Van Zandt, (John) Townes
- Travis D. Stimeling
(b Fort Worth, TX, March 7, 1944; d Mount Juliet, TN, Jan 1, 1997). American folk singer-songwriter. The descendent of prominent Texans on both sides of the family, he lived in Texas, Montana, and Illinois as a child. From 1960 to 1962 he studied at Shattuck Academy (later called Shattuck School), a military school in Faribault, Minnesota, where he developed a passion for poetry and folk music. During his brief university studies, he played at folk clubs in Boulder and Houston. In 1963 his parents committed him to a psychiatric hospital, where he underwent three months of electric- and insulin-shock therapy to treat manic depression.
Between 1965 and 1968 he played regularly at the Jester Lounge, Sand Mountain Coffeehouse, and the Old Quarter in Houston and the 11th Door in Austin. There, he became a leading exponent of the region’s singer-songwriter community, which included Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, K.T. Oslin, and Mickey Newbury. During this period Van Zandt wrote many of his best-known songs, including “For the Sake of the Song,” “Waitin’ around to Die,” and “If I Needed You.” In ...