Townes Van Zandt gigs and set lists

Nath Dresser

Spring Green, WI

I saw Townes at least six times, but for two gigs, I have no set lists: at the Gryphon in Pittsboro, NC, a week after the Cat’s Cradle gig (March 18, 1977) and at the Belle Chere street festival in Asheville, NC (July 28, 1990). I recorded him just once--at The Cat’s Cradle—and shot photographed him twice—at The Cat’s Cradle in ’77 and Belle Chere in 1990.

But I guess making notes four out of the six gigs, and recording one and photographing Townes twice isn’t too shabby. There’s no one else I’ve seen anywhere close to six times, so I suppose I was smitten by Townes, his songwriting, and his unique abilities as a performer.

I still need to dub the Cat’s Cradle onto CD, and when I do, I’ll be able to make more detailed notes for that gig. I’m sure there was lots more between-songs chatter than just the “beer” story. . . .

Anyway, here’s a list of the four gigs, in chronological order, with set lists and some notes on stories and jokes.

March 11, 1977—The Cat’s Cradle (Chapel Hill, NC) (The Cat’s Cradle is in Carrboro these days, but I think in 1977 it was in Chapel Hill. It’s been long enough that I can’t remember, though.)

Townes was playing an Epiphone jumbo this night. Before the gig, I asked if he’d mind if I taped the show, and he said no, not at all . . . the more people who heard, the better. He also gave me some pointers on copyrighting songs—as if I had any then that were worth copyrighting. . . .




May 2, 1985—McDibb’s (Black Mountain, NC)

(with Mickey White on guitar, Donnie Silverman on flute and sax)

SET ONE (9:10 – 10:20 PM)

SET TWO (11:10 PM – 12:35 AM)

June 1, 1987—Paul Green Theatre (Chapel Hill, NC)

(three sets: first, David Olney; second, Townes Van Zandt; third, Guy Clark)

Townes’ set. . . .

July 12, 1996—Theatre on the Green (Cheraw, SC)

(also playing that night, Two Dollar Guitar)

Townes was playing a Gibson J-200 this night; for the detail-minded, he had a Shubb capo. . . .



The July 12, 1996 gig in Cheraw was the last time I saw Townes play. He was pretty much in terrible form, something I’d heard about, but had never seen before. It was more heart-breaking than “Old Shep.” But afterwards, a songwriter friend of mine and I got to talk to him in a trailer on site, or perhaps it was a motor home Townes was traveling in. I wish I could remember what we talked about, but I do recall that he seemed lucid and in good spirits. Whatever was wrong that night may have affected his playing and his memory of words and chords, but he sure didn’t mind talking to us, and seemed to be having a good time telling more stories and such. We were glad to have the memory of the performance more than offset by the visit with Townes.