About Michael O'Neill

Showcasing a new collection with a previously un-released Townes Van Zandt song as the title track, this singer/songwriter with a “roots-rock” history and a soulful ease carries his listener into a time and place reminiscent of steel strings, guitar heroes, and great story-tellers like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson. One of 13 children, he got started in music early. At the age of 24, he cut his teeth opening his first tour for a then-unknown band called U2.

By the time the tour ended in Los Angeles, O'Neill found himself signed with legendary manager Don Arden, (father of Sharon Osbourne). O'Neill put together a band that featured a young John Shanks, (now superstar producer of Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morrisette, Vertical Horizon, etc.), Kenny Gradney (Little Feat), and jazz saxophonist, Boney James.

He spent the better part of the next ten years touring with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn and penning songs with Bob Weir, Steve Cropper (Booker T. and The MG's), and Jason Scheff (Chicago).

Part country crooner, part haggard storyteller, O'Neill makes a noise that is refreshingly classic.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Lyrics of Townes Van Zandt

Townes was, I think, a poet first and kick-ass musician second; though undoubtedly some would disagree. His guitar skills almost make me disagree. However, when I look at songs like this, I can't help but insist that it's the poet that shone through most when he was speaking his mind. Here's how he looked at a game of 5 card stud:

Mr. Mudd and Mr. Gold
(Townes Van Zandt)

Well, the wicked King of Clubs awoke; it was to his Queen he turned,
His lips were laughin' as they spoke; his eyes like bullets burned.
"The sun's upon a gamblin' day." His Queen smiled low and blissfully.
"Let's make some wretched fool to pay." Plain it was she did agree.

He sent his deuce down into diamond, his four to heart, and his trey to spade,
Three kings with their legions come and preparations soon were made.
They voted Club the day's commander. Give him an army, face, and number;
All but the outlaw Jack of Diamonds and the aces in the sky.

Well, he give his sevens first instruction: "Spirit me a game of stud
Stakes unscarred by limitation 'tween a man named Gold and a man named Mudd."
And Club filled Gold with greedy vapors 'till his long green eyes did glow.
Mudd was left with the sighs and trembles, watchin' his hard earned money go.

Flushes fell on Gold like water; tens they paired and paired again,
But the aces only flew through heaven and the diamomand friend.
The diamond Queen saw Mudd's ordeal; began to think of her long lost son,
Fell to her knees with a mother's mercy; Prayed to the angels, everyone.

The diamond queen, she prayed and prayed and the diamond angel filled Mudd's hole
Then the wicked King of Clubs himself fell face down in front of Gold.
Now three kings come to Club's command, but the angels from the sky did ride;
Three kings up on the streets of gold; three fireballs on the muddy side.

The club Queen heard her husband's call, but Lord, that Queen of Diamond's joy
When the outlaw in the heavenly hall turned out to be her wanderin' boy.
Now Mudd, he checked, and Gold bet all; Mudd he raised, and Gold did call
And his smile just melted off his face when Mudd turned over that Diamond Ace.

Now here's what this story's told: You feel like Mudd, you'll end up Gold;
Feel like lost, you'll end up found, so Amigo, lay them raises down.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Van Zandt-ecdote

Mike got this letter from a Facebook friend this morning and we thought you all might enjoy it:

Subject: bizarre

Hi Michael,

Re your status update:

I was having a Townes Van Zandt weekend alone...lovin it...and mentioned it to my friend and told him a story of when Townes came over here with John Stewart and Guy Clark. After the show Townes sat with me in the hotel bar, just me, him, John Stewart and the barman...and sang Springsteens' "Racing In The Streets" ...TO ME!!!
At the time (early 90s) i didnt realise the hugeness of the moment but now i realise what a privelage it was and hold it dear in my memory.

Just thought I would share this with yoiu as your status update mentions that song...and its just a little spooky considering I've not even thought about that song for years then in the space of one weekend I hear it in my head and you write it on your page.

Hope youre well
Greetings from London UK

Friday, April 24, 2009

J.J. Webb

Continuing to look at the wildest town in the wild west, Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the wildest bunch of outlaws the frontier ever saw, The Dodge City Gang...

J. J. Webb was born on February 14, 1847, in Keokuk County, Iowa. For most of his adult life he was a lawman but for a while he was part of the Dodge City Gang. It proved to be his undoing.

In 1862, his family moved to Nebraska and then later to Osage City, Kansas. Webb traveled west in 1871. He was a buffalo hunter and then a surveyor in Colorado. He then drifted from Deadwood, South Dakota to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Dodge City,

By 1875 he was a teamster in Ford County, Kansas/Dodge City. He later became a business owner and peace officer. He was also a leader of the mercenary force on the side of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad in their battle against the Denver & Rio Grande railroad for right–of–way through the Royal Gorge in Colorado.

Webb was well–respected in Dodge City and was deputized to ride in a number of posses. In September, 1877 he rode with Ford County Sheriff Charlie Bassett and Under-sheriff Bat Masterson to Lakin, Kansas in pursuit of Sam Bass and his gang who had recently robbed a Union Pacific train of $60,000 at Big Springs, Nebraska. Their

By January, 1878, Bat Masterson had been made the new Ford County Sheriff, and he deputized Webb along with two other men by the names Kinch Riley and Dave "Prairie Dog" Morrow, to help him track down six outlaws who had robbed the westbound train at Kinsley, Kansas, two days earlier, including "Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh. They were caught within days. During the arrest, when Rudabaugh went for his gun, Webb stopped him and forced him to surrender. The other four accomplices were arrested later. Rudabaugh then informed on his cohorts and promised to go “straight.” Rudabaugh's accomplices were sent to prison, but Dirty Dave was soon released, drifting to New Mexico and returning to thievery once again.

In September of 1878, Cheyenne Chief Dull Knife and his band fled their reservation in Oklahoma for their home in the Black Hills. Exaggerated reports of killing and thievery committed by the Cheyenne on their journey began to be told in Dodge City. Most of the soldiers at nearby Fort Dodge were sent out to corral the Indians, leaving only about nineteen troops to protect the area. Dodge City citizens wired the governor requesting arms and ammunition.

The weapons were received within days and Lieutenant Colonel William Henry Lewis, the Fort Dodge Commander, chose Webb and a few others to scout the area. The men soon brought back word that some 200 warriors were nearing and the rumors of their acts continued to grow. It was all smoke and mirrors, however, and things ultimately returned to normal.

Webb moved on to Las Vegas, New Mexico and found many of his aquaintances from Dodge City there, including Henry "Doc" Holliday, David "Mysterious Dave" Mather, Wyatt Earp, and his old nemisis, Dave Rudabaugh. Soon after his arrival in Vegas, Webb partnered with Doc Holliday in a saloon, where Doc spent most of his time gambling.

On July 19, 1879, the two were seated at a card table when a former army scout, Mike Gordon, began to yell at one of the saloon girls who he'd been involved with in the past. He'd tried to convince her to leave town with him and she'd refused. Gordon stormed out of the saloon shouting obscenities. Doc followed him outside and Gordon shot at him. Doc shot once. Gordon died the next day. Doc fled back to Dodge when he heard he'd be arrested for the killing.

In 1880, Webb became Marshal of Las Vegas, joining the Dodge City Gang, a criminal cartel bent on thumbing their noses at the law. For two years, the members of the Dodge City Gang participated in several stage coach and train robberies, organized cattle rustling, and were said to have been responsible for multiple murders and lynchings.

The Dodge City Gang consisted of of men formerly from Dodge City including Justice of the Peace, Hyman "Hoodoo Brown" Neill; City Marshal, Joe Carson, Deputy U. S. Marshal "Mysterious Dave" Mather, police officer John Joshua (J.J.) Webb, and a number of gunfighters and outlaws including "Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh, William P. "Slap Jack Bill" Nicholson, John "Bull Shit Jack" Pierce, Selim K. "Frank" Cady, Jordan L. Webb (no relation to J.J.), and a number of other hard cases. While Rudabaugh, Jordan Webb, Cady, Nicholson, Pierce, and the rest committed acts of thievery, Neill, Mather, Carson, and J.J. Webb, helped to cover the outlaws' tracks.

On March 2, 1880, the Dodge City Gang were responsible for the murder and robbery of a freighter named Mike Kelliher. The Ford County Globe of March 9, 1880, reprinted the report from Las Vegas Daily Optic:

"About four o'clock this morning, Michael Kelliher, in company with William Brickley and another man, entered Goodlet [a member of the Dodge City Gang] & Roberts' Saloon and called for drinks. Michael Kelliher appeared to be the leader of the party and he, in violation of the law, had a pistol on his person. This was noticed by the officers, who came through a rear door, and they requested that Kelliher lay aside his revolver.

"But he refused to do so, remarking, "I won't be disarmed – everything goes," immediately placing his hand on his pistol, no doubt intending to shoot. But officer Webb was too quick for him. The man was shot before he had time to use his weapon. He was shot three times–once in each breast and once in the head... Kelliher had $1,090 [$1,900] on his person when killed."

Webb was convicted of murder and sentenced to hang. On April 30th, Rudabaugh and a man named John Allen burst through the Sheriff's office to free him. The jail break was unsuccessful and Rudabaugh murdered jailer Antonio Lino in the attempt. Webb's sentence was appealed and commuted to life in prison.

It's been speculated that he was set up by Hoodoo and Dutchy, another member of the gang who left with Hoodoo soon after the incident. It's assumed the pair were motivated by both greed and a desire to get back at Webb for some undercover activities. Webb insisted at the time that he'd been given the impression that Kelliher wanted to kill him/it was a kill or be killed situation. The amount of money that Kelliher had on him had also been misrepresented to Webb, and Hoodoo made off with the bulk of it. The local press and townspeople seem to have had a hard time believing Webb guilty at the time.

After Dirty Dave’s conviction, he found himself in jail with Webb. Soon, the pair along with two other men tried unsuccessfully to shoot their way out of jail on September 19, 1881. One of the men was mortally wounded and the attempt was unsuccessful.

Two months later, Webb and Rudabaugh, along with five other men, chipped a stone out of the jail wall and escaped out of a 7"x19" hole. Rudabaugh and Webb raced to Texas and then to Mexico where Webb disappeared and Rudabaugh was later killed

Later Webb returned to Kansas, where he took the name "Samuel King," and worked as a teamster. Somewhere along the line he moved on to Winslow, Arkansas working for the railroad. In 1882 he died of smallpox in Arkansas. He never married.

Big Nose Kate

Katie Elder, aka as Kate Fisher, Big Nose Kate, Nosey Kate, Mrs. John H. "Doc" Holliday, Kate Melvin, and Kate Cummings was born Mary Katharine Haroney in Hungary on November 7, 1850. She died in 1940, and was buried under the name Mary K. Cummings in Prescott Arizona.

She was born November 7, 1850 in Budapest, Hungary, the eldest daughter of a wealthy physician/aristocrat named Dr. Michael Haroney. Very well educated, she spoke several languages, including Hungarian, French, Spanish and English.

In 1862, Dr. Haroney left Hungary for Mexico to accept a position as personal surgeon to Emperor Maximilian of Mexico. When the government crumbled in 1865, Dr. Haroney took his family to Davenport, Iowa. His wife died that March, the doctor in May of that same year, both of unknown causes. 14-year-old Kate and her younger siblings were placed in the home of their uncle, Gustav Susemihl, and in 1870, they were left in the care of attorney Otto Smith.

At 17, Kate stowed away on a steamboat to St. Louis, Missouri. The captain discovered and took pity on her, adopting her and sending her to a convent school in St. Louis. She graduated in 1869. Kate claimed to have married a dentist named Silas Melvin and to have had a child with him, though no record survives of either event. She said that both husband and baby died of fever.

By 1874, Kate had made her way to Dodge City, Kansas, calling herself Kate Elder. She worked as a prostitute in a brothel run by Nellie Bessie Earp, James Earp's wife. Some historians speculate that she had a relationship with Wyatt at the time, but Kate wrote that she did not meet him until several years later. It seems likely that they did know each other, he was there when she was and it was a small town. The fact that she denied knowing him at the time actually seems to support that something had gone on at some point. If so, they both kept quiet about it.

Either way, by 1878 Kate had moved to Fort Griffin, Texas. There she did hang out with Wyatt Earp and it was through him that met Doc Holliday. Doc once said that one of the reasons he had loved her was that she was his intellectual equal. She's said to have been as tough and stubborn as he was, with just as much of a temper.

By the time she met Doc, she was a hard drinking, gun slinging prostitute. The pair may or may not have been married at some point, (historians can't seem to agree on that). They met in a Fort Griffin saloon in the fall of 1877 and began an affair that lasted for quite a while, either way. The deciding moment of their love affair seems to have been when she helped Doc escape from the law after he knifed and killed a man in a barroom brawl. (Actually, she saved him from hanging by an angry mob. He must have made quite an impression on her that night.)

The two registered in a rooming house in Dodge City Kansas the following year as Dr. and Mrs. John H. Holliday. They both gave up their lawlessness for a while, but he ultimately returned to gambling and she to prostitution. They're said to have had terrible fights, and finally, one was so bad that he left her in Dodge City and went to Colorado then to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Doc returned to Dodge City after a gunfight went bad in Las Vegas but found both Kate and Wyatt Earp, who had also been there, were gone. He heard that Wyatt was headed to Tombstone so decided to follow him there. Kate was on her way to Tombstone too and the two ran into one another in Prescott, Arizona.

They arrived in Tombstone together. However, there, Kate and Doc got into another argument. She reportedly became drunk and abusive, so Doc threw her out.

A few days before the incident, four masked men attempted a hold up on a stagecoach near Contention and in the attempt, killed the stage driver and a passenger. The Cowboy faction of Tombstone immediately seized upon the opportunity to accuse Doc Holliday of being one of the holdup men. The sheriff who was investigating the hold-up, found Kate drunk and berating Doc for throwing her out. He gave her even more whiskey and talked her into signing an affidavit that Doc had been one of the men who killed the stagecoach driver.

Kate sobered up and the Earps rounded up witnesses who could verify Doc's whereabouts on the night in question. Realizing what she'd done, Kate repudiated her statement and the charges were thrown out. But Doc was over it. He gave her some money and put her on a stage out of town. The two reconcilled, however, and seem to have continued an on-again off-again relationship until Holiday's death.

Wyatt told a colorful tale of how Kate got Doc out of trouble in Fort Griffin: Doc was dealing cards to a difficult man named Ed Bailey, who was used to getting his way and not being questioned. Bailey was unimpressed with Doc’s reputation and was trying to irritate him by picking up the discards and looking at them. (Looking at the discards was strictly prohibited by the rules of Western Poker to the degree that doing it was understood to forfit the pot).

Holliday warned Bailey twice, but Bailey ignored him and picked up the discards again. So Doc raked in the pot without showing his hand, or saying a word. Bailey immediately brought out his pistol from under the table, but before the man could pull the trigger, Doc slashed the man across the stomach with a knife. Bailey lay sprawled across the table, blood and guts spilling across the floor.

Doc didn't run because he'd acted in self defense. He was arrested but imprisoned in a local hotel room because there was no jail in town. A vigilante group formed to seek revenge. Knowing that the mob would quickly overtake the local lawmen, “Big Nose” Kate devised a plan to free Holliday. She set fire to an old shed, which started to burn rapidly, threatening to take the entire town.

While everyone was busy fighting the fire, Kate, a pistol in each hand, confronted the officer guarding Holliday, disarmed him, and she and Doc escaped. They headed to Dodge City, Kansas on stolen horses the next morning, registering at Deacon Cox’s Boarding House as Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Holliday. Sources say that Doc was so happy about all of this that he gave up gambling for a while and returned to being a dentist. Kate gave up saloons and prostitution. But neither lasted long in 'normal' life.

They spent the next few years together going to Dodge City, Kansas, Deadwood, South Dakota, Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory, and Prescott, Arizona Territory. Their relationship was allegedly turbulent and sporadic.

Kate rented a boarding house to miners in Globe, Arizona Territory. In 1880, she may have run a bordello/the Grand Hotel in Tombstone, (or it may have been run by another Tombstone prostitute named Rowdy Kate, who she's often confused with). Doc Holliday, had a great run playing faro and poker in Tucson and joined Kate in Tombstone later that year.

Kate went back to live in Globe, and in 1887, she traveled to Glenwood Springs, Colorado to see Holliday before he died. He also spent some time in a cabin owned by one of her brothers near Glenwood Springs, when he was ill but he ultimately went into town to die. Kate went with him. Since Holliday is known to have been destitute by this time and it's probable that Kate helped support in his final months.

After Holliday's death, Kate married a blacksmith named George Cummings in Colorado. They moved to Bisbee, Arizona, where she briefly ran a bakery. After returning to Willcox, Arizona, in Cochise County, Cummings became an abusive alcoholic and they separated. She then worked at the Cochise Hotel, where no one was aware of her real identity. Cummings committed suicide in Courtland, Arizona, in 1915. Kate then lived with a homestead miner in Dos Cabezas, Arizona, until his death in 1930. She does not appear to have received very much in his will.

Using the name Cummings, Kate, increasingly frail, applied to the Arizona Pioneers Home, a state establishment in Prescott for elderly and destitute Arizona residents from frontier days. Though a lifelong friend of the Governor at the time, who helped her become one of the first residents of the home, it took six months to place her there because she had never become a U.S. citizen. She became an outspoken advocate of residents rights and helped others while there, writing many letters to the Arizona state legislature, and when she was not satisfied contacting the governor.

When she was 89 she wrote a letter to her niece revealing that she was with Doc in his room in Fly's Boarding house, next to the O.K. Corral, and that she actually witnessed the shootout.

"In Kate's story, on the day of the gunfight, a man entered Fly's boarding house with a bandaged head and a rifle. He was looking for Holliday, who was still in bed after a night of gambling during which he'd had one argument with Ike Clanton that had been stopped by onlookers. The man was turned away by Mrs. Fly. He was probably Ike Clanton, although how Clanton's head had come to be bandaged is unknown.

"Clanton was known to have headaches, and perhaps he had been treated for that even before Virgil Earp hit him over the head and removed his weapons a short time later. In any case, Clanton's actually entering Holliday's rooming-house with a rifle would have given Holliday and the Earps all the reason they needed to believe that a gunfight between Holliday and the cowboys was inevitable.

"While Clanton was being disarmed, arrested, and taken before a judge, Kate claims that Holliday put on his clothes and went up to see the Earps. They had gathered at the corner of 5th Street and Allen, where they could keep an eye on the courtroom to the South, the O.K. Corral a block west, and the various cowboys who were believed to be coming and going from out of town.

"Eventually, the Earps and Holliday walked down Fremont Street to confront the cowboys in the vacant lot West of Fly's (and Holliday's) boarding house. Kate would have been able to see the fight, just feet away, from her window overlooking the vacant lot. In Kate's version of the gunfight, Holliday had a problem with this "rifle" after the shooting started. He threw it to the ground and drew his pistol. This report fits with what is known of the events, although what Holliday actually threw down would have been his double-barrelled short shotgun (the gun he had emptied when killing Tom McLaury)."

After the fight, Kate said that Doc Holliday went back to his room, sat on the edge of the bed and wept from the shock of what had just happened. "That was awful," Kate claims he said. "Just awful." Kate stayed at the Arizona Pioneers' Home until her death on November 2, 1940, five days before her 90th birthday.

Kate said of life: "Part is funny and part is sad, but such is life any way you take it."

Billy Wilson

Another controversial figure associated with the Dodge City Gang is Billy Wilson or the "Mystery Rustler". Associated with Billy the Kid, there are two different accounts of his life up to that point. There are two accounts of his early life, one asserting that he was born William Harrison Wilson on October 30, 1859 in Arkansas and that he ran away from home in his mid-teens after a fight with his father. He's said to have then fallen in with some outlaws and ended up killing a man in a barfight, causing him to flee the state.

Billy is believed to have then traveled through Mississippi, Missouri, and Indian Territory. After accidentally killing a friend in a hunting accident, he moved on to Dodge City, Kansas, and met up with Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett, J. J. Webb, Mysterious Dave Mather, and others. Around this time he was given the nickname "Buffalo Billy" and he followed Dave and his friends to Las Vegas, New Mexico, Wilson.

Dave and the others stayed on to join the Dodge City Gang but Wilson continued south to another boom town, White Oaks, where he opened a livery stable. In late 1879 or early 1880, Wilson sold his stable to men named Sam Dedrick and William H. "Harvey" West. They paid for the stable, however, in counterfit bills. Wilson traveled south to Lincoln, unknowingly spending the fake money.

At some point shortly thereafter, Wilson began riding regularly with Billy the Kid's gang, the Rustlers, (he had helped them from time to time in the past, but not been a full member). A few months after Wilson joined, Dave Rudabaugh, on the run from the law in Las Vegas, joined them.

Word of the counterfeit bills in Lincoln County reached Washington, D. C., and a special agent from the U. S. Treasury Department, Azariah Wild, was sent to New Mexcio to investigate. Wild determined that Wilson was part of West, and the Dedrick brothers counterfeit ring.

Though innocent of counterfiting, on Nov. 27, 1880, Wilson was involved in the killing of Deputy James Carlyle, when a posse surrounded Billy the Kid and his gang at Jim Greathouse's ranch. Between the murder of Carlyle, and the Wild investigation's, local law enforcement was more determined than ever to catch the Rustlers.

On Dec. 19, 1880, Wilson was with Billy the Kid and other members of the Rustlers, when they rode into Fort Sumner and Pat Garrett and his posse opened fire on them from ambush. Rustler Tom O'Folliard was killed, but the rest escaped.

Wilson was again with Billy the Kid and the Rustlers on Dec. 23, when they were captured at Stinking Springs by Garrett's posse,(Rustler Charlie Bowdre was killed in the fight.)

Wilson went to trial at Santa Fe for counterfeiting and robbing the U.S. Mail, the latter a crime he committed with the Rustlers when they held up a stagecoach. He was convicted of the counterfeiting charge and sentenced to seven years in prison. However, he managed to escape in Sept. 1882 and became a rustler again in Mexico and along the Mexican border, falling in with another gang, which also included Tom Pickett. He left the gang after an attack on four unsuspecting Mexicans. He's believed to have gone back to Missouri, gotten married, and had a child, settling down and changing his habits under the name Robert Levi Martin. Robert Martin died on September 30, 1935.

Other researchers say Billy Wilson was born David L. Anderson in Ohio on Nov. 23, 1861, moving with his family to Texas when he was still a child. It's said that he first became a cowboy and then began rustling, changing his name to Billy Wilson and travelling to Dodge City. Those who believe this account of Billy's life think that after escaping from jail he fled to Sanderson, Texas, where married, had a child, and opened up a bar.

It's said that in 1895, by pure chance he ran into Pat Garrett and that the two talked and Garrettbecame convinced that Wilson had changed so decided to try to use his influence to have him pardoned. Sometime in 1906, Garrett achieved this and Pres. Grover Cleveland issued a full pardon for "Dave Anderson, alias Billy Wilson."

In 1905, Wilson was elected sheriff of Terrell County, and is said to have been much loved by the people of the town. On June 14, 1918, he was called to silence a disturbance. A drunk ranchhand named Ed Valentine, who Wilson knew and had been on friendly terms with, was causing trouble. Anderson tried to talk Valentine down, but Valentine shot him in the chest, killing him. Valentine was then lynched by an angry mob.

No one knows for sure if William Harrison Wilson/Robert Martin from Arkansas was THE Billy Wilson, or if it was Dave Anderson. Because of the Garrett Pardon, it is generally believed to have been the latter of the two.

"Dirty" Dave Rudabaugh

Continuing to look at the wildest town in the wild west, Las Vegas, New Mexico, and the wildest bunch of outlaws the frontier ever saw, The Dodge City Gang...

Born in Fulton County, Illinois in July, 1854, after his father was killed in the Civil War, Dave (born David Rodenbaugh) grew up in Kansas, then followed the cattle trail west to Colorado. At one point his family had to move from Ohio back to Illinois and it is suspected that the move was because of a train robbery committed there by Dave.

It's said he got the nickname “Dirty Dave” because he rarely bathed and wore filthy clothes, (but maybe it was because he had a tendancy to do people dirty). He gained notirity as an outlaw in the 1870s when he headed of a gang of thieves and rustlers in Texas who robbed and participated in cattle rustling along with Milton Yarberry and Mysterious Dave Mather.

The three were suspected in the death of a rancher and fled the state. By some accounts all three went to Decatur, Texas, but other accounts say Rudabaugh headed to the Black Hills of South Dakota, where he became a stagecoach robber. Sometime around 1876, Rudabaugh joined Mike Roarke and Dan Dement to form the outlaw band known as the "Trio."

When he and his gang robbed a Santa Fe Railroad construction camp in Kansas in November, 1877, Wyatt Earp was issued an acting commission as a U.S. Deputy Marshal to pursue them.

Following Rudabaugh and his boy's trail for 400 miles to Fort Griffin, Texas, Earp met Doc Holiday for the first time when asking after Dave at Shanssey’s Saloon. There is a disputed story from around this time that Rudabaugh had taught Doc Holliday to use a pistol while Doc taught him the fine points of playing cards.

The owner told him Dave had been there earlier in the week, but didn’t know where he was. He said Doc had played cards with Dave and might know. It was well known that Doc hated lawmen, so Wyatt was reluctant to ask him. However, when Wyatt found him that evening at Shanssey’s, he was surprised by a talkative Holliday.

Doc told Wyatt that he thought Rudabaugh had headed back to Kansas. Wyatt wired this information to Bat Masterson and the news was instrumental in apprehending Rudabaugh. Nonetheless, Wyatt's time in Fort Griffen hadn't been wasted, he'd befriended Doc and his girlfriend, Big Nose Kate.

Trying to stay one step ahead of Wyatt, Rudabaugh had in fact returned to Kansas and made an unsuccessful attempt to rob another train before being caught. He and an accomplice named Edgar West were caught within days by Sheriff Bat Masterson and his posse, which included John Joshua Webb (J.J.). When Rudabaugh went for his gun, Webb stopped him and forced him to surrender.

When his four other four accomplices were arrested, Rudabaugh informed on everyone and promised to go “straight.” He was soon released and the other men were sent to prison. Dave didn't reform but went on to New Mexico and resumed robbing. Shortly following his release, Rudabaugh accepted an offer from Bat Masterson to join a group of gunfighters, which included Mysterious Dave Mather and Hoodoo Brown, to fight for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway in the Railroad Wars. In 1879 he travelled to Las Vegas where joined the Dodge City Gang there, along with another former enemy, now City Marshal John Joshua Webb.

On October 14, 1879, a train was robbed in the Las Vegas area by masked men. The robbers made off with $2,085, three pistols, and all the lanterns on the train. Two years later, when Rudabaugh was finally arrested, he would confessed to participating in the robbery.

Rudabaugh was also involved in the gunfight that killed Marshal Joe Carson, along with the rest of the Dodge City Gang. He was part of the possee that surrounded the ranch that housed Carson's killers and called for their surrender as well. The men were ultimately gunned down by Carson's widow and Rudabaugh was cleared, along with other gang members, of wrongdoing. They continued to rob and commit other crimes until the murder of Mike Kelliher on March 2, 1880. A lynch mob formed to get gang member J.J. Webb but were the Dodge City Gang held them off, with "Dirty Dave" at the helm.

On April 30th, Rudabaugh, along with a man named John Allen burst through the Sheriff's office to free Webb, (again, his former enemy who got him to surrender/turn in his gang). The jail break was unsuccessful but Rudabaugh murdered jailer Antonio Lino in the process. Webb’s sentence was appealed and commuted to life in prison.

I guess figuring he'd done all he could, Rudabaugh, along with Dodge City Gang member, Tom Pickett fled to Fort Sumner and joined Billy the Kid there. According to some sources, Billy the Kid was afraid of only one man and that man was Dave Rudabaugh.

On November 30, 1880, Billy the Kid, David Anderson (aka: Billy Wilson,) and Rudabaugh rode into White Oaks, New Mexico. There they ran into Deputy Sheriff James Redman. They shot at him and, while he hid behind a saloon, several local citizens ran into the street, chasing the outlaws out of town.

As a posse gave chase, they hid out at the ranch of a man named Jim Greathouse, holding him hostage. They traded him to a posse at dawn for Deputy Sheriff James Carlyle who had been volunteered to negotiate with the outlaws in attempt to give themselves up. Surrounding the house, the posse waited for hours. Around midnight, they called out that they were going to storm the house. Just then a crash came through a window and a man came tumbling out. Shots ripped through the air and Carlyle lay dead. No one is sure if the bullet came from the outlaws or the posse, but it's generally suspected that the posse killed their own man. Probably because of that accident, they gave up the siege and the outlaws escaped. Whatever the truth, Billy the Kid was, of course, blamed for killing Carlyle.

Now trailed by Pat Garrett, Billy the Kid, Billy Wilson, Rudabaugh, Tom O'Folliard, Charlie Bowdre, and Tom Pickett rode into Fort Sumner, New Mexico on December 19, 1880 and were confronted by Garrett's posse. Pat Garrett, Lon Chambers, and several others leaped from cover as Garrett ordered the outlaws to halt. Several of the posse members didn’t wait for the outlaws to respond to Garrett's demand, and instead opened fire on Pickett and O'Folliard, who were riding in front and were shot from their saddles. Rudabaugh's horse caught a bullet and collapsed but he managed to jump onto Wilson’s horse and he and the other outlaws escaped. They hid out in an abandoned cabin near Stinking Springs, New Mexico .

Soon, Garrett and his posse tracked them down there. They surrounded the hideout. Inside were Billy the Kid, Charlie Bowdre, Rudabaugh, Tom Pickett and Billy Wilson.
When Bowdre passed before an open window, he was shot in the chest. The siege continued until the next day, when Rudabaugh finally waved a white flag and Billy the Kid's gang surrendered. They were taken to Santa Fe, New Mexico .

Rudabaugh was taken to Las Vegas to stand trial. He attempted to avoid being charged with a capital offence, by pleading guilty to the Las Vegas train robbery in October, 1879. However, his attempt was unsuccessful and he was sentenced to hang for murder. He was taken to the Las Vegas Old Town Jail to await his execution, where he was united with J.J. Webb, still serving time for the offense Dave had tried to help him with.

In the meantime, Billy the Kid was jailed at Lincoln, New Mexico where he escaped on April 28, 1881 only to be tracked down and killed by Pat Garrett that July.

Rudabaugh, Webb, and two other men, Thomas Duffy and H.S. Wilson tried unsuccessfully to shoot their way out of jail on September 19, 1881. Duffy was mortally wounded in the attempt. Webb, facing life in prison, and Rudabaugh the threat of hanging, were determined to try again and to not fail the next time.

Two months later, Webb, Rudabaugh and five other men, chipped a stone out of the jail wall and escaped out of a 7"x19" hole. Rudabaugh and Webb went to Texas and then to Mexico where Webb disappeared.

Rudabaugh then fled to Arizona where he joined the Clanton faction in their feud against the Earps. Dave may have even participated in the murder of Morgan Earp and the attempted murder of Virgil Earp, and he was present at the fight in which Curly Bill Brocius was killed.

There are two stories as to what became of Rudabaugh after that, the most common is:

As the Clanton gang broke up, Rudabaugh headed down to Mexico where he worked as both a cowboy and a rustler. On February 18, 1886, Rudabaugh was involved in a gunfight with locals in Parral, Chihuahua over a card game. Rudabaugh and a Mexican man faced off and Rudabaugh shot him through the head. When another player drew and fired, Rudabaugh put a bullet into his heart. Having killed two men and wounded another, the then unarmed but unable to find his horse, Rudabaugh returned to the cantina, which was now in total darkness. On entering he was shot several times from the shadows and decapitated with a machete, then his head was paraded around around town on a pole.

That on February 18, 1886, Rudabaugh was involved in a cantina card game in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico which broke up after accusations of cheating. Rudabaugh and a Mexican man faced off and Rudabaugh shot him through the head. When another player drew and fired, Rudabaugh put a bullet into his heart. Unable to find his horse, Rudabaugh returned to the cantina, which was now in total darkness. On entering he was jumped and decapitated. For the next several days, his killers were said to have paraded through town with his head on a pole. A few photos were taken of the event, (there's one on-line of someone's head anyway). The body and head were then either buried in an unmarked grave "fit for a rabid dog", or left on a hillside for the vultures.

Another story tells that Rudabaugh finally left Mexico with a heard of cattle headed to Montana where he lived a normal life, married and fathered three daughters. Those who support this claim say that he ultimately died, a destitute alcoholic rancher in Oregon in 1928. He was the only man to have ever been captured by both Bat Masterson and Pat Garrett.

Cowboy Poems from 1916

From, "Out Where the West Begins", by Arthur Chapman, 1916

In a Deserted Mining Camp

The rain, gust-driven, veils the distant pines
upon the hill,
yet cannot hide the skeletons of mines
and silent mill;
and through an empty street the wind whines
with hag voice, shrill.

the echoes roused by hoof-strokes of my teed
strike on the heart;
how many tragedies the eye may read
in this dead mart;
from cabins, windowless, faint voices plead
and specters start.

I pause and turn, upon the hillside's crown,
and vision gropes.
Where gleam the rain-washed cabin roofs far down
the darkning slopes;
but now the night has closed upon the town
of buried hopes.

The Man the Desert Got

He rests, half buried in the drift
of waterless and silent strands'
his fingers clutch a mocking gift -
the worthless, wind-blown desert sands;
he thought to close his hand upon
a heavier and yellow prize,
but now his lusts for gold have gone,
shriveled beneath those blazing skies.

The lizard flits abou his form,
the buzzards circle in the height;
if there be mercy in yon storm,
may he be covered deep ere night;
and may the rippling sands smooth ''er
upon the desert's face the spot
where ends his quest forevermore,
the quest of him the desert ot.

The trails to distant water holes
his plodding feet shall ne'er retrace,
for unto still more distant goals
the prospector has turned his face;
these shifting sand hills lose thier glow,
the breeze no more is furnace hot,
and when the storm ends none shall know
where rests the man the desert got!

The Border Riders

The devil has opened his furnace door
and poked the coals with his tail,
but we musts jog on and jog some more,
along the outlaws trail;
and some of us may not;
plain duty's a term tha is harsh to men
in the country God forgot.

Now your throat is dry as a burned out coal,
and light is in the old canteen,
and it's far to the nearest water-hole
where the slimy moisture's green'
and when you git there the spring has dried,
you'll find, as like as not;
and that's how many a good man's died
in the country God forgot.

Bit it's jog, jog, on the alkali,
nor let your bronco lag;
and mind the arroyos as you go by,
nor let your eyelids sag;
for bullets speed true the desert land,
where the sand hills muffle shot,
and it's short life for him who tips his hand
in the country God forgot.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Mysterious" Dave Mather

Louis L'Amour said there were three types of lawmen in the Old West:

"1. the Bat Mastersons, who were concerned with your rights and would give you a chance to surrender

"2. the Wild Bills, who would "post you" out of town, putting your name on a list on a tree in public warning you to be out of town by sundown, and after that, would shoot on sight.

"3. the Mysterious Dave type. He simply killed his enemies on sight. No warnings, no postings, no talk, just shooting. While he did not garner the publicity of other famous gunmen/lawmen of the day, he is regarded as one of the most dangerous." (Wikkipedia)

So, who was that masked man?

Dave Allen Mather was born on August 10, 1851. A descendant of Increase and Cotton Mather, he come from a family of seafaring lawmen in Massachusetts, who were themselves descended from rugged English sailors.

His date of death is unknown, but suspected to have been May of 1886. He's believed to have been shot down in Dallas, TX, his body thrown on the railroad tracks. Like Hoodoo Brown, he lived on both sides of the law, going by the names Mysterious Dave and New York Dave.

We don't know much about his life. It seems to have been not much discussed at the time, probably part of why he was called Mysterious Dave. It is known that he was a lawman in Dodge City, Kansas, and Las Vegas, New Mexico, and that he was frequently in the company of both Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.

His father was a Conneticut sea captain descended from Increase and Cotton Mather, a lineage Mysterious Dave is said to have claimed proudly. Dave was the first of three sons born to the Mathers. His brother, Josiah "Sy" Mather went with him when he ventured west.

When another of Dave's brothers died and his own ship was lost, his father, Ulysseus, abandoned the family. He died soon after in Shanghai in 1864, stabbed by his ship's Chinese cook. Dave's mother remarried but died in 1868. Their family gone, Dave and Sy ran away to sea but jumped ship in New Orleans. (So it's possible Hoodoo Brown wasn't the only Hoodoo man in the Dodge City Gang...)

Not much is known about what he did in the 1870s. He's thought to have been an outlaw/cattle rustler in Arkansas. He's named on an 1873 warrant along with Dave Rudabaugh and Milton J. Yarberry for the murder and robbery of a prominent rancher. The three men fled to Decatur, Texas.

His brother, Sy, said that he and Dave had tried to work as buffalo hunters on the Llano Estacado around 1874 but that it hadn't lasted. It may have been during this time, that he met Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Bill Tilghman, who were also following the herds at that time, as was Hoodoo Brown.

Regardless, he ended up in Dodge City, Kansas in the early 1870s. He became close friends with the doctor there, Thomas L. McCartym who saved his life when he was badly wounded in a knife fight. Dr. McCarty was one of the earliest settlers of Dodge City and was about the only doctor in the area. He reports sewing up Dave’s stomach after it was slashed in a fight with a gambler on a table in the lobby of the Great Western Hotel with only whiskey for anesthetic. Unable to pay, Dave is said to have then forced other gamblers and buffalo hunters to seek treatment from him until his bill with the doctor was paid. (Wonder if he also gave them medical problems to take to the doctor too.)

In 1878, it's said, though the tale is suspect, that he went with Wyatt Earp to Mobeetie, Texas. Supposedly they'd worked up a scheme to sell phony gold bricks they claimed were from a lost mine dating back to the days of the conquistadores. They didn't get too far with that and were run out of town by a lawman named Jim McIntire.

More ominously, Mather is reported to have killed a man during a "difficulty" in the Texas Panhandle during this time as well. The next official mention of Mysterious Dave is in early 1879 when Bat Masterson was Sheriff of Ford County, Kansas. After the notorious horse thief Dutch Henry Borne in Trinidad, Colorado, Masterson found him in the company of Mysterious Dave and others.

Mather was back on the same side as Masterson when Bat was rounding up gunslingers for the Railroad Wars of 1879-80. The Atcheson, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad was competing with the Denver and Rio Grande for the rights to build a track through two disputed areas. Dave Rudabaugh, John Joshua Webb, Doc Holliday, and Ben Thompson also worked with him there.

When all that died down in 1879, Mather joined John Joshua Webb, Dave Rudabaugh, and several others in the nearby city of Las Vegas, New Mexico. They became the "Dodge City Gang", led by Hoodoo Brown. The Santa Fe railroad had just turned Las Vegas into a boom town. (Tracks didn't run directly into Las Vegas, causing the formation of a separate town called "New Town," or East Las Vegas.)

The administration of this new community came under the control of Hoodoo Brown when he was appointed Justice of the Peace. The Dodge City Gang were basically a loose confederation of gamblers, pimps and confidence men who operated under his protection. They ran all the gambling and prostitution in Las Vegas and had complete political control of the town. Soon after his arrival, Dave was appointed to the police force; a "Hoodoo Feller" in good standing and an effective tool of Brown’s corrupt court. He was ultimately named deputy U.S. Marshal for the area by Governor Lew Wallace.

The reign of the "Dodge City Gang" made Las Vegas the wildest town on the frontier. "August 1879 to March 1880 was an especially bewildering parade of lynching, murder, train and stage robbery and general meanness unparalleled in the Old West. During this period the town saw the likes of Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp and possibly Jesse James.

In the midst of it all stood Mysterious Dave, apparently enjoying his work as a peace officer since it was a position he sought to obtain just about anywhere he landed for the rest of his known life." (The Real Mysterious Dave). It was as a Las Vegas policeman Mysterious Dave was involved in his first documented killing. A railroad worker named Joseph Costello tried to "throw down" on Dave one night in January 1880. Costello hesitated. Dave didn’t.

The Dodge City Gang not only ran all the gambling and prostitution in Las Vegas but had complete political control of the town. Mather was ultimately named deputy U.S. Marshal for the area by Governor Lew Wallace.

On January 22, 1880, Las Vegas Marshal Joe Carson was shot and killed by four cowboys in the Close and Patterson's Variety Hall during a shootout. Whether or not Mather was actually deputized has never been confirmed. He appears to have been there with Carson, deputy or no.

What happened was this; some very rowdy cowboys, T.J. House, James West, John Dorsey, and William Randall had been going in and out of saloons making trouble all day. A "no guns in town limits" rule was in effect, (which they were ignoring), so Marshal Carson demanded that they give up their guns. Of course, they refused.

A shootout ensued and the Marshall was shot down. Myterious Dave then drew his gun and returned fire. When it died down, Mather was still standing. William "Big" Randall was mortally wounded, and James West was too badly injured to escape. The other two men, John Dorsey and T.J. House, were wounded but escaped.

The pair were captured two weeks later and brought to the Las Vegas jail to await trial. An angry mob broke into the jail, pulled them from their cell. Carson's wife opened fire on the men, killing them all before the would-be lynchers had the chance. The gunfight became known as the Variety Hall Shootout and it made Dave's reputation as a gunman. (I imagine it made Carson's wife's reputation as a gunman too.)

When the Dodge City gang broke up in March of 1880, Dave, (accused of 'promiscuous shooting' in the Variety Hall incident), seems to have spent time in various places in New Mexico and Texas before settling in Dallas, often using the alias Dave Matthews.

As with Hoodoo, there is a romance associated with Mysterious Dave. He was Assistant Marshall in El Paso, Texas and was wounded slightly in an altercation in a brothel there, after which he returned to Dodge City. I can't tell if the El Paso antecdote it is a confused account of the same incident or if these are two seperate ones, but it is also said that in Dallas he became involved with an African American woman named Georgia Morgan who worked as the madame of a brothel called the "Long Branch". It didn't last long. By 1881 he's reported to have not only left her but robbed her. She rather impressively followed him to Fort Worth, where he was working as a policeman, and tried to get her property/revenge with a butcher knife but was arrested before she could do anything much with it.

Whatever the history of Mysterious Dave's brothel injuries, in May 1883, he returned to Kansas and became Assistant Town Marshal of Dodge City during the Dodge City War. The War was a dispute between saloon owners who were friends of the mayor of Dodge City and Luke Short, owner of the Long Branch Saloon. Several gunfighters including Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp gathered to support Short. They backed their friends' enemies down without violence. Mather was also a Deputy Sheriff during this time and in 1883 led a posse in pursuit of train robbery suspects, capturing two the same day they tried to leave town. He also owned Dodge City's Opera House Saloon, became active in politics, and may even have gotten married to a woman named Josephine.

Ultimately, Mather became involved in a feud with a rival saloon, (the Lady Gay), owner named Tom Nixon. Tom was a former buffalo hunter and an early pioneer in the Dodge City area. No one knows the exact cause of their enmity but possible reasons include rivalry over Nixon’s appointment as Assistant Marshal, a "war" over the price of beer in the two competing saloons, and possibly Mather’s relationship with Nixon’s wife. Tom was friends with the mayor, and an ordinance had been passed that restricted all saloons in town, except the Lady Gay.

On July 18, 1884, the feud came to a head. Mysterious Dave and Tom Nixon had a gunfight in front of the Opera House Saloon. Nixon drew a pistol, fired once, and missed. Tensions boiled over on the night of July 18, 1884 when Nixon shot at Mysterious Dave as the latter was standing on the front steps of the Opera House Saloon. Mather's face was powder burned and his left hand injured by flying splinters. Though a bond was posted for assault with intent to kill in the sum of $800, Mather himself decided not to file a complaint. The Dodge City Democrat published an article on the shooting, saying that the situation was "by all appearances not yet at an end".

Three days later, Nixon was standing in front of the Opera House about 10 p.m. on July 21 when a voice behind him reportedly called out gently, almost sweetly "Oh, Tom."

Nixon turned to see the last thing he ever saw, Mysterious Dave pointing a Colt .45 at him. Nixon took four hits to the body, one piercing his heart. He was dead before he hit the ground. Dave then surrendered himself to authorities and was exonerated of murder. Because Nixon had tried to kill him first, he was seen as acting in self defense. Mather's said to have commented, "I ought to have killed him six months ago."

But on May 10, 1885, he was arrested again. This time he and his brother Sy were accused of killing a gambler named Dave Jones over a game of cards, inside the Junction Saloon. Mysterious Dave was wounded in the gunfight when a bullet grazed his head.

During a preliminary hearing on the shooting, it was determined that Mather never fired a shot, and that Dave Jones had fired on him only to be shot by his brother, Sy. Rumors that Sy died in the gunfight may have been circulated to exonerate him, (he's known to have lived until 1933). The shooting and the aftermath were well publicized at the time and the results of that hearing were posted in the Dodge City Democrat on May 22, 1885, along with several witness statements:

"The brothers made bail and left town, though the details of how are unclear. One account says that Marshal Bill Tilghman ran Dave out of town after an armed standoff, another says he slipped away disguised as a woman. Neither are believed to be true, and it is most likely he simply left town, and for all practical purposes disappeared from historical record."

After this, there aren't many reliable reports of Mysterious Dave's life. His friends said he left town because a vengeful mob wanted to see him hang but they wouldn't say where he went. He left town under a $3,000 bail which was never paid. One newspaper of the day reports his appointment as a Deputy Marshal in New Kiowa, Kansas, where he remained for nearly a year. Mather had moved there with a man called "Black Dave" and opened a saloon. "Black Dave"soon killed a soldier in a brawl and Mather raised money from the crowd for his defense. When some of the dead soldier’s friends threatened to come and lynch Dave just for being Black's partner, Dave took the money he had raised and left town.

No more is heard of him until the probable but sketchy report of his being found dead in Texas. When the body was found on the railroad tracks, whether it was him or not, the outstanding bond was dismissed. Did "Black Dave" get revenge on him for running out?

Other reports say he lived. Some say he became a bank-robber in New Mexico, going by the name Mysterious Dave Taylor, (though seems to me a likely name for a copy-cat to take). Others say he wound up in Vancouver and that he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police there. Still others said he became a US Customs officer in Blaine, Washington or that he lived out his final days in Lone Pine, Nebraska. Maybe it was some combination of several of the above. However, the most plausible report remains the one of the body found on the railroad tracks in Dallas. When asked, his brother and other family members claimed not to know what happened to him but said they wished they did.

Legends about Mysterious Dave abound. Most sesem to be at least based in fact. It is impossible, however, to name at which point in his career they occurred, or to what degree they are accurate.

One frequent antecdote was of a habit he had in Dodge City of getting his pistol back from bartenders off and on while drinking to fire at a bell outside. If he missed it, it meant he'd had too much to drink and he'd go home. It's said that one night a bartender replaced his bullets with blanks. Dave missed the shot and headed home. Not knowing he was firing blanks, he shot at a coyote that crossed his path on the way and became utterly unnerved when his shots failed to kill it.

Another legend has to do with a group called The Henry Bunch, who gunned down Dodge City Marshal Tom Carson in the Long Branch Saloon. Shot down by seven members of the gang, Carson staggered outside and collapsed on the street. As he lay dying, Mather is said to have mysteriously appeared from nowhere and swore to the dying lawman that he would avenge him, then entered the saloon and gunned down all seven of the outlaws. Some sources say the story is actually a distortion of the gunfight that occurred in Las Vegas in 1880, when the Dodge City Gang were at the peak of their power.

Last but not least, it's said that Mather walked into a revival in Dodge City drunk. The pastor recognized him and began to call on him to repent of his sinful ways. Dave let him carry on for a while, then stood up and announced that he had seen the light. Drawing his pistols he announced that, being assured of Heaven, he was ready to die. He invited anyone who was certain of their salvation to die with him and began to shoot out the lights. When the preacher and the crowd fled, Dave pronounced them all hypocrites and went home.

Increase and Cotton Mather's blood in his veins indeed.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Treasure of Skeleton Canyon

A vast treasure stolen by outlaws from a bank vault in Monterey and a church in Matamoras, Mexico, is said to still be buried in the mountains of AZ. It reportedly included a cigar box filled with diamonds, two pure gold statues, bags of gold and silver, thirty-nine bars of solid gold bullion and several rawhide bags of ninety thousand Mexican dollars.

The train carrying the horde was robbed by another gang of outlaws in Skeleton Canyon. They buried it on what they called Davis Mountain, no longer on any AZ map. They never returned for the treasure and no one is really sure what happened to them.

A dying outlaw gave directions, however:

"Head west across rolling plains to Davis Mountain, a bald, rounded granite dome visible for miles. With binoculars, it is said that you can see New Mexico from the peak of this mountain and old Sugar-Loaf can be seen standing boldly up against the sky.

"Once you have arrived at Davis Mountain, continue west for 1 to 1 ½ miles, until you spot a canyon. The east wall of the canyon has wooded hills, while the west wall is sheer rock precipice.

"The creek that flows through this canyon plunges over a ledge in a small cataract approximately ten feet high and Silver Spring flows into the canyon on its west end. Near this spring is a tall juniper tree where, at its foot, is a grave marked by slabs of stone. Five hundred dollars in gold is allegedly buried in a tin can at the head of the grave.

"Up the canyon and south of Silver Springs approximately 1 to 1 and 1/3 miles is Gum Spring. Between the two springs, lying in the scattered brush, are the remains of a burned out wagon. This wagon is located on the west side of the canyon where it curves inward to form a shallow cove. At the deepest part of this cove lies a stone marker which is three feet high, squarely shaped, and one foot thick. On the east face of this marker is carved two crosses. After locating the stone, face Davis Mountain and step twenty paces. This is where the treasure is said to be buried."

Don't know why it's never been found...

The Apache Kid

Mike just got back from Mexico, which got me thinking about outlaws and Mexico of course. I came across a formidable one from way back when, The Apache Kid, check this bad guy out:

The Apache Kid, a notorious outlaw, was said to be the fiercest Apache next to Geronimo. His Indian name was Haskay-bay-nay-natyl, "the tall man destined to come to a mysterious end,". He enlisted with General Crook as a scout to fight Apache armies in 1881, was promoted to sergant and accompanied Crook on the expedition of the Sierra Madre.

In Mexico with the Geronimo Campaign in 1885, he was nearly killed in a drunken riot in Huasabas. The judge didn't want to see the Apache Kid shot by a firing squad so instead fined him twenty dollars, and the Army sent him back to San Carlos.

In 1887, his fathr was killed (after much drinking of Apache moonshine, tiswin, an illegal brew made of fermented fruit or corn). The Kid's friends killed the murderer but, not satisfied with that, he killed the murderer's brother too. When he was arrested for the killing, gunfire errupted from the crowd, allowing him and some of his friends to escap, though they had been disarmed. An Army officer was killed in the fray.

A search started for the Apache Kid, with the calvarly following the outlaws along the San Carloss River. They were finally found, with help from other Indian Scouts, in the Rincon Mountains. Ultimately, the Kid agreed to surrender if the cavalry wre recalled. He and four others were court-martialed and found guilty of mutiny and desertion.

Again, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. However, General Miles ordered the court to reconsider and they were re-sentenced first to life in prison then, again at the urging of Miles, to ten years. They wound up at infamous Alcatraz but thir conviction was overturned on October 13, 1888. They were released but the outrage of citizens resulted in a new warrant being issued.

The outlaws were again found guilty and in 1889 they were sentenced to seven years in the Territorial Prison at Yuma. The Kid and a few others escaped during transport, their tracks covered by a snowstorm. During the get away fight, three guards were over-taken and two of thm died. The surviving one said that the Kid had stopped another Apache from killing him. This was the last "official" sighting of the Apache Kid.

Over the coming years, he was accused of many crimes. It was said that he led a small band of reneegade Apache and that they raided ranches and trains all over New Mexico, Arizona and Northern Mexico and robbed and killed prospecters, cowboys and others. He was belived by some to have made a hide-out in the Mexican Sierra Madre Mountains.

Others said he became a loner, hated by the Apache and feared by the whites. All sorts of tales were told of his suspectd misdeeds, including kidnapping Apache women till he got tired of them, killing them, then finding a new one. A $5,000 reward was offerred for him, dead or alive, but no one ever claimed it. After 1894, reports of his crimes stopped suddenly. Some said he'd died, others that he'd gone for good to his hideout in the mountains of Mexico.

"The tall man destined to come to a mysterious end" indeed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt

by Elizabeth Bissette

Fame didn't seem to be something Townes Van Zandt was after in life but since his tragic and unexpected death in 1997 at the age of 52, he's gradually moved more and more into the Americana limelight. Not only is one of his many previously un-known songs the title track to Mike's new album, but Steve Earle, who was mentored by Van Zandt and who remained a life-long friend, has a new tribute album compiled in his honor on the way. There's also an all-star tribute album, "Poet, a Tribute to Townes Van Zandt", out featuring Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Willie Nelson, John Prine and others, Lonestar Music. Since his death, two books, a documentary film and more have been composed in his memory.

A cult figure in Roots/Country music and Outlaw Country since the 70s, Van Zandt was a huge influence on many, many artists from a wide range of genres, (from Bob Dylan to Robert Plant). He had an impact on so many, in fact, that he's almost better described as a force of music nature, some sort of raw muse, than just a singer/songwriter. He's been aptly called both "one of the greatest country and folk artists of his generation" (AllMusic) and "one of the most underrated songwriters of the century" (AOLMusic).

In his recent interviw with "Rolling Stone", Steve Earle says of him:

"It's how I learned to play; it's how I learned to perform...I finger pick like he did. He was sitting right in front of me when I was really learning to play...I've only seen a handful of people that were as good as he was."

In spite of all of this and some material success via singles like, "Poncho and Lefty", (taken to #1 on the Billboard Country charts by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard), Townes never had a successful album or single of his own. Some of that seems to have been due to bad production, some perehaps to management choices, lifestyle choices, but it seems that he cared more about song-writing than being in the lime-light when you got right down to it.

For example, Van Zandt turned down repeated invitations to write with Bob Dylan. The two admired one anothers music but it is said that Dylan's celebrity didn't appeal to Van Zandt. They ultimately met by accident outside a costume shop in Austin in 1986, (well, I wouldn't say accident, I'd say there aren't any accidents that big - instant karma seems more like it). Dylan later arranged another meeting with him and for it, The Drag in Austin was shut down for Dylan and Van Zandt drove his motorhome to the quartered-off area. (I wonder if they didn't actually sit down and write something that day and just didn't tell...)

Incidentally, when Steve Earle once said of Townes that he was, "the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that." Van Zandt wryly responded: "I've met Bob Dylan's bodyguards and if Steve Earle thinks he can stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table, he's sadly mistaken."

So, though hugely influential now and certianly brilliant, (or maybe in part because he was brilliant and that can be harder to sell), he spent most of his life touring around playing small bars, sleeping in cheap motel rooms, backwoods cabins and on friends' couches. He also was notoriously addicted to drugs and alcohol and, per Wikkipedia, known for his tendancy to tell tall tales, (maybe they weren't -- maybe he, as our host here once told me he did, just took good notes).

Contrastingly, he was born in Fort Worth, Texas to an oil-wealthy family, the third-great-grandson of one of the founders of the city. (Van Zandt County in east Texas was named after his family in 1848.) His father was a corporate lawyer and His family moved a lot, a habit Townes seems to have embraced and retained throughout his life. (Though he developed an attachment to Colorado, where he said he sometimes spent entire summers alone on horseback in the mountains.)

When his parents discovered their son had a genius IQ, they began grooming him to be a a lawyer or senator, (and I'll bet he'd have been a great one if that's what he'd wanted to do - well, maybe with some changes to the drug/alcohol/Townes ratio - but imagine the speeches he'd have written. And Dylan & Steve Earle as VP & Secretary of State please...)

While at the University of Colorado at Boulder, his parents became concerned that he was depressed and drinking heavily. They brought him back to Houston and admitted him to a psychiatric hospital where, unfortunately, he diagnosed with manic depression. At the time, a treatment for this was, even more unfortunately, insulin shock therapy, which erased much of his long-term memory. Afterwards, he was accepted into law school but utlimately quit for good around 1967 to pursue music. And good thing for the world he did. His music is quite accurately described in his AOL Music bio as something that:

"...doesn't jump up and down, wear fancy clothes, or beat around the bush. Whether he was singing a quiet, introspective country-folk song or a driving, hungry blues, Van Zandt's lyrics and melodies were filled with the kind of haunting truth and beauty that you knew instinctively...He could bring you down to a place so sad that you felt like you were scraping bottom, but just as quickly he could lift your spirits and make you smile at the sparkle of a summer morning or a loved one's eyes -- or raise a chuckle with a quick and funny talking blues. The magic of his songs is that they never leave you alone."

Soon, Van Zandt met and was inspired by Lightning Hopkins, Guy Clark, Doc Watson and others who played in the Houston music scene at the time. He played mostly cover songs until encouraged by his father at the end of his life, (1966), to quit it and write his own songs. In 1968, songwriter Mickey Newbury talked him into going to Nashville, where he introduced him to "Cowboy" Jack Clement, who became his producer.

Due in part to Van Zandt's focus on songwriting rather than recording, Clement took some often unfortunate creative license with his albums. This probably had a little to do with the fact that they didn't sell well. But that just wasn't Van Zandt's priority. I have a feeling that, had it been, he'd have been as famous as he liked. On second thought, maybe he was as famous as he liked.

For much of the 1970s, he lived a reclusive life outside of Nashville in a tin-roofed, bare-boards shack with no heat, plumbing or telephone, occasionally appearing in town to play shows. Steve Earle would later say that Van Zandt's primary concerns during this time period were planting morning glories, listening to Paul Harvey's radio show, and watching the sitcom Happy Days. (Wikkipedia)

In 1975, Van Zandt was featured prominently in the documentary film "Heartworn Highways" with Guy Clark, Steve Earle, and David Allen Coe. Van Zandt is shown drinking straight whiskey during the middle of the day, shooting and playing with guns, and performing the songs "Waitin' Around to Die" and "Pancho & Lefty" at his trailer home in Austin with his soon-to-be second wife Cindy and dog Geraldine.

So what exactly is it that moves the son of a Texas oil baron to become a wayward drifter? Rebellion? Maybe. It would seem on the outside that it was all about depression and addiction, with resultant mis-managed opportunities and missed chances. But, then again, he sure seemed to know what he was doing and he sure was good at it. Would his songs have been as good if he'd not remained a sort of living representation of them, (which stardom would certainly have made impossible)? Maybe his career, was more well thought out than it appears; he just did it his way.

In the mid-1970s, Van Zandt split from his longtime manager, Kevin Eggers and moved to John Lomax III, (grandson of the famed folk music historian John Lomax). Lomax started a fan club for him which, though only advertised through small ads in the back of music magazines, began to receive hundreds of impassioned letters from around the world from people who felt touched by Van Zandt.

In the Summer of 1978, he fired Lomax and re-hired Eggers. He soon after signed to Egger's new label, Tomato Records and recorded "Flyin' Shoes' the following year. He would not release another album until 1987's At My Window but continued to tour.

Two years later, Sugar Hill released Live & Obscure and two more live albums (Rain on a Conga Drum and Rear View Mirror) appeared on European labels in the early '90s. In 1990, he toured with the Cowboy Junkies, and wrote a song for them, "Cowboy Junkies Lament," (with a verse for each member). They also wrote a song for him, "Townes Blues".

Sugar Hill released Roadsongs in 1994, featuring covers by Lightnin' Hopkins, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, and others, all recorded off the soundboard during recent concerts. At the end of that same year, they released No Deeper Blue, his first studio album since 1987, recorded in Ireland with Irish musicians.

Van Zandt was married 3 times. First to Fran Petters on August 26, 1965; with whom he had a son, John Townes "J.T." Van Zandt II. They divorced in 1970. He moved in with Cindy Morgan in late 1974, and the two married in Nashville in September 1978. They became estranged for much of the early 1980s, and were divorced in 1983. His third and final marriage was in 1983 to Jeanene Munsell, who he met in 1980 at a memorial for John Lennon. They had 2 children, William Vincent and Katie Bell. They divorced in 1994 but remained close until Townes' death.

On December 19 or 20, Van Zandt fell down the stairs outside his home, badly injuring his hip, and refused medical treatment. Determined to finish an album that he had scheduled to record with Shelley and Two Dollar Guitar, he showed up to the studio in a wheelchair with Eggers. Shelley canceled.

Van Zandt finally agreed to hospitalization, but not before returning to Nashville. By the time he had consented to receive medical care, eight days passed since the injury. On December 31, X-rays revealed that Van Zandt had an impacted left femoral neck fracture in his hip, and several corrective surgeries were performed.

Jeanene informed the surgeon that one of Townes' previous rehab doctors had told her detoxing could kill him. She checked Townes out of the hospital against medical advice. Understanding that he would most likely drink immediately after leaving the hospital, the physicians refused to prescribe him any painkillers.

"By the time Van Zandt was checked out of the hospital early the next morning, he had begun to show signs of DTs. Jeanene rushed him to her car, where she gave him a flask of vodka to ward off the withdrawal delirium. She would later report that after getting back to his home in Smyrna, Tennessee and giving him alcohol, he was "lucid, in a real good mood, calling his friends on the phone." (Wikkipedia)

Unfortunately, Townes Van Zandt died on January 1, 1997 at the age of 52, 44 years to the day after Hank Williams, who he stated was one of his main songrwriting influences. His official cause of death was "natural" cardiac arrhythmia.

Five years before his death, when asked by an interviewer from "No Depression Magazine" if he thought the growing interest in country music the popularity of Garth Brooks had spawned would benefit him, Townes made this remarkable and insightful statement:

"No, I don't think, as a matter of fact, that I'm going to benefit from anything on this earth. It's more like that, I mean, if you have love on the earth, that seems to be number one. There's food, water, air and love, right? And love is just basically heartbreak. Human's can't live in the present as animals do; they just live in the present. But human's are always thinking about the future or the past. So, it's a veil of tears, man. And I don't know anything that's going to benefit me except more love. I just need an overwhelming amount of love. And a nap. Mostly a nap."

And so it seems the world lost one of it's few true free spirits in a truly tragic way. But, then again, can it be said that someone like Townes Van Zandt is ever really gone? I don't think so. In fact, his music continues to breathe with new life and force. It seems that it's intent is so direct it transcends normal human boundaries. Even death.

So, it's sort of like, we didn't hear that much about his music for so long because, well, like Townes, it kinda spent a lot of time napping, existing just beneath the surface of what most people are aware of. But it's there, as in dreams, that we are all really influenced the most.

More from Townes Van Zandt Central

Interview with Steve Earle about Townes and his upcoming album of Van Zandt tunes in Roling Stone

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Songwriter Michael ONeill Looks for a New Life back in America"

New York City, New York:

"After years of travelling Europe and Africa, his hair has retained only a touch of the dark brown that most remember, replaced instead by a wisened grey. Surprisingly, Songwriter Michael ONeill doesn't look haggard, he looks rejuvenated. Well, as rejuvenated as a man who sings mostly about love, loss, death, and Mexico.

"Fifteen years ago, ONeill was a man on the run, trying to outrun success and a string of hits, brawls and lawsuits that threatened to drag him straight offstage to the slammer. It seemed the closer he came to stepping into the spotlight, the more he tried to shoot it out. The whispers of friends and colleagues, some of Country Music's greatest musicians and business minds, tell tale that the only thing that saved him was a short-lived religious conversion that got him out of "bad company" and out of the country.

"The truth is, only ONeill knows for sure why he walked away from it all leaving unanswered lawsuits and questions...echoing the chorus of his downer cult country hit, "I Never Tried".Having returned to America with his court records sealed and his conscious clean, ONeill still has much to muse about. His voice has a sweet sadness to it, like a man who has lost everything but bears no grudge. He waves away questions about the past, instead focusing on his cappucino and his plans to step back into the studio to put down a new batch of songs, a "come to" album as he calls it.

"It has been 5 years since his last recording. Next week he is headed to Texas to, as he vaguely puts it, "get a few things straightened out" and maybe, while he was at it, put some new songs down on record."I have a lot to look forward to and a lot of work to do", ONeill declares. He is reconnecting with what is left of his scattered family tree and old friends, trying to make good on the promise of a life and carreer interrupted. "It took me a long to realize that I am the only biological Father my daughters will ever have", he grins. "That has gotta count for something".

"Nearly oblivious to his cult status in the States over these last years, ONeill has been surprised by the response to his return. His old recordings are out of print and nearly impossible to find, mostly traded by fans via cassette tape and now the internet. ONeill laughs, "the iron ain't exactly hot but the time is right". He hopes to have a new album on the streets by Summertime.

Reprinted by permission.Evan BrubakerCake Records2339 Fawcett Ave S.Tacoma, WA 98402evan@cakerecords.com253-858-3600

Saturday, March 7, 2009

September 2006 , Nashville

I sat in the office at PLA Media with Pam Lewis and Jeanene Van Zandt. She was armed with a box full of everything she'd recorded by her late husband, Townes Van Zandt. She wanted me to cover something in this box and suggested I listen to the tune “ Ain’t Leavin Your Love”.

“ This song Townes wrote for me when our son Will was born” she said looking more at the box and talking more to herself then me.

Eric Paul, who produced and engineered for Townes at Willie Nelsons studio in Austin soon came in. A friendship was kindled that afternoon and a seed was planted.

Two years went by. In May of 2008 Eric called saying he really wanted to get the song recorded. Now, we'd made several attempts before and it hadn't happened, neither of us was sure that it would this time. We booked Pedernales Studio in Austin for Saturday May 17. Dony Wynn on drums, Will Sexton bass, Larry Chaney Guitar. It was set?

Dony and I first met in Los Angeles in the 1980’s when he was touring with Robert Palmer. I was playing with John Shanks, Bony James and the guys from Little Feat. We had become fast friends, so this was common ground for the two of us.

I flew to Austin on a Thursday and picked up Dony Friday morning . We drove to San Antonio to do a radio show on the Outlaw Radio 92.5 announcing my show at Sam’s Burger Joint for that evening with the Mother Truckers. On the drive there and back I played the demos I had been writing and recording for Dony to hear.

I entered Willies studio for the first time Saturday morning, met Will and Larry. As Dony and Eric set up the drums Will, Larry and I sat down in the lunchroom. I pulled my laptop out and played the tunes I had demoed. Will I liked right away he listened and there was a vibe I connected with.

Larry wanted to diagram my songs out and I am so much more of feel/vibe musician, then a technical musician. So I had to wrestle my way through that with him. Although in retrospect he really killed it in the recording process nothing he did had to be redone! Learning about my recording process.

We started at about eleven in the morning. I'd chosen three tracks for "Ain't Lea vin' Your Love". Will was opening a show for Kris Kristofferson with Idgy Vaughan so had to leave by three for a sound check at the Fox Theater in Austin. That meant no playtime.

We cut for four hours and the tracks had a vibe. This is something very cool, I remember thinking. As we cut the Townes tune Will starts telling the story about his record deal in the eighties and how he first heard the song. He had a band called “ KILL “ and was looking for songs. In Texas there is always singing around a campfire. So Will tells us that he and Townes were at one and had been drinking, hell they all had been drinking.

Anyway Townes said “I got a song you should put on your record”. Townes stands up with the guitar and starts into Ain’t Leavin Your Love as he sings closing his eyes he looses his balance and falls into the fire. Getting up brushing off starts into the song again right away. Singing eyes go closed and heads right into the fire. Will said we all tell him “hey just do the song sitting down man”. Townes fires back before they finish “ this is not a song you do sitting down! ” he then played the tune complete with no fire dance.

The walls talked in that studio. So did we and I listened to stories that day. Ghost stories around Townes standing in the control room with Eric . The last time Eric saw Townes alive with a batch of tunes he had to play for him. Lived stories, downstairs in the pool room Townes, Waylon, Willie and Kristofferson playing pool till the sun came up. Then heading down the road for food or going their own separate way for the day. I listened to my recordings and they sound like Willies records warm and real. Old microphones and used wires wood and steel. There is a dust on them that will not wash off.

Well, three o’clock came around, four songs recorded. Will had to leave so Eric and I asked Larry to add some guitar parts down before he had to go. About five we ran for food and wine Eric, Dony and I ate and talked more about where we were and it’s musical history. I just love those stories, the pictures on the wall all of it. We headed back into the control room to listen to what we had and more wine.

Dony and I listened then said hey we are all set up lets record just drums and guitar you and I. We recorded seven more songs before packing it in. Winding our way back to south Congress. Dony’s drum storage is behind the Continental Club we unload in the dark. We stand out there on the top floor of the parking garage. You can see the Capital building and downtown lights of south Congress. Just a moment breath in, I give Dony a hug and say goodbye. I head to my hotel and off to Fort Worth to play an early show at the White Elephant before heading home.

So I got four songs recorded that day drums, bass and guitar. Seven more, ideas with my acoustic guitar and Dony’s drums. I listened to them all the way to Fort Worth and back to Austin. I called Dony when I was getting close to Austin late Sunday evening. I want good BBQ before I head back to Seattle, get dressed I coming by to pick you up. We ate great BBQ at the place next to the old Antone’s location I will remember it’s name soon. Back to the hotel and up early for an eight am flight.

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