Pancho Kicks Lefty in the Nuts


Townes Van Zandt was one of the best country songwriters the world has ever known. He was also a human wreck, as illustrated by this harrowing Houston Press article about the legal rights to his musical output.

A battle over his music has raged for years in public and in private, one that has taken its toll on all involved, including an ex-wife, three children and the man who says he spent a small fortune producing Van Zandt when no one else would. This fight, over what some say are mere pennies and others claim are millions, has ruined many friendships, forced several lawsuits and grows more acrimonious each year. To wade into this story is to get drenched in muck. Every few months, it flares up as more Townes Van Zandt CDs appear on the market—some legit, some of dubious origin. It is over these dozens of albums—and who owns them, and who collects the money made from their sales—that the squabble has, over the years, escalated into a nasty little war.

Link via Ken Layne.


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  1. Any relation to Ronny Van Zandt?

  2. One of my best friends, a Yorkshire Englishman, has started to turn me on to the desperate power of TVZ. An acquired taste, to be sure, but there are rewards there for the patient listener.

    If there are 100 songs, there must be 1000 cover versions out there. Look especially for interpretations by Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams.

  3. Where, pray tell, is the RIAA, protector of artist’s rights?

    Oh yeah, they only sue people that steal a single song, not people that steal an artist’s entire catalog.

  4. well, they can’t go about suing their own clients, now can they?

    that’s bad form in any language.

  5. When I was doing interviews for my radio book, someone told me a story from when he was managing the Pacifica station in Houston. Van Zandt had been arrested and, for some reason, had used his one phone call to give the radio station a ring. Seems he had been locked up in some tiny Texas town for walking down the middle of the street wearing a dress.

    Not many country music legends can put that on their r?sum?…

  6. Poor Townes, he couldn’t even make the Big Career Move without it ending up as bad business.

    How he could piss away $400,000 in a weekend is almost too weird for me to imagine — but all you screenwriters out there, go for it! Sounds like something Robert Redford might want to produce.

  7. One good thing about voting for the Libertarian is that the Republicans get really pissed if they lose the election.
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