Monday, 17 January 2011

"I just didn't want no more whisky"

I challenge any of you to watch this clip from the 1976 country music documentary Heartworn Highways and not feel a twinge of emotion. I can't figure out whether it's the crushingly sad lyrics of Townes Van Zandt's 'Waitin' Around to Die' or the undeniably real and knowing tears of Uncle Seymour Washington aka 'The Walking Blacksmith' (born 1896) sitting in the background of Van Zandt's beaten up old trailer, but it gets me everytime.

Van Zandt's then girlfriend Cindy is the only person in this clip still alive.  Uncle Seymour Washington died a year after this filming and Van Zandt died some 20 years later after a lifelong battle with heroin and alcohol. Even his dog Rex who you can just about hear barking in the background is gone. Thanks to film director James Szalapski we at least still have a snapshot of this young 'outlaw country music' pioneer filmed in the type of surroundings that evoked such cutting songs. It's interesting to note that Van Zandt never had a successful album or single but went on to influence the likes of Steve Earle, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Willie Nelson. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard covered his song 'Pancho and Lefty' which hit the Billboard number one  in 1983 but still Van Zandt spent most of his life playing mostly dive bars and living in cheap motels or sleeping on friend's couches.

Heartworn Highways also features performances from Guy Clark, Steve Earle, David Allan Coe, Rodney Crowell, Gamble Rogers, Steve Young, and The Charlie Daniels Band who all also took a more traditional approach to country music instead of following in the tradition of the previous generation.

If you have an interest in country music and/or seeing a bit of 70's Texas/Tennessee I highly recommend picking up a copy of this film.


madelineb03 said...

Fabulous post, Chalky!!! Mind if I re post it on my site and Facebook? I have seen the movie, but I'm gonna go watch it again. ♪♪♪♪♥ Madeline @ the Cirkus

chalky said...

Thanks! Got for it! :)

Anonymous said...

Watched this film recently - omg what an experience. His life was so bleak yet so poignant ..... and the clip where the tears stream down that old guy's face was just incredible. My guitar teacher lent it to me. Gary - Stoke Newington

Henry Wallace Stopher III said...

The house where the song was filmed is Uncle Seymour's, on West 12th in Clarksville, West Austin. Uncle Seymour befriended all of us so-called hippies. Townes came to Clarksville to see Linda Lorrita Miller, and found her at 1701 West 11th, living with me and pregnant with our child.
Next thing you knew, Townes had a travel trailer in the vacant lot across the street from what by then was Linda's house. She and I were the first whiteys to move into Clarksville, but soon many of our friends were living there and nearby, and stopping by to see Uncle Seymour.
Lots of stories could be told of those days.

chalky said...

Thanks for getting in touch Henry. I'd love to hear some of your stories from those days, shame I live a few too many thousand miles away or I'd shout you a drink in exchange.

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