From the Vault: Tones Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt is as tragic a figure as he is talented. In the early 1960 s. He was diagnosed as manic depressive and underwent a controversial insulin shock therapy procedure which erased much of his long term memory.

Van Zandt subsequently fought a continuous battle with substance abuse with alcohol and narcotics his entire life that ended at the age of 52 in 1997.
Although his lifestyle kept him, as he said, living out of a suitcase and singing for his meals, Townes Van Zandt s songwriting remains some of the most beautiful and highly influential to this day.

While living in Houston, Townes Van Zandt made several visits to the one station that appreciated good songwriting, Pacifica Radio KPFT 90.1 FM.

We begin with This KPFT recording called Ladies and Germs from October 1972, just before the release of his second album of 1972 The Late Great Townes Van Zandt .

Townes starts off the set with his most successful song of his career Pancho and Lefty . This song was made into a number #1 hit by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson in 1983. And was performed as a duet with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson for Willie s Televised 60th birthday bash in 1993.

Next we hear Townes Van Zandt sing perhaps his most Bob Dylanesque song Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold. The lyrics were so dense that he would fail to remember them all later in life, which makes these early performances all the more special.

As is the case for many songwriters, One of Townes Van Zandt s personal hero s is Hank Williams. Fitting we hear him perform this classic Williams tune, Lonesome Whistle.

Texas was also the birthplace of Blues Legend Lightnin Hopkins. Townes Van Zandt pays tribute to Hopkins with this number Shorthair Woman Blues.

Texas songwriter Guy Clark wouldn t record his first record for a few years yet, but in 1972 Townes Van Zandt credits him for teaching him this ol cowboy tune written by Gail I Gardner. (Tying The Knots in the Devil s Tail)

In 1973, Townes Van Zandt recorded an entire album of songs set to be released in an album called 7 Comes 11. This album was never released because of a disagreement between Van Zandt s longtime record label Poppy Records and producer Cowboy Jack Clement. The songs would eventually be released in various forms throughout the years, but here is an early live version of one of these gems called When She Don t Need Me.

Next we move to 1973. Townes Van Zandt returns to Pacifica Radio KPFT to perform another live set of music for the Houston listeners.

In this set you ll hear several more songs from the never released 7 Comes 11 album, his Mom s favorite song, “When He Offers His Hand” and his own personal favorite “To Live is to Fly”

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