There Is Always Music In Suzi's World

There Is Always Music In Suzi's World

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In The Spotlight: Blaze Foley

I was first turned on to Blaze Foley five years ago, and immediately couldn't help but wonder where he had been all my life.
Born Michael David Fuller in Arkansas, he grew up in Texas where he performed in a gospel band with his family, The Singing Fuller Family.

After leaving home in the early 1970's, he moved to Atlanta where he played and performed, taking on the nickname "Deputy."  It was there he met Sybel Rosen.

The two were in love and it was through her encouragement that Deputy began to write songs.  They lived in a tree house in the north Georgia woods.  One of Deputy's first original songs was "Livin' In The Woods In A Tree."  Rosen has since written a book with the same title, recounting her years with Deputy/Blaze.  She tells of watching him transform from the shy, reticent hippie into the enigmatic and headstrong musician he was to become.

An interesting side story to this Spotlight story is that my first cousin knew Deputy back in the days in Atlanta.  Terry lived in north Georgia back in the '70's.  More precisely, he lived in a tepee in north Georgia; Carrolton, I think.  My cousin has many stories of his own that may or may not make their way into my novel one of these days, but as the "guy that lived in the tepee" he came to know "the guy who lived in a tree house."  He tells me stories of sitting around recording as Deputy would play and sing his original songs, sometimes as he was writing them.  They recorded on EIGHT TRACK TAPES!  And, when the tapes started getting full, they would record over them.  Terry actually thinks there is a slim chance he still has some of the tapes somewhere in a box.

Changing his name to Blaze Foley, Michael Fuller/Deputy did finally record an album, but carried the master tapes around with him in his car from which they were stolen.  Somewhere, somebody has some of these old recordings.

After several years in Georgia, Blaze eventually decided to go searching for fame.  He moved to Chicago, then Houston and finally Austin, TX.

It was in Austin that he met Townes Van Zandt, who probably did more than anyone else to help Blaze's career.

Blaze was well received and began to build a name for himself. But, he would inevitably manage to ruin it with his unusual ways. He was blunt and a very heavy drinker.  Many clubs wouldn't put up with him.

Blaze became known as the Duct Tape Messiah.  It started when he was making fun of the Urban Cowboy look, with the rhinestones and big buckles, and he began to decorate his clothes with duct tape, mocking them. He put silver tips on his boots, and later he even made a suit out of duct tape.  When he died, his coffin was covered in duct tape.

He would go long periods without speaking at all.

But, in spite of his social troubles, he was an incredible song writer.  He has been referred to as the "songwriters song writer."

His song "If I Could Only Fly" is one of the most beautiful songs - my humble opinion.  Said to have been written for then girlfriend Sybel, it was the song that finally took Blaze up to another level.  His biggest fame came from Merle Haggard recording it.  Merle has said that he loved the song because it said everything he would have said himself.

Merle does a real nice job, but I'm partial to Blaze himself singing it...

In 1989 Blaze Foley was shot and killed.  Townes Van Zandt told a story in which he and his musicians went to Foley's grave to dig up his body because they wanted the pawn ticket that Foley had for Townes' guitar!  Townes wrote the song "Blaze's Blues" about his friend, and reportedly composed "Marie," a song about a homeless couple, on Blaze's guitar after Blaze had died.  Lucinda Williams' song "Drunken Angel" is a tribute to Blaze Foley.

Foley's music is featured prominently in a feature-length documentary film about his life entitled "Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah," released in 2011 by filmmaker Kevin Triplett.
I fully enjoyed this film and highly recommend it.

Watch the documentary here:
Duct Tape Messiah: Blaze Foley

Listen to more of Blaze Foley's music here:

Who would you like to see in the spotlight?

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