Message from a Duct Tape Messiah

The following free article is for entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as scholarly research or as a final authority on the topic.  

Welcome to Freaky Friday! This Friday is a True Crime Friday, but it’s also the last Friday of 2011.  We’re going to look at a true crime and we’re going to share some end of the year thoughts.

And I’m going to keep it short because we’re all preparing for a holiday weekend.

February 1, 2012 will mark the twenty-third anniversary since singer/songwriter Blaze Foley was shot to death in Austin, Texas.   He is still remembered all these years later, even though he never had a hit song and was homeless most of his adult life.

Blaze was born Michael David Fuller in Arkansas but grew up in Texas.  His mother and sisters had a gospel band.  Blaze sang with them at the start of his musical career.

Blaze was a champion of the downtrodden, the underdogs of the world.  According to Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley hated to see any kind of injustice.  Blaze’s caring nature led him to his death.

On February 1, 1989, around 5:30 a.m., Blaze was shot in the left side of his chest by Carey January.  Mr. January managed his father’s monthly income.  Blaze believed Mr. January was being unfair to his father.  The shooting was the end result of this conflict.

Blaze was still alive when the paramedics arrived.  He asked them not to let him die.  He died on the operating table at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin, Texas.

It’s hard to convey Blaze’s legend.  The best–and quickest–way I can do it is to tell the pawn ticket story.

Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley were very close friends.  At some point, Townes had given Blaze a guitar.  Blaze told Townes he wanted him to have the guitar back in the event of his death.

At the time of Blaze’s death, the guitar was in pawn. Townes searched for the ticket but couldn’t find it.  It became clear the ticket had to be in the clothes Blaze–or his corpse–wore.  As the legend goes, Townes arranged for Blaze to be exhumed so he could get the pawn ticket and retrieve the guitar.

This video illustrates how well known the pawn ticket story is:

Friends called Blaze the Duct Tape Messiah because he believed in duct tape.  He used it on shoes, jeans, shirts, jackets, and hats.  He once made a whole suit out of the stuff.

Blaze was known to point to dumpsters labeled BFI and say, “Blaze Foley inside.”

Blaze Foley is far from forgotten.  His songs have been recorded by the likes of Merle Haggard, John Prine, and Lyle Lovett.  Tribute songs written about Blaze Foley include “Blaze’s Blues” by Townes Van Zandt, “Drunken Angel” by Lucinda Williams, and “Music You Mighta Made” by Gulf Morlix.

A documentary titled Duct Tape Messiah has been made about his life.  Sylvia Rosen has written a book titled Living in the Woods in a Tree about the time she spent with Blaze .

I promised I’d tie all this in to some New Year’s thoughts, and I’m about to do it.  Toward the end of each year, I informally assess my life–what I’ve missed and what I’ve grabbed.

Blaze’s most well known song is probably “Clay Pigeons.”  Each time I listen to to this song, I am both encouraged and challenged to make my life what I need it to be.

Go on and listen to it.  I’ll be here when you get back.

I am very aware this is not everybody’s kind of music. If you’d just like to read the lyrics, click here.

The song tells the story of a guy who is leaving everybody and everything to start over.  Though this is a frightening prospect, he has decided this is the only way he can “get back in the game and start playing again.”

Here’s my take away:

We forge through life whether we want to or not.  It takes courage and strength, however, to really go after what we want.  Chasing hopes and dreams means facing adversity and failure.

Each time I hear “Clay Pigeons” I am heartened by the idea that I’m not the only one who faces my own struggle with trepidation.  “Clay Pigeons” always inspires me to keep going and to be courageous enough to change what needs changing–no matter how scary it is.

My wish to each of you in this New Year is that you have the courage to push forward and to reach for the stars.  Let’s all live life like we mean it.


I am nowhere near being a Blaze Foley–or music–historian.  The following provided me with most of the factual material for this post:

“Austin Singer Shot to Death” by John Harris and Casey Monahan, Austin American Statesman, February 2, 1989.

The Fall and Rise of Blaze Foley” by Joe Nick Patoski.

Videos from the Blaze Foley Movie website.

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