This book tells the tragic story of a singer-songwriter who was a part of the Austin, Texas music scene in the 1980s. Townes van Zandt, Gurf Morlix, Lucinda
Williams and Calvin Russell – to name but a few – were his friends. Unfortunately, he never released an album while he was alive – the master tapes to his first album were stolen from his car,
the ones from his second album were confiscated by the FBI and when he tried recording an album for the third time, the tapes got lost in the recording studio. Ten years after his death, some of
those recordings were found and released.
And yet, Blaze Foley has achieved the status of a legend. He was a complicated character, an outsider, often homeless. He crashed on the couches of friends until they kicked him out, or he slept beneath pool tables in clubs and bars. He never held down a regular job since he wanted to dedicate his life to music. Duct tape became his trademark, on his clothes, his boots and everywhere. He had a wealth of empathy for the downtrodden, for the poor, for those living on the fringes of society, just like him. He hated injustice and witnessing it made him very angry. It was exactly this desire to stand up against injustice and to help the helpless which led to his demise. He was killed by a gunshot on February 1, 1989.
People can become legends only if their memory is kept alive.
The first time we encountered Blaze was unspectacular. We caught a video of Townes van Zandt singing “Snowing On Raton” in duet with a man with a mustache.
We had never heard of Blaze Foley and became curious about him. We found out he had died tragically in 1989. We also realized that information about him was hard to come by in Germany. Very few people we talked to had ever heard of him.
On the internet we found some more information and got in touch with some of his old friends and cohorts. One of them was John Casner who granted us access to his considerable digital archive of all things Blaze.
Over time we collected a sizable number of articles and texts about Blaze ourselves – many of them reiterating the same content. The more we learned about Blaze, the more we wanted to know. His music and his life were spellbinding. We obtained all available original and tribute albums and thus discovered and encountered his songs in many different versions.
After we had collected a lot of material on Blaze, we decided to keep his memory alive in Germany. From then on, Blaze “moved in” with us and became a part of our daily lives. It seems like he still has the power to mesmerize people.
When we heard that Barbara K and David Waddell, old friends of Blaze’s, were both living in Germany, we got in touch with them. We met them and they told us lots of stories about him. This was incredibly thrilling because up until then, we had gained our only knowledge from articles and press clippings. This was the first-time we received first-hand information.
Subsequently, we got in touch with many more people from Blaze’s orbit and everybody had their stories and anecdotes to share. We were particularly impressed with what Kevin Triplett told us about the making of his film documentary “Duct Tape Messiah”. We recognized our own struggles in many of the experiences Kevin had made. This was an eventful time for us in which we met many people. We were very moved by their support and their desire to help us in our pursuit.
After the German version of the book was published, we received many requests for an English-language version. We also heard from some of Blaze’s friends we had not been able to get in touch with before. A renewed interest in his life was also piqued by Ethan Hawke’s movie. So we went ahead with an English version of the book which is not merely a translation - it also contains new material not included in the first German-language edition.
It is a beautiful feeling that Blaze’s music connects people across continents and decades.
In our search for Blaze we realized that people will only become legends if other people remember them and remind us of them.
We regret that we never had a chance to meet Blaze in person.
Carmen and Kai Nees