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The Story of an Unreleased Townes Van Zandt Houston Radio Show & Interview

Blog > The Story of an Unreleased Townes Van Zandt Houston Radio Show & Interview

Written by Josey HQ

Posted April 16th, 2024

DJ Declan James

When we decided we were going to open Josey in 2014, we had a line on an amazingly massive collection in South Texas that took up the majority of 2 houses that were scheduled to be torn down the following week. With a Uhaul and several people helping out, we spent a couple days boxing and loading up before heading back to Dallas.

Back in Dallas and everything unloaded, we set out to sorting and pricing the LPs to prepare for our opening while much of the other media was put aside to be dealt with at a later date. It was an insane endeavor, no doubt. Trying to fill a 15,000 sqft space (now expanded to 25,000 sqft) with records is no easy task. And we knew we only had a couple months to get it done. But we did and Josey Records was born.

Fast forward a year. The store is open and thriving. Things have calmed down a bit and while going through some boxes in storage we discover a box of reel-to-reel tapes that came from our South Texas buy. Most of them seem pretty ho-hum; some home recordings and nothing that seems out of the ordinary, until we reach one that says “Townes Van Zandt” on it and our eyes get wide. What could it be? Could this be something that’s been unheard since its broadcast over 40 years ago?

So we set out to figure out what it was. Without going into too much technical jargon, tape manufacturers started using a synthetic oil to produce reel tapes in the early 70s instead of using whale oil that they had been using. And without much proper research into it, that synthetic oil is now known to undergo a chemical breakdown while also absorbing moisture from the air. Both of these can be catastrophic for tape.

Fortunately, someone with much more experince with tape came up with the process of “baking” reels so that it removes the moisture and makes it playable. So we started asking around to find someone that would have enough experience to work with this unknown tape we had discovered with the hope that it wouldn’t destroy the tape and its contents.

Townes Van Zandt    Townes Van Zandt

The result? An amazing, previously un-released 8-song, 28 minute acoustic set at a Houston radio studio with an interview between songs. The set includes “Pancho & Lefty”, a song that Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard covered and turned into a huge hit a decade later. The first song drops out a little but the recording evens out from there. Unfortunately it was a 12-song show and there's a 2nd reel that is missing.

By 2016, we had sent the recordings to a label that was handling Van Zandt’s music estate but never heard anything back other than that they would forward it to his family. The day-to-day tasks of running a record store took over and back into Pandora’s box it went.

Then one day last month while scouring through files on a computer we came across these recordings and listened to them again. And WOW, it became apparent and obvious that at the very least we needed to post these recordings and interview for all to hear. Music is meant to shared, after all. The intimacy of the recordings and interview are from a long-gone era of radio, one where artists interacted with radio hosts and radio played a much larger part of an artist’s development than it does today.

We hope you enjoy listening to these recordings as much as we enjoyed the journey getting here.

Townes Van Zandt - Unreleased Houston Radio Show & Interview 9/7/73