Blaze Foley

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Blaze Foley
Blaze Foley.jpg
Background information
Birth nameMichael David Fuller
Also known asDeputy Dawg
Born(1949-12-18)December 18, 1949
Malvern, Arkansas, United States
DiedFebruary 1, 1989(1989-02-01) (aged 39)
Austin, Texas, United States
GenresCountry, folk
Years active1975-1989

Michael David Fuller (December 18, 1949 – February 1, 1989), better known by his stage name Blaze Foley, was an American country music singer-songwriter, poet, and artist active in Austin, Texas.


Foley was born Michael David Fuller in Malvern, Arkansas on December 18, 1949,[1] he grew up in San Antonio, Texas and performed in a gospel band called The Singing Fuller Family with his mother, brother and sisters.[1] As a child Blaze contracted polio and as a consequence one of his legs was shorter than the other, causing him to drag his foot while walking,[2] he was nicknamed "Deputy Dog" early in his career.[3] In the spring of 1975, he was living in a small artists' community just outside Whitesburg, Georgia, when he met Sybil Rosen.[3] Rosen and Foley were in a relationship and decided to leave the artist community together to support his music, he went on the road and performed in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and, finally, Austin, Texas.[3] Together, they ended up in Austin. Foley tried to get into songwriting, but after the move he experienced a lot of career pressure.[3] Foley started drinking more and the bar scene complicated his relationship with Rosen, which eventually ended.[3]

Foley was close friends with Townes Van Zandt and was greatly influenced by him.[4] Foley's stage name was inspired by his admiration of musician Red Foley.[4] Foley placed duct tape on the tips of his cowboy boots to mock the "Urban Cowboy"-crazed folks with their silver-tipped cowboy boots, he later made a suit out of duct tape that he wore walking around.

Music and lyrics[edit]

The master tapes from his first studio album were confiscated by the DEA when the executive producer was caught in a drug bust.[5]:190 Another studio album disappeared when the master copies were stolen with his belongings from a station wagon that Foley had been given and lived in.[5]:180 A third studio album, Wanted More Dead Than Alive, was thought to have disappeared until, many years after Blaze died, a friend who was cleaning out his car discovered what sounded like the Bee Creek recording sessions on which he and other musicians had performed; this was Foley's last studio album, and he was scheduled to tour the UK with Townes Van Zandt in support of the album. When Foley died, his attorney immediately nullified the recording contract and the master tapes subsequently disappeared (reportedly lost in a flood).

Foley worked with, among others, Gurf Morlix, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Schwartz, Billy Block, and Calvin Russell.

Death and legacy[edit]

On February 1, 1989, Foley was at a house in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood of Austin, Texas[6] when he was shot in the chest and killed by Carey January, the son of Foley's friend Concho January. Blaze had confronted Carey January accusing him of stealing his father’s veteran pension and welfare checks.[7] Carey January was acquitted of first-degree murder by reason of self-defense, he and his father presented completely different versions of the shooting at trial.[8] Concho January, who has since died, liked to drink and proved an unreliable witness even though he tried to testify against his son.[7]

At his funeral, Foley's casket was coated with duct tape by his friends.[9] Townes Van Zandt told a story where he and his musicians went to Foley's grave to dig up his body because they wanted the pawn ticket that Foley had for Townes's guitar.[4]

Film and television[edit]

Foley's music is featured prominently in a feature-length documentary film about him entitled Blaze Foley: Duct Tape Messiah, released in 2011 by filmmaker Kevin Triplett.

Foley's song "Let Me Ride in Your Big Cadillac" featured prominently at the end of Episode 8 (July 2016) of the first season of the television show, Preacher.

"Cold, Cold Heart" is featured in Episode 4, Season 5 of The Mentalist. This is the episode where Rigsby's father, Steve, dies.

In January 2018, Blaze, a biographical drama directed by Ethan Hawke,[10] premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; the screenplay was adapted by Hawke from the novel Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze by Sybil Rosen. The film stars musician Ben Dickey as Foley, Alia Shawkat as Sybil Rosen, and Charlie Sexton as Townes Van Zandt.[11]


Townes Van Zandt wrote the song "Blaze's Blues" about his friend and recorded it a few times, notably on his two-disc album, Live at Union Chapel, London, England.

The song "Drunken Angel" by Lucinda Williams is a tribute to Foley, which appears on her 1998 album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.[12]

Gurf Morlix released a song on his 2009 album Last Exit to Happyland entitled "Music You Mighta Made" about his longtime friend, Foley. On February 1, 2011, Morlix released Blaze Foley's 113th Wet Dream, a 15-song collection of Foley's songs.

The song "Reverend" by Kings of Leon, which appears on their 2016 album Walls, is a tribute to Foley.

Foley's song "If I Could Only Fly" became a hit in Merle Haggard's 2000 album If I Could Fly. (Anti Inc) Foley's "Election Day" was covered by Lyle Lovett on his 2003 album My Baby Don't Tolerate and his song "Clay Pigeons" was covered by John Prine on his Grammy Award-winning 2005 album Fair and Square, as well as by Michael Cera on his 2014 digital album True That. Joe Nichols paid tribute to Foley by including "If I Could Only Fly" in his album Real Things released in 2007. Other important recordings of "If I Could Only Fly" include Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in their 1987 album Seashores of Old Mexico (Sony BMG Music), Nanci Griffith in her 2012 album Intersections (Hell No Records), and a Kimmie Rhodes version is included in the 1998 Blaze Foley tribute album, In Tribute and Loving Memory...Vol #1, which includes Foley's work by 15 artists (Deep State Production).

Three songs were posthumously co-written by Texas singer-songwriter and old-time music historian Jon Hogan, from lyrics found in Foley's handwriting after his death, at the request of the Foley estate, were released on the 2010 album Every Now and Then: Songs of Townes Van Zandt & Blaze Foley, they include "Every Now and Then", "Safe in the Arms of Love", and "Can't Always Cry". In 2017, Hogan and musical partner Maria Moss re-recorded "Can't Always Cry" for their album In Dreams I Go Back Home.


About Foley[edit]


Album name Year released Publisher Notes
If I Could Only Fly/Let Me Ride In Your Big Cadillac 1979 Zephyr Records 7" 45-only release; 1000
Blaze Foley 1984 Vital Records LP-only release; 7497-33
Girl Scout Cookies/Oval Room 1984 Vital Records 7" 45-only release; 7077
Live At the Austin Outhouse (...And Not There) 1989 Outhouse Records cassette-only release
Live At the Austin Outhouse 1999 Lost Art Records [6]
Oval Room 2004 Lost Art Records [6](Munic/Indigo)
Wanted More Dead Than Alive 2005 Waddell Hollow Records
Cold, Cold World 2006 Lost Art Records [6]
Sittin' by the Road 2010 Lost Art Records [6]
The Dawg Years 2010 Fat Possum Records
Duct Tape Messiah Documentary Soundtrack 2011 Lost Art Records
Blaze Foley (reissue) 2012 Big Pink (Big Pink re-issue of Vital Records LP)
Blaze Foley The Lost Muscle Shoals Recordings 2017 Lost Art Records featuring the Muscle Shoals Horns, Foley's first recorded album from a 1984 session recorded at Broadway Sound Studio.[6] This album was missing for many years due to the DEA drug bust of the executive producer.[6]


  • Carmen und Kai Nees: Blaze Foley - Ein Aussenseiter, der zur Legende wurde - Self-published in 2018; ISBN 978-3-00-058564-7 - Book in German.
  • Carmen und Kai Nees: Blaze Foley - From Misfit To Legend - Self-published in 2018; ISBN 978-3-00-060018-0.


  1. ^ a b Jasinski, Laurie E. (2012). Handbook of Texas Music. Texas A&M University Press. p. 566.
  2. ^ Cocoran, Michael. "Blaze Foley: Killing of a Songwriter". Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Freeman, Doug (October 31, 2008). "Faded Love". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Nichols, Lee (December 24, 1999). "A Walking Contradiction". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Rosen, Sybil (2008). Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze Foley. University of North Texas Press. pp. 180, 190.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Freeman, Doug (May 5, 2017). "Blaze Foley's Lost Muscle Shoals Recordings". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Dansby, Andrew (May 24, 2009). "Film takes a peek into Blaze Foley's peculiar life". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved August 31, 2018.
  8. ^ Delgato, Berta, "Self-defense claimed in singer's death", Austin American Statesman, September 28, 1989, p. B1.
  9. ^ Hardy, Robert Earl (2008). A Deeper Blue: The Life and Music of Townes Van Zandt. p. 208.
  10. ^ a b Ehrlich, David (January 28, 2018). "'Blaze' Review: Ethan Hawke Directs a Gonzo Indie Country-Western Opera About an Unsung Legend — Sundance 2018". IndieWire. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  11. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (January 22, 2018). "Film Review: 'BLAZE'". Variety. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
  12. ^ Buford, Bill (June 5, 2000). "Delta Nights - A singer's love affair with loss". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 23, 2017.
  13. ^ "Blaze Foley: The Outlaw Legend You May Not Know About But Should". Wide Open Country. December 19, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2018.

External links[edit]