Muschamp Rd

A Townes Van Zandt Story

December 21st, 2006
Townes Van Zandt album cover

During our recent epic power outage I had even more time to think. One of the things I thought about was a story about the late great Townes Van Zandt. This story might be from a webpage, though it could have been from a magazine or a book, remember those?

Townes has reputation as something of a loner, a wandering troubadour, who for a time lived alone in a shack in the mountains. He also has a reputation for being a self destructive drunk. A lot of Townes Van Zandt stories stem from that period, but towards the end of his life he had a wife and a couple of kids and this story comes from that time.

Townes was a songwriter, some say the greatest American songwriter ever and in his house he had a room where he worked at his craft. His wife and kids generally kept out of that room, especially when he was working. But it’s her house too, so naturally she goes in there sometimes. One morning she went in there and found a sheet of paper on his desk and read it. When Townes woke she said something like “I know you don’t like it when I read your songs before they are finished, but your latest song, I can’t help but think it is one of your best, a new favourite of mine.”

Townes says “That ain’t no song, that’s a suicide note.

Dutifully Townes crafted a melody to go with the words but I don’t know if it was ever revealed just which song came from that piece of paper.

His wife is central to the story so you could look at the publishing dates and narrow it down to the songs he wrote after a certain date, but some mysteries are best left unsolved.


  • Muskie says:

    I’m well aware of J. Mascis, Dino Jr. and even his vintage obscure Fender guitar. What I also know now is at least people who subscribe to my feeds read the comments I frequently leave on my own posts.

    Fat Possum has moved along way from their original reason d’etre of finding old unrecorded blues men and releasing their albums. I wrote about that previously. I’m not sure how they came to get Townes back catalogue, the publishing rights are where there real money is, Norah Jones covered Townes on one of her albums and on this even more country side project she did, which I used to always see for sale in Starbucks.

    J. Macis and Dino Jr. regularly cover Neil Young, they are on the very first tribute album that was done along with folks like the Pixies. I like the Pixies cover better than Dino Jr., the Pixies did “Winterlong”.

  • Kevin says:

    How could you not like Feel the Pain?

    The video was directed by Spike Jonze, I thought you liked that guy at least.
    J Mascis might not have the greatest voice but he’s a good guitarist.
    And if you don’t like the way he plays at least you gotta like the fact he plays a Jag.

  • Muskie says:

    I didn’t no where else to stick this, but apparently one of my favourite record label’s Fat Possum, has bought the original studio masters to a lot of Townes Van Zandt’s back catalog. They also have some unreleased material and live material that presumably will see the light of day.

    Since his death I would say there are more albums available than when he was alive and more readily available too. I was looking at his discography or his wikipedia page the other day and it seemed to have swelled well beyond what I remembered. I haven’t really been in the CD collecting tax bracket the last two or three years.

    Dinosaur Jr. has a new record coming out on Fat Possum too, but I never was really into them. They definitely are not just a blues lable anymore.

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