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Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah
by Kevin J. Hosey
Documentary on the songwriter matched with performance of his songs by Hamburg native Gurf Morlix
If there is any one person who can help tell much of the story of the late Texas singer/songwriter Blaze Foley, it is Hamburg native, musician, and producer Gurf Morlix, who lived and performed with Foley in Austin during the 1970s and 1980s before his tragic murder in 1989.
Morlix will perform songs from his new tribute CD of Foley songs, Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream, and the new documentary on Foley, Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah, will be screened, followed by director/producer Kevin Triplett answering questions at 8pm, Friday, June 25, at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, in Babeville (341 Delaware Avenue).
Foley, born Michael David Fuller, was a talented, larger-than-life musician, and his songs have been covered by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Lyle Lovett and John Prine. Before his tribute CD to Foley, Morlix himself wrote and recorded a tribute song to Foley, “Music You Mighta Made,” on his 2009 Last Exit to Happyland CD, and has performed a great Foley song, “Cold, Cold World” live for years. In addition, Lucinda Williams wrote “Drunken Angel” about Foley and Townes Van Zandt wrote “Blaze’s Blues” for Foley.
Morlix—who has produced such talents as Lucinda Williams, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Warren Zevon, Buddy Miller, and Slaid Cleaves—explained how he and Foley go to be such partners after meeting in Austin. “I met him in about 1976. Blaze was not homeless by circumstance but by choice, and me, I had a home. He lived on my couch. We both moved to Houston, where there was a bunch of work and a great songwriter scene. We’d do sets with our shirts off to a well dressed audience, facing away from them. Blaze had a sign with him at one show: ‘Free Pap smears. Inquire within.’ After Willie and Merle covered his song, ‘If I Could Only Fly,’ he actually got a few royalty checks and got a room.”
Foley’s demons were on display to Morlix as much as any person. “He was a very warm, loving, caring person half the time; the other time, he was a raging alcoholic,” Morlix says. “But he was very lovable. We played hundreds of shows together, and Blaze had been kicked out of every bar he’d been in. His demons really caused him to go into a slide in the 1980s. He always ended up shooting himself in the foot. He recorded an album in Muscle Shoals, and the financial benefactor was a drug dealer who got busted. The FBI confiscated all but 100 copies. He also had the master tapes to Cold, Cold World [an album eventually released by Blaze Foley and the Beaver Valley Boys in late 2005, more than 25 years after it was recorded, due to Morlix’s efforts and a bit of good fortune] stolen from his car.”
Foley’s big heart may have led to the situation in which he was killed. “He died while he was protecting an old man who was being victimized by his son,” Morlix recalls. The son eventually was acquitted of Foley’s murder, claiming self-defense.
“I expected the phone call [saying Blaze was dead] eventually; he had a death wish, or at least he wasn’t afraid to die. I saw him dare a biker to shoot him. This just added to his legend, and the CD and the documentary are finally helping Blaze get his due.”
Morlix explained why he recorded Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream (the title is a nod to Bob Dylan) and participated in the film. “Since he was murdered, I’ve wanted to do an album of his songs, and the film has been worked on for 12 years and I saw it coming into focus. I always thought Blaze deserved a larger audience and when he was alive. He’s got some great songs; I was performing ‘Cold, Cold World’ while he was still alive. It’s about as good as a song gets. Blaze wrote funny songs, love songs, and tender heartbreak songs. He was the funniest person I knew, and the most tragic. It would just crack Blaze up completely to see this CD and film. He wanted to be a famous singer/songwriter, but on his own terms. He would be getting a huge kick out of this.”
Audiences appear to be enjoying the film and Morlix’s solo performance. “With my feet tappin’ on my drum footpads,” he says. “Quite the rhythm section.
“Response has been great. Everyone loves the film. It’s amazing that a documentary about a drunk asshole songwriter who gets murdered can make everyone feel so good at the end. It’s very uplifting and inspiring, because it’s a celebration of a unique life well lived. [Triplett] will introduce the film, and then do a Q&A afterwards. He spent 12 years making this documentary. During the last two or three years, I started to see that the film was going to be very great, and I decided it was time to make my album of Blaze Foley songs, so that we could coordinate our releases, and tour together. We’re going all year with this, and possibly more after that. “
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