While many find Townes Van Zandt as a reckless drunk and a hopeless idealist, no one can deny that he’s the best Texas songwriter of our time. His musical legacy continues to inspire a generation of performers while his classic tunes are being hailed and covered by some of the biggest names in country music.
With that being said, let’s check out some exciting facts about Townes Van Zandt.
1. He got his name from his great-grandfather.
The Fort Worth, Texas native, whose real name is John Townes Van Zandt, was born on March 7, 1944. He was named after his great-grandfather John Charles Townes, who was the first Law School Dean and was at the time the longest-serving dean at the University of Texas. One of the university’s main buildings – called Townes Hall, was dedicated in his honor.
2. Elvis Presley’s performance at the Ed Sullivan Show was the starting point for Van Zandt to become a guitar player.
Elvis Presley made a big impression on Van Zandt, thinking that the King of Rock’ n’ Roll had all the money in the world when all he did was sing and play his guitar.
3. He was groomed to become a lawyer or senator.
While still in high school, it was found out that Van Zandt’s IQ was at a genius level. In fact, he scored a remarkable 1170 on his SAT. So, his parents started grooming him to follow in his fathers’ footsteps into law or the corporate world.
4. He once jumped from a fourth-floor balcony just to know how it felt.
While sitting on the edge of his balcony, drinking wine, he thought about how it would feel to fall four floors to the ground – and there’s no better way to really know, was of course, to do it.
5. He was diagnosed with manic depression.
This led to his three-month treatment of heavy insulin. Sadly, it didn’t do much for his depression, but it only erased most of his long-term memory.
6. He attempted to join the Air Force.
However, he was turned down due to his mental problems.
7. He started his career in music, singing for $10 per night.
In 1967, Van Zandt dropped out of the University of Houston’s pre-law program and pursued a career in music. He would sing songs of his musical heroes at Houston clubs.
8. It was his father who convinced him to write his own songs.
Which he absolutely did! Today, Townes Van Zandt songs remain among the best in the genre.
9. He knew his time would be short.
A young Van Zandt once said that he does not envision himself living a very long life. “Like, I think my life will run out before my work does, you know? I’ve designed it that way,” he said.
10. Hank Williams was his childhood hero.
Not only do they have the same tall, slim good looks, but they had a drinking problem in common. Sadly, the two suffered the same fate, both dying on New Year’s Day.
Well, we will forever remember Townes Van Zandt as a cult figure and one of the best in music communities during his lifetime.
Townes Van Zandt