Of all the songs Townes Van Zandt wrote, “Pancho and Lefty” was perhaps the most well known. I found a rare video of Van Zandt performing that song as a guest on Austin City Limits in 1983 during a songwriters circle. I thought you might like to hear it.

Over the years, several artists have covered the tune, most notably Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, who took their version to No. 1 in 1983.

A master songwriter, Van Zandt was able to tap into a sort of mystical place for inspiration with his writing. “Pancho & Lefty” is one of the mysterious songs in his catalog.

Van Zandt said...'It’s hard to take credit for the writing because it came from out of the blue. It was like it came through me.'

Van Zandt had a bizarre encounter involving the song years after it was recorded. While driving through Texas, he was pulled over by two police officers. Here’s the story in his own words:

“They said ‘What do you do for a living?’, and I said, ‘Well, I’m a songwriter’, and they both kind of looked around like ‘pitiful, pitiful’, and so on to that I added, ‘I wrote that song ‘Pancho and Lefty.’ You ever heard that song Pancho and Lefty? I wrote that’, and they looked back around and they looked at each other and started grinning, and it turns out that their squad car, you know their partnership, it was two guys, it was an Anglo and a Hispanic, and it turns out, they’re called Pancho and Lefty… so I think maybe that’s what it’s about, those two guys… I hope I never see them again.”

Lets go back to 1983 when Townes Van Zandt performed 'Pancho and Lefty' on Austin City Limits. Check it out in the above video!