“There’s kind of two Blazes. A lot of people saw one or the other. There was the wild one. . . . And then there was the gentle, loving, caring one. I got to know both.” ~ Townes Van Zandt
Over the years of doing ninebullets, I’ve had the occasional emailer ask me if I’d ever heard of Blaze Foley. One was even so kind as to email me a collection of Blaze’s songs. These emails were the first I’d ever heard of the man, but it’s been in the back of my mind to write about him ever since I got those songs.
Blaze Foley was born in Arkansas but grew up in Texas settling on Austin as his home in his adult life. Even for a city known for it’s characters, Blaze seems to have been in a class all his own. Once, in an effort to mock the “Urban Cowboy” fad and their silver-tipped cowboy boots, he started putting duct tape on the tips of his boots. This obsession kept growing until he’d made a complete suit from duct tape that he would wear around. When they buried him, his friends even covered his entire casket with duct tape.
At the age of 39, Foley was murdered while attempting to help his friend Concho January defend himself from his violent son, Carey. Despite having written hundreds of songs and recorded numerous albums at the time of his death, none of Blaze’s music had ever been released. One album’s masters were seized by the DEA when the executive producer was caught in a drug bust. Another album’s masters were stolen when the station wagon Blaze was living in was broken into, and another album, “Wanted More Dead Than Alive”, was believed lost until an old friend found some master tapes while cleaning out his car some years after Blaze’s death. Despite having a small but rabid fanbase that included such luminaries as Gurf Morlix and Townes Van Zandt, it would take some 10 years after his death before a Blaze album would see the light of day. The late nineties/naughts have given us a small Blaze Foley revival of sorts, with 4 albums being released (with a fifth on the way), an equal amount of tribute albums, and two documentaries about the man who never saw his music leave the bars he played in. A number of his songs have become hits for other artists, including Merle Haggard’s cover of “If I Could Fly”, Lyle Lovette’s cover of “Election Day”, and John Prine’s cover of “Clay Pigeons” off his 2005 Grammy Award winning album, Fair and Square.
There are plenty of other sites out there that can offer you a much more complete and better written account of Blaze’s life. I was only hoping to introduce you to / raise some interest in this lost gem. When I listen to his music, I can’t help but to think how appropriately titled Gurf Morlix’s tribute to Blaze from his 2009 album Last Exit To Happyland was with “Music You Mighta Made.”