Towering Townes

Fifteen years after the death of a legend, there are a few stories left untold.

Better Be Good

And there's this one from me. The last time I interacted with Townes personally was at a party to celebrate his return from rehab around Christmastime in 1994. He was then staying at Guy and Susanna Clark's lake house outside of Nashville, and Townes's ex-wife Jeanene was the hostess. Since Townes was (allegedly) newly sober, no alcohol was served at the party. Sadly the cure had not taken, and Townes had squirreled away a bottle of 100-proof schnapps in a tree somewhere on the grounds, so he and he alone was pretty lit.

He would always give me a hard time, try to scare me straight, teach me not to do how he had done. He asked me how I'd been and I told him I'd been well, that I wasn't the fuck-up dropout I was when I'd seen him last, a couple of years before. "Don't give me that shit, man," he replied. "You're full of crap. I know you've been carrying on like your mama and your old man," he snapped. "Do you know what I've just been through, Nova?" he went on. "I mean, do you have any idea what it's like in one of those places?" I was muttering, sniveling just a little, my eyes wide as tortillas. "You just can't imagine how awful it was. It was truly hell on Earth.

Townes and me, Nashville, 1992: When he wasn't teasing me, he tended to get bored.
Courtesy of John Nova Lomax
Townes and me, Nashville, 1992: When he wasn't teasing me, he tended to get bored.
Cindy and Townes stand to the right of my mother, Bidy Lomax, at a hot-air balloon expo near Van Zandt's Tennessee cabin, circa 1978.
Photo courtesy of John Nova Lomax
Cindy and Townes stand to the right of my mother, Bidy Lomax, at a hot-air balloon expo near Van Zandt's Tennessee cabin, circa 1978.

Location Info


Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe

413 20th
Galveston, TX 77550

Category: Music Venues

Region: Galveston


The 15th Anniversary Townes Van Zandt

Sunday, January 1, at the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, 413 20th Street, Galveston, 409-762-9199 or

"Hey!" Townes exclaimed, abruptly cheerful. "You wanna see me walk on my hands?" I said sure. He stretched his arms behind his back, cleared his throat, looked around the room to make sure he had plenty of space, and then reached down and grabbed the soles of his boots and sort of crab-walked across the room on his hands, leaving me there dumbfounded. He spent much of the rest of the party seated on a wooden chair in the middle of the room in front of the TV, on which a holiday musical special was playing.

While the rest of us were uneasily shifting our weight from foot to foot on the fringes of the room and soberly nibbling servings of Stouffer's lasagna off paper plates, Townes was muttering to the TV, parsing the lyrics of the carols burbling out of the TV. "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" came on, and Townes was transfixed. "Man, this song is a lot deeper than I ever knew," he suddenly enthused. "Think about it: 'Be good for goodness' sake.' That seems like a throwaway line, but it's really saying, 'Be good for the sake of goodness.' Wow. That's hip."

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Thanks for this.

(Copy editor: whet your appetite; wet your whistle.)


I was at the Old Quarter one night in 1974, when Townes and Rocky Hill were in there getting high upstairs. The police came up outside, and Townes and Rocky left quickly out the back. My girlfriend and I walked out the front door into a cloud of tear gas or whatever the cops were using to subdue a drunk on the sidewalk. I remember also Townes introducing Mickey White as "Egg" White, since he'd only been laid once!


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Anybody know/remember where the Old Quarter was?

Before my time and just curious...Google's not too helpful on this.

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Thanks for sharing the memory of Townes' "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" lyrics revelation. Only a true poet/word smith would catch that or find its alternative interpretation. It's deep and sweet!


It was on the corner of Congress & Austin. Last time I checked, the building was still there--as a law office. It shows up on one of those 19th century "aerial views" of Houston.

Then, there's the Old Quarter in Galveston. http://www.oldquarteracousticc... (Hi, Wrecks!)

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