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Home Blogs The Arts The ghost of Townes Van Zandt and me

The ghost of Townes Van Zandt and me

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I can check one more thing off my bucket list.

On Saturday, I round-tripped it from my mother-in-law's house in Nacogdoches to Galveston for the 14th Annual Townes Van Zandt Wake at Wrecks Bell's Old Quarter on 21st Street. They hold it on the anniversary of Townes' 1997 death.

Wrecks and his sweet wife host the event each year on the anniversary of his friend's untimely passing.

Man. What a night.

One by one, people climbed up on the small stage, plugged their guitars into the sound system and sang three Townes songs. We heard a lot of "Waitin' Around to Die" and "If I Needed You," but not too much of "Pancho and Lefty" and no "Flyin' Shoes," which was a bit of a disappointment.

Some of the people who plugged in were good ... several were great.

Marina Rocks ... think a female Johnny Winter and you've got a good mental image. She tore it up. Her version of "Nothin'" should be recorded. Enough said.

My young friend, singer/songwriter Chris Edwards, who lives in Nacogdoches, took the stage, in spite of a bad cold. He did "Two Girls" for me, which was sweet. Chris has a new CD coming out soon. Watch for a feature on him in the "A Songwriter's Sojourn" series.

As an older, nondescript guy wearing a fedora and a full red beard mixed with more than a little gray took the stage, there was quite a bit of talking and not much paying attention as his name was announced. I think his name was Gary Jones, but I have to admit I didn't pay him much attention, either.

Then he started singing. He covered the rarely heard "Brother Flower," and a pared down version of "White Freightliner Blues." But it was with his third song, "Waitin' Around to Die" that he brought the house to their feet. He killed it.

I was so stunned by his performance that I didn't even get his photo. I looked for him after the show, but he had already left.

Wrecks Bell, who toured with Townes for years, played several songs, including the heartbreaking "Marie," which made my eyes leak. Between songs, he told stories about Townes and kept trying to get someone to cut cards with him.

You see, Townes wrote a song about Wrecks ... "Rex's Blues" ... and Townes loved to introduce it by saying, "Wrecks is the kinda guy that if you're cutting cards and you draw a 3, Wrecks will draw a 2."

Wrecks and his friend Gary Regan delivered a lovely cover of "Pancho and Lefty." The SRO audience sang along on each chorus.

A few grey federales said
They could have had him any day
They only let him slip away
Out of kindness, I suppose.

About 20 people played between 7 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., but it was Marina, Chris, Gary Jones and Wrecks that touched my heart the most.

I'm glad I made the 600-mile round trip. If you're into Texas music or if you're a Townes fan, it's a night to remember.


Comments (1)Add Comment
sounds great!
written by a guest , May 28, 2011
Sounds like you had a great time! I'm planning on driving out from CA to attend this after Christmas with the fam. I emailed Wrecks and he said that there were no tickets but that if I came down to Texas he would make sure I got in. I'm very excited to go...even though it's a long ways away.

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