Townes Van Zandt – Pancho and Lefty. Heartworn Highways


Townes Van Zandt playing a medley of his hit. This is “Pancho & Lefty” played at Uncle Seymour’s place. Taken from the DVD extras on “Heartworn Highways”.


Townes Van Zandt with young boy showing how to pick chords
 Reddit Outlaw country/folk musician Townes Van Zandt and friend Seymour Washington
Townes Van Zandt, Susanna Clark, Guy Clark and Daniel Antopolsky on the porch at Guy and Susanna’s house in East Nashville, 1972. Courtesy Guy Clark

Please visit the link on this page for a healthy sign of new life in the heart of real country music, Putting the Hurt Back in Country Music.

Have you noticed the return to quality in Country Music and the larger tent of Americana Music over the last ten years?  Could this be an awakening in the broad music-listening public for quality and “verisimilitude.”?  Here we bring you one of the important “root” songs of “outlaw” country.

The Nashville music machine began looking for ways to mainstream (see commercialize) country music to make it more palatable to a broader section of consumers during the early days of Waylon and Willie.  Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, along with the songwriting genius that Townes Van Zandt, had other ideas for the music they cherished.

 Townes Van Zandt wrote numerous songs, such as “Pancho and Lefty,” “For the Sake of the Song,” “Tecumseh Valley,” “Rex’s Blues,” and “To Live Is to Fly“, that are widely considered masterpieces of American songwriting. His musical style is often melancholy and features rich, poetic lyrics. Van Zandt was respected for his guitar-playing and fingerpicking ability during his early years.

In 1983, six years after Emmylou Harris had first popularized it, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard covered his song “Pancho and Lefty,” reaching number one on the Billboard country music chart. Much of Van Zandt’s life was spent touring various dive bars, often in cheap motel rooms and backwood cabins. For much of the 1970s, he lived in a simple shack without electricity or a telephone.

I first heard this song on a BBC4 Drama series, Edge of Darkness, the original, starring Bob Peck, Joe Don Baker, and the beautiful Joanne Whalley. Edge of Darkness is a British television drama serial produced by BBC Television in association with Lionheart Television International and originally broadcast in six 50 to 55-minute episodes in late 1985.  A mixture of crime drama and political thriller, it revolves around the efforts of widowed policeman Ronald Craven (played by Bob Peck) to unravel the truth behind the murder of his daughter Emma (played by Joanne Whalley). Craven’s investigations soon lead him into a murky world of government and corporate cover-ups, and nuclear espionage, pitting him against dark forces that threaten the future of life on Earth.

Writer Troy Kennedy Martin was greatly influenced by the political climate of the time, dominated by the Thatcher government, and the aura of secrecy surrounding the nuclear industry – and by the implications of the Gaia hypothesis of environmentalist James Lovelock; these combined to his crafting a thriller that mingled real-world concerns with mythic and mystical elements. Kennedy Martin’s original ending was more fantastic than what was eventually used in the finished serial: he had proposed that Craven would turn into a tree, but members of the cast and crew vetoed this.

First broadcast on BBC2, Edge of Darkness was met with such widespread critical acclaim that within days, it had earned a repeat on BBC1. Winner of several prestigious awards, it remains highly regarded, often cited as one of British television drama’s best and most influential pieces.







Townes Van Zandt with his dog

CR’s Take




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Pancho & Lefty (Live)



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Pancho and Lefty cowboy HD image

Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson – Pancho and Lefty (Video)


Living on the road my friend was gonna keep you free and clean Now you wear your skin like iron and your breath’s as hard as kerosene You weren’t your mama’s only boy but her favorite one it seems She began to cry when you said goodbye and sank into your dreams Poncho was a bandit boy, his horse was fast as polished steel He wore his gun outside his pants for all the honest world to feel Poncho met his match you know on the deserts down in Mexico Nobody heard his dyin’ words ah but that’s the way it goes All the Federales say they could’ve had him any day They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose Lefty he can’t sing the blues all night long the way he used to The dust that Poncho bit down south ended up in Lefty’s mouth Day they laid poor Poncho low Lefty split for Ohio Where he got the bread to go there ain’t nobody knows All the Federales say they could’ve had him any day They only let him slip away out of kindness I suppose The poets tell how Poncho fell and Lefty’s living in a cheap hotel The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold and so the story ends we’re told Poncho needs your prayers it’s true but save a few for Lefty too He only did what he had to do and now he’s growing old They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose A few great Federales say could’ve had him any day They only let him go so long out of kindness I suppose


Pancho and Lefty


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townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt – Solo Sessions (Jan 17, 1995)


01 Marie 0:28 02 Katie Belle Blue 5:14 03 Blaze’s Blues 9:03 04 The Hole 12:29 05 Lover’s Lullaby 17:49 06 A Song For 21:46 07 Ballad Of Ira Hayes 25:07 08 Two Girls 29:34 09 Dollar Bill Blues 34:08 10 Goin’ Down To Memphis 36:56 11 Flyin’ Shoes 44:23 12 The Catfish Song 48:37