Waiting Around to Die
“Sometimes I don’t know where this dirty road is taking me” Echos loud in my mind. This electric Townes Van Zandt verse of a track that he originally recorded in an apartment closet sort of sums up his whole life. The songs title “Waiting around to die”
Townes did die eventually and in my humble opinion way too soon.
Townes was truly Texas Born and Texas Bred. His roots go back to a time before Texas was a state of the Union. Van Zandts great grandfather Isaac Van Zandt served the Republic of Texas as ‘charge d’affaires’ to the United States, his appointment was by then President Sam Houston. When Isaac died in 1847 , he was seeking election for Governor in the newly created State of Texas. Van Zandt County near Dallas is named for him.
Other Van Zandts were civic leaders. The Townes family built a dusty dangerous cow town into what is now the city of Ft. Worth. Townes own son , John Townes Van Zandt II said that his dad was being groomed into becoming a Texas lawyer, maybe even a senator. He attended the University of Colorado and later law school in Houston. His 1st wife called him a genius . In fact he was , with an IQ score higher than 140. However, Townes had other ideas, filling his college days with picking his guitar for fun and playing records of musicians like Lightnin Hopkins and Hank Williams.
Townes Van Zandt got his first guitar when he was only nine. A Christmas gift from his parents after they had seen Elvis on the Ed Sullivan show. Later Townes would play that same guitar in the honky tonks of Houston, opening for the acts he once listened to on record. Lightning Hopkins, Guy Clark, and Jerry Jeff Walker. In an interview by Austin radio deejay Larry Monroe Townes told that after hearing Bob Dylan’s “The Times they are a Changing “ he knew that songwriting was what he wanted to do.
So write he did. Texas Monthly calls him the best Texas songwriter of all time. If you don’t believe that , ask Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, or Nanci Griffith.
Townes Van Zandt fought a long battle with his addictions and inner demons, he spent quite a few trips into treatment centers and sanitariums. His own mothers greatest guilt was to permit doctors to give Townes electro shock and the Belladonna treatment. After 3 failed marriages, and an unstable musical career Townes would die . In Smyrna Tennessee New Years Day 1997. The same way his hero Hank Williams Sr. had gained some angels wings on the New Year’s Day in 1953.