"'912 Greens' is just about Guy Clark's favorite song. I called him up on New Year's Eve to wish him a happy new year and who should be there but Townes Van Zandt. Townes told me that they were just listening to an old record of '912 Greens'. He said how much he liked the song, and I was struck. Then a day later he died."

"I never appreciated how Townes was a friend of mine, kind of. He was a sensitive person. He also loved to gamble. I would never get into a gambling game with him. He was an expert card shark."

"The last time I saw him, we were both staying at a very nice hotel in New Orleans' French Quarter. He was teaching me how to play fiddle. We had quite an intense session in his hotel room. There was a bottle of vodka present which his manager would masterfully hide just when he thought it was the appropriate time. Then Townes would sober up a bit and the bottle would come back again. Toward the end of the day, I thought we could use a little cool relaxation so I got out my bathing suit and a pair of shorts and I loaned Townes the trunks."

[Goldmine] Townes was much bigger than you. How could he fit into your trunks?


"He was very tall and very skinny. He was very, very shy about his physique 'cause he wasn't exactly a muscleman, just real tall and bony. And there was a lot of fashionable ladies around this swimming pool so Townes was feeling very shy about going into the pool, so I made up this idea, 'Make believe you're Ray Charles and I'm your manager. And we're going for a swim, Ray, OK?' Townes got right into character, closed his eyes and started groping around with his hands. I'm leading him around with a little entourage of a cameraman following us. We got to the edge of the pool and I said, 'OK, Ray, the step up here is just about six inches high. Got it, Ray. Now we're on the edge of the pool.' And much to my surprise, Townes gave me a big, powerful shove, and I flew through the air and landed with a big splash in the middle of the pool. Then he felt he was protected by this diversionary tactic -- nobody was going to notice him -- so he slithered into the pool while the water was still splashing. Once he was under water, he was perfectly relaxed because nobody could see him. We had a race of about 10 laps, which is a lot for me. I think he beat me. After that he got in the car and went back to Nashville. And I didn't see him anymore."

[Goldmine] I wondered if something about his hip surgery the day before he died could have triggered his heart attack?


"That's exactly right. My father was a surgeon and he always used to tell me, 'When you operate on an alcoholic, he has to have a shot of liquor or he'll die from the shock of the operation.' They refused him alcohol at the hospital. That's probably what brought on his heart attack. I think it was a medically induced death, but I'm not here to point fingers. There's enough sad stories already in this one little interview."

Jack Elliott. Interview by Bruce Sylvester, Goldmine, 7/4/97


Click here to read a follow-up regarding Townes' death.


When Townes Van Zandt died last January, Elliott called [Guy] Clark's house in Nashville, where a wake was in progress.

"Emmylou [Harris] was there. I asked Nanci [Griffith] on the phone if she'd do something for this album. Nanci said, 'Yeah, I'll do it.' I suggested we do a Townes song. Nanci said, 'How about "Rex's Blues"?' She started singing it. Emmylou grabbed a phone, and she was singing and I was singing harmony. Whole thing took about five seconds."

Jack Elliott. Interview by Michael Hall, Pulse! Magazine, 4/25/96