(This story first appeared on the Internet in 2003 from: The Mosquito Diaries / My Adventures With Townes Van Zandt)
FRANKLIN CABIN VISIT PART I (Flyin' Shoes Cabin)
In 1978 I was invited to visit Townes Van Zandt down in Franklin Tennessee just outside of Nashville. My traveling companion and road warrior at the time was friend Ed Skopinski. We stayed at Townes' house with his wife and dog Geraldine for about a week but what seemed like a lifetime.You can see a picture of the house "cabin" on the back of Towne's 1978 TOMATO release, FLYIN' SHOES album. The album hadn't been released yet and I don't think he had started work on it. 25 years have gone by so its safe to reveal this story. Townes of course has passed away and so have many others. The music business exacts it's toll.
I first met Townes Van Zandt in Pittsburgh in 1976-77 when he came to do a show at a place called ANTININOS a pizza shop that formerly was the showcase folk club called THE PORTFOLIO (The comedian DENNIS MILLER came out of there) Back then I was an aspiring folksinger who wanted to "make it" in the music bizz. Today I'm older and wiser and realize that "making it" in the music bizz is as foolish as it gets. But I was a fan of Townes's almost from the begining back when I was living in Chicago. I had a friend back in Chicago named PETE MOSS (Pete was a musicologist who new everythng that was anything in the music business) Pete first met Townes after a show at RICHARD HARDING'S club THE QUIET KNIGHT in 1968 and took him on a road trip from Chicago to Michigan to do a gig in Pete's new orange Karmen Ghia. (I understand that was a hairy ride resulting in Townes getting hauled off to jail because he got rowdy in a bar and Pete had to bail him out so he could go do his next show. And while staying at a hotel Townes ordered up some hookers. But thats another story)
Pete introduced Townes to my brother Joe and they spent the day together in Evanston, Illinois a northen suburb of Chicago while Pete had to go to work. I used to live in Evanston before I moved to Pittsburgh. As an aside, when I got to know Townes better he told me that he had lived in Barrington, Illinois for awhile when his parents had bought a house there. Barrington is a very wealthy suburb of Chicago near the lake just north of Evanston. He also told me he attened military school, something we shared in common because I also had gone to military school.
Up until the time Pete introduced Townes to my brother Joe I hadn't met him yet. I had only heard the stories. So when TVZ came to Pittsburgh I had an easy introduction to him because of my brother Joe and Pete. For all you Townes fans who may be reading this you have to understand that back then Townes was the definition of the word obscure. But for those who were lucky enough to stumble upon him on the little POPPY label -- they became devout follwers. It was almost holy! Because Townes was a real live POET!!!
This was a long time ago and its somewhat blurry to me now but Townes came through Pittsburgh twice within a years time. One of the trips he was with JOHN LOMAX a relation of Folklore Historian Allen Lomax. John was managing Townes at the time. It was right after the LIVE AT THE OLD QUARTER release. (Here's some music triva: Townes told me it was him who carried the big heavy Teac reel to reel down to the OLD QUARTER and recorded those shows (TVZ was into lo-fi recording) and he told me he was pissed because they put that album out without his permission or something like that and he told me he objected to them using a photo of him without his shirt on. He said his mother would not approve of that. I still have my copy and play it often. At the time it came out it was selling 100 copies a day in Boston)
Getting back to the story. The first time Townes came to Pittsburgh was after THE LATE GREAT TOWNES VAN ZANDT. that album had been out on POPPY for awhile. PANCHO AND LEFTY was just starting to getting noticed. He opened at ANTININOS for blues singer TRACEY NELSON and her band. I remember Townes asking me to suggest the name of a good florist because he wanted to send flowers to Tracy. He asked to use my phone and called Orrs Flowers in Shadyside and had a dozen roses sent to Tracy at the club before the show. Townes was a true southern gentleman. Now you have a little background on me and how I first met TVZ. (there was a road trip and more but those are other stories to be told later)
Back to the FLYING SHOES HOUSE. I still have the letter where Townes said to come down. So I kissed my wife goodbye (I was married at the time) and me and Ed headed for Franklin. We arrived late in the evening because we got lost serveral times trying to follow Townes directions. finally after finding a tiny old dirt road (Natchez Trace) in a wooded section of Franklin which ran ajasent to a cow pasture and then nearly getting stuck in a muddy rut that would have swallowed a HUM-V we made it to the house. We wisely had stopped and bought 2 gallons of vodka earlier because me and Ed had spent a few evenings with Townes back in Pittsburgh and knew that he would want some hooey (as Townes liked to call it) And we wanted some hooey too!
It was great to see Townes again because like he said, "We had become fast hard friends". After getting our stuff moved into the house along with the "hooey" we had ourselves some drinks. Then Townes did something strange. He went and got a double barreled shotgun that was hanging on the wall and pointed it at me and said, "Greg if you try and screw my wife while your here I'll shoot you"! My heart was in my throat but I conviniced Townes that I hadn't come to boff his wife. Townes hung the shotgun back on the wall much to my relief. I was scared to death! After that Townes told Ed he wanted to show him something up in the attic. He got an old ladder and put it up to a small hole in the ceiling and he and Ed crawled up. I wondered what that was all about but I stayed where I was. I wasn't going to interfere. I was on Townes turf. I drank my hooey and patted Geraldine and wondered what I'd got myself into. I later learned that Townes had pulled a bowie knife or a hammer on Ed and had threatened him with something entirely different. After those formalities were over Townes became one of the most cordial and friendly hosts you would ever want to meet. Townes could be a Charles Bukowski in a cowboy hat or a Robert Frost in moccusins depending on how much he had to drink. But mostly he was an uncommonly kind and gentle spirit, a rare genius that I feel very lucky to have known. (See accompaning photos)
Thats all for this installment of my adventures with Townes Van Zandt. To be continued....When we meet Jack Clement.
Homestead May 2003
(troubadour working outside the music biz)