the sofa. "Next time I think I'll join a sorority".

Jeanene tells a darker tale. Townes drank like any student, "but when he drank he did crazy stuff". Finally, "he just wanted to know what it was like to fall", so he let himself fall backwards three storeys off a balcony. His family took him for a psychiatric evaluation. They put him in Galveston mental hospital for six months and the ECT wiped out his memory. Van Zandt dropped out of graduate school and drifted to Austin, Texas, where he became part of the late-sixties music scene that included the psychedelic band The 13th Floor Elevators. He lived for a while with the band's acid-casualty star Rocky Erickson and almost died of a heroin overdose. But alcohol, the intoxicant of southern melancholy, was always his main addiction. Van Zandt said the Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins taught him how to be a "blues sponge" and savour gloom. "He had a lot of stuff he found it hard to handle," says Jeanene. She gives a disturbing glimpse into his burden of sadness when she tells how one of his early girlfriends was murdered.

You get the impression from Van Zandt's songs that he didn't expect to live long. He drifted from place to place, sometimes playing, sometimes just drinking. His songs wander along a road to nowhere. Right from the start he recognises his journeys as a way of marking time. "I guess I'll keep a gamblin'," he sings in one of his very first songs, "lots of booze and lots of ramblin'. It's easier than just waitin' around to die."

When the album The Late Great Townes Van Zandt appeared in 1973, its creator was living in a tin-roofed shack in the backwoods of Tennessee, surviving on raccoon meat. This was was his way of making it in the music business. He moved to Tennessee with the idea of cultivating Nashville producers, but never actually got to Music Row, where the country business is based. Instead, he grew morning glories. When the album appeared, with its title written in black Gothic letters, people thought he had died. The Late Great is the best of Townes's studio albums, but his most enthralling recording is Live At The Old Quarter, capturing a performance at a downtown Houston club. You can hear the awkwardness of the audience as he slips from the lovely To Live's To Fly to Thunderbird Blues, a story about getting drunk on Thunderbird at 59 cents a bottle. "It was almost like he was two people, Jeanene says. "That was why we had two houses: one was his house." She took him home with her the night they met in Austin in 1980, "and we've been together ever since". Jeanene is Townes's publisher and runs his official website. She's a fierce protector of his talent and is currently involved in a dispute with a record company that plans to release a three-CD set of Van Zandt's late recordings with posthumously added backing singers. She's been quoted as saying: "It can't come out with those cows mooing over Townes."

While he was alive, she was his business manager. They moved to Nashville - to the actual city this time - had a family, and he enjoyed the most stable existence of his adult life. He toured six months of the year, all over the US and Europe. By this time Jeanene had given up trying to make him stop drinking. It was a question of managing the catastrophe. He lived at her house when he was sober, and holed up in his place when he was drunk.

In one of his last songs, Blazes Blues, on his 1994 album No Deeper Blue, Van Zandt takes on the voice of his friend Blaze Foley, a singer and fellow alcoholic, to mourn himself. The story has it that Blaze invited Townes to go with him to Alabama to record at the fabled studios at Mussel Shoals. He didn't want to go because he had a newborn son, but Blaze managed to drag him along anyway. They never got near the studio. The execs abandoned them in a hotel and they made regular trips across the state line to get their pints of vodka. Blaze got so drunk he started to believe Iraqis had surrounded the hotel. When he tore the telephone out of the wall, the Alabama police crashed in, and they both ended up in jail. The song is an elegy for Blaze but also for the singer. "You know you're going to miss me when I'm gone," says Van Zandt.

Perhaps Townes Van Zandt's most evocative recording is Roadsongs, a 1992 collection of other people's songs that he played regularly. The front cover is his own sketch of a Texan landscape with a highway stretching into the distance, an invitation to pack up and disappear. The album consists of disparate found materials, the traditional Cocaine Blues, the ballad of the native American war hero Ira Hayes, Bob Dylan's Little Willie The Gambler. The identity of the singer dissolves into the songs. Van Zandt does not impose himself, nor does he let their authors keep them. Like his own songs, they become folk music - anonymous, beautiful, there to be found.

High Low And In Between and Live At The Old Quarter are released this month on the Charly label.