february 4th, 1997
         Wed, 5 Feb 1997 10:57:33 -0500 (EST)

tonight, we finally exorcised the ghost.

throughout the past month, i've felt him dogging me, ever since i found out
early morn on january 2nd that townes had died on new year's day. the door
blew open without enough wind to really move that kind of weight, and it
wasn't even ajar when it happened. the database kept reading 1347 names until
we sorted by zip code, and then only 1346 names kept coming up every time. he
was in there, just waitin around to die, but refusing to.

and his image kept coming back -- in the words, in the melodies, even on the
tv when i finally went out and bought a vcr for the sole purpose of watching
the *heartworn highways* video i'd bought several months previous. there he
was, giving a tour of the holes in his yard in clarksville, finally being
gobbled up into one of them (so *that's* where the song "The Hole" came
from). sitting around with seymour washington, talking about drinking,
seymour insisting "you don't HAVE to drink a whole BOTTLE of whiskey just
because you see a bottle sittin' there."

but mostly, the songs haunted through the days. larry barrett called sometime
in those first couple of weeks, saying we oughtta do a tribute show to townes
-- an idea that had occurred me from the outset, but i just didn't think we
could pull it off in seattle, and besides i knew i was way too busy to deal
with it. but, in the end, it *could* be done here, and more importantly, it
*had* to be done here, and i most definitely had to do my part. so i did --
gladly, reverently, thankfully, even if sometimes it all got to be too much.
then again, it was also the only thing that made the last month bearable.

last night we saw the fruits of our labor unfold before our eyes at the
tractor tavern. derek horton started things off by reading lola scobey's
essay from the 1977 townes songbook "To Live Is To Fly", and promptly
launched into a beautiful solo version of "Pancho & Lefty" that set the mood
for the evening perfectly. being from big spring, TX, derek had precisely
what it took to pull it off; he followed it up by nailing "Waitin' Round To

michael shuler followed with a suite from the *At My Window* album -- "Blue
Wind Blew", "Buckskin Stallion", and the title song. i took over from there,
the surroundings fading from consciousness as i reeled off "Like A Summer
Thursday" and "Flyin' Shoes" on my own, then "Don't You Take It Too Bad" with
anne marie ruljancich on violin, and finally "Rex's Blues" (as per kelly
willis and jay farrar's version) with carolyn wennblom on harmony and marty
jourard on piano. can't say as i've ever felt a song so strongly in my life
as i did during the final verse of that one.

gary heffern, michael shuler and i then went through "Tecumseh Valley" before
the walkabouts came up and dropped everyone dead in their tracks with a
hushed version of "Nothin'," and then with more fully orchestrated takes on
"Lungs" and "Snake Mountain Blues". to conclude, they invited mr. heffern
back up for "Sanitorium Blues", one of the last songs townes ever wrote.

mike johnson followed with "second lovers song", then jessie sykes delivered
"to live is to fly" and her husband jim sykes churned out "dollar bill blues"
before my co-host mr. barrett chimed in with "if i needed you". then larry
told everyone with a guitar to get up onstage so we could pick and ramble
through "no lonesome tune", which i magically discovered at sound check that
i did indeed know all the words to from memory. halfway through the song,
some guy came up out of the audience and started playing harmonica along with
us. perfect. it was hootenanny deluxe.

that might've been it, except clay bartlett subsequently ambled on up to the
stool and laid out "white freightliner", "no place to fall" and the daunting
"mr. mudd and mr. gold" like he'd known 'em all his life, which i guess he
probably has. finally, fiddler chris murphy and a couple companions on guitar
and upright bass closed things out with a much more rockin', drawn-out
version of "freightliner", the only repeat of the night.

me, i just sat there amazed at what we'd pulled off here in seattle. i'm not
sure if i've ever felt so firmly that i had a purpose in life as in the midst
of that stretch from 9:30 to midnight at the tractor last night.

it's a cold, crisp, clear early winter morning now, 2am, with the stars
shining about as brightly as i've ever seen them in this town. the strains of
side one of mickey newbury's *frisco mabel joy* spill forth from the stereo
once again. this time, though, the ghost is gone. the music will always be
there, but tonight i finally said good night to townes van zandt.

--peter blackstock