Off the Record
For the Sake of the Song
"It's finally over," exclaims Jeanene Van Zandt, the court-appointed executrix of Townes Van Zandt's estate, in regard to her longstanding battle against Kevin Eggers, whose Poppy and Tomato labels put out the majority of Van Zandt's work. The infringement lawsuit revolved around more than 80 Van Zandt compositions that Eggers claimed a 50% interest in, as well as his re-release of 14 TVZ albums through Tomato Music Works Limited following the songwriter's death on New Year's Day 1997. On March 31, six years after the Chronicle first looked into the matter ("Townes Without Pity," June 14, 2002), the U.S. District Court granted Jeanene Van Zandt; her two children, William Vincent and Katie Belle; and Austin's J.T. Van Zandt injunctive relief against Eggers, restraining him from reproducing or distributing any of Van Zandt's songs.
"Kevin had to be stopped, and I'm the only human being on this earth who has the money or is willing to do whatever it takes to protect Townes' kids," says Jeanene, who plans to reissue No Deeper Blue, In the Beginning, and Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt on the family's TVZ Records. "He can never have anything to do with Townes Van Zandt."
The fight is far from over, though, since Eggers plans to appeal the decision.
"She illegally took the copyright in her name when it should have gone to the children," counters Eggers. "In doing so, she put the copyrights at risk, and they should now fall into public domain." J.T. Van Zandt, the songwriter's oldest son and local musician in his own right – product of Townes' first marriage – could not be reached for comment.
Then there's still the issue of the Van Zandts' March 2006 out-of-court settlement with Kevin's brother, Harold Eggers, TVZ's longtime road manager, who documented hundreds of live performances over a period of two decades. The agreement, which Jeanene's lawyer Kevin Brown of Fritz, Byrne, Head & Harrison PLLC, likened to a divorce settlement, essentially granted the Van Zandts eventual control over all of Harold's mastered recordings (once certain undisclosed obligations were met), while Harold retained a 50% ownership interest in seven of the albums at issue and a royalty interest in the remaining recordings. Both parties have found fault with the agreement but declined to offer specifics about the case. That trial is presently set for July 14.
Old Time Pickin'
No one artist could better encapsulate the legacy and purpose of the 21st annual Old Settler's Music Festival than Ralph Stanley. On Saturday the bluegrass patriarch, flanked by son Ralph II and grandson Nathan, ensured the circle in Driftwood would remain unbroken through Stanley Brothers classics like "Angel Band" and "I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow," but it was his a cappella "O Death" that sent chills into the long, good night.
Live on the 88s
Pinetop Perkins was admitted to a hospital last week after suffering an allergic reaction to some medicine, but any doubts regarding the health and vitality of the 94-year-old pianist were eased with his historic Austin City Limits taping last Sunday. Donning a red-striped suit and matching fedora and backed by an all-star supporting cast that included guest emcee harpist Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Double Trouble's Chris Layton, and guitarists Derek O'Brien and Gary Clark Jr., the 2007 Grammy recipient closed his set with the song that said it best, Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working." Last week, Andy Uhler's profile of Perkins for KUT's Texas Music Matters won the Edward R. Murrow award recognizing excellence in electronic journalism. The program can be heard at www.kut.org.
According to cameos in the film Half Baked, Snoop Dogg is a "scavenger" smoker: "Someone who never has weed of their own, but as soon as you smoke it, here they come." Willie Nelson, on the other hand, is the "you should have been there" type: "They love talking about the old days back when weed was grass." The Chronicle's own Andy Langer got blazed with both a few years back ("Above the Fold," July 15, 2005), but last Sunday the two chronically enabled artists celebrated 4/20 together in Amsterdam, duetting on the Nelson rarity "Superman." According to www.willienelson.com, the two were shooting a video and "collaborating creatively in just about every which way." On Wednesday KGSR commemorates the Red Headed Stranger's 75th birthday with a live broadcast and tribute, beginning at 8pm and featuring performances from his daughter Paula Nelson, as well as Ray Benson, Joe Ely, Alejandro Escovedo, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Black Joe Lewis, among others. Patty Griffin and Iron & Wine are also scheduled but not confirmed. For an excerpt from Willie Nelson's recent biography, see "Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir."
Hundreds of independent music retailers, including 13 local outlets, from Backspin Records to DJ Dojo, joined together to celebrate Record Store Day on Saturday, serving as a friendly reminder of everything that iTunes can't offer: insightful service and debate, in-store performances, and most importantly, the warmth of vinyl. Highlights included Panic at the Disco's in-store signing at Waterloo Records (bottom right), Pennsylvania's the Shackeltons and their raucous gig at End of an Ear before Nic Armstrong (top right), and Musicmania's daylong DJ sets (left).
• Succeeding Dale Watson, local roots songstress Shelley King officially began her one-year term as the state musician of Texas on Saturday. She's the first woman appointed to the position.
• Roddy Howard, an early booster of the Continental Club and one of the original owners of the One Knite, the 1970s blues joint replaced by Stubb's, died last Wednesday, April 16, of an apparent heart attack. He was 60.
• The Hacienda Brothers' Chris Gaffney, 58, whose local status can be measured by the credentials to his 1995 solo outing, Loser's Paradise (Lucinda Williams, Rosie Flores, Ian McLagan), succumbed to liver cancer last Thursday. A benefit and tribute, featuring Ted Roddy, the Iguanas, and Dave Insley is scheduled for May 25 at the Oaks in Manor.