The Van Zandt Arts & Cultural District Foundation presents the second annual Tribute to Townes Van Zandt from 6-8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, 2020, at The Forge Bar & Grill in historic downtown Ben Wheeler.

The late Townes Van Zandt is often referred to as the most influential Texas songwriter of the 20th century. Musician Steve Earle says he was “the best songwriter in the world.”

Performers imbedded in Townes Van Zandt music honor the legend in song swap style during the Tribute event. They include Matt Harlan, Chris Edwards, Shane Rendon, Grady Lee, Nick Brumley, and Cole Allen. Other musicians are invited to bring instruments and continue the tribute in an open jam session after the show.

Last year, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Van Zandt’s birthday March 7, his family’s record company, TVZ Records, along with Fat Possum Records, released a new album, Sky Blue, a collection of unreleased songs created 47 years ago. Newly released this year are other records including a double LP compilation, The Best of Townes Van Zandt; reworked artwork and lyric sheet and remastered 180 gram vinyl, Townes Van Zandt/50th Anniversary Edition; and Our Mother The Mountain/50th Anniversary Edition. A limited supply of vinyls and CDs are available at the Tribute with proceeds benefiting the arts foundation and a larger variety are available online at

The Van Zandt family — former wife and literary executor Jeanene, and children J.T., Will, and Katie Bell — continue to illuminate his songwriting process and evolution.

“Townes always said that he did not measure his success by the charts, but by how many learning institutions will be studying his work 100 yeas from now,” Jeanene says. “My job is to make sure that all the material is there.”

Townes Van Zandt died January 1, 1997, at the age of 52 from cardiac arrhythmia while recovering from hip surgery. He is buried in the Van Zandt family plot in Dido Cemetery near Fort Worth. He came from a long line of Texas nobility. His three times great grandfather, Isaac Van Zandt, was a prominent leader of the Republic of Texas and the namesake of Van Zandt County in the Upper East Side of Texas. His great, great uncle Khleber Miller Van Zandt was one of the founders of Fort Worth.

Although he was born into an affluent family, he endured poverty and often sang of folks living on the edge.
He was a poet and songwriter beloved by his many fans and peers. Don Williams and Emmylou Harris had hits with his song “If I Needed You.” Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard reached No. 1 with their version of his song “Pancho and Lefty.”

His influence on Americana music is immense and continues today. Artists who cite Van Zandt as a source of inspiration include Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark, Norah Jones, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, and Garth Brooks to name a few.

For more information on the Tribute to Townes Van Zandt March 7 at The Forge Bar & Grill go to or call (903) 833-5970.

To learn more about the Van Zandt Arts & Cultural District Foundation, go to