Tav Falco

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Tav Falco
Tav Falco in Rome, 2018
Tav Falco in Rome, 2018
Background information
BornPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania, US
  • Musician
  • performance artist
  • filmmaker
  • actor
  • author
  • photographer
  • dancer
Years active1973–present
WebsiteTav Falco Official Website

Gustavo Antonio "Tav" Falco is an American-born musician, performance artist, filmmaker, actor, author, photographer, and dancer. Falco has fronted the rock band Tav Falco's Panther Burns since 1979, and founded a parallel solo career that incorporates other styles such as cabaret, tango, and vocal jazz. He has directed one feature film and numerous short films, and has played minor acting roles in motion pictures filmed in both North America and Europe. He is the author of two books, one a psychography of the city of Memphis, and the other a collection of his photography.


Falco was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania[1] to a family of Italian descent[2] but grew up in rural southwest Arkansas[3] between Whelen Springs and Gurdon.[4] After studying theater and film at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Falco moved to Memphis in 1973.[3] In the mid-1970s, he started the nonprofit Televista "art-action" video group with fellow Arkansas poet/performance artist/videographer Randall Lyon to create art and to document local musicians and artists.[4][5] While with Televista, Falco worked with and trained in photography and filmmaking under Memphis color photographer William Eggleston.[4][5]

In 1978, Alex Chilton teamed up with Falco after being impressed by Falco's performance of the song "Bourgeois Blues"[6] at The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, which culminated in the chainsawing of an electric guitar.[3][7][8] The two founded the self-styled "art damage" rock and roll band Tav Falco's Panther Burns in 1979.[9][10] The group was named after lore surrounding a plantation in Mississippi.[11] The Panther Burns' debut album, Behind The Magnolia Curtain, was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis and released by Rough Trade Records.[8][12] A December 3, 1980, session recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service was released in 1992 on Marilyn Records as The Unreleased Sessions.[13] Falco moved to New York in 1981, and released his official follow-up album, Blow Your Top, on Chris Stein's Animal Records imprint, which was distributed by Chrysalis Records.[14]

Tav Falco's Panther Burns celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2019 with a tour dubbed the "40th Anniversary Howl", with its prime show taking place May 21 of that year in Memphis at Lafayette's Music Room.[15]

Falco devoted portions of his musical career to highlighting traditional regional artists from Memphis and Mississippi who had not gained media attention. He filmed a black & white short film of blues artist R.L. Burnside performing at Brotherhood Sportsmen's Lodge in Como, Mississippi, on September 28, 1974.[16] After assembling The Panther Burns, Falco performed and collaborated with legacy rockabilly and blues performers such as Charlie Feathers, James Luther Dickinson,[17] and Cordell Jackson.[18] His photography was used for the Charlie Feathers album Honky Tonk Man (New Rose Records, 1988).[19]

Falco would also promote and work with lesser-known regional contemporaries.[20] His record imprint, Frenzi Records, released a 1986 compilation of area artists entitled Swamp Surfing in Memphis,[21] as well as a 1988 studio EP by female-led group The Hellcats.[20] These records received respective international distribution from Au Go Go Records (Australia)[7] and New Rose Records (France).[20]

In 2014, Falco compiled a double album of some of his favorite tracks from his music collection, Tav Falco's Wild & Exotic World of Musical Obscurities, which was released on Stag-O-Lee Records. The album set included a cover song by The Panther Burns and liner notes by Falco.[22][23]

In the 1990s, Falco relocated from the United States to Paris, and then to Vienna, where he lived for nearly two decades. In January 2022, he located to Bangkok, where he currently resides.[14] Often Falco has claimed his main artistic purpose is "to stir up the dark waters of the unconscious."[24]

In a 2019 interview, Falco described himself as a "Utopian anarchist".[9]

Work in films[edit]

As filmmaker[edit]

Starting in the 1970s, Falco created a number of short films on varying topics focusing on "underground" art-actions and cultural assets around the mid-American South.[4][25] The Cinémathèque Française in Paris accepted and archived six[9] of Falco's short films into its permanent collection.[25] Among the titles archived are Masque of Hôtel Orient,[9] Born Too Late, Helene of Memphis, Memphis Beat, Shadetree Mechanic, and 71 Salvage.[22] A selection of Falco's short films were shown in a retrospective at the Cinémathèque Française in 2006, with Falco himself in attendance.[9]

Tav Falco with Tav Falco's Panther Burns member Giuseppe Sangirardi performing in Kuudes linja, Helsinki, Finland, 2019

Urania Descending, the first feature film directed by Falco, was completed in 2014[24] and released in 2016 by Lamplighter Films.[26] The film consists of portions of what is intended to be a be a film trilogy.[24] As of October 2021, Falco is editing the full Urania trilogy.[11]

In addition to the Cinémathèque Française, Falco's film work has been screened at The Horse Hospital, London;[27][28] the David Lynch-designed Silencio Cinema, Paris;[29][30] Anthology Film Archives, New York; Roxie Theater, San Francisco; Oxford Film Festival, Mississippi; Austria Film Archiv Metrokino, Vienna; and by the American Cinematheque in the Steven Spielberg Cinema at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.[9]

As actor[edit]

Falco appeared as an actor with minor roles in the feature films Great Balls of Fire!,[8] A nagy postarablás (The Great Post Office Robbery),[31] Highway 61,[8] Downtown 81,[32] and Wayne County Rambling.[33]

Downtown 81 was shot in New York in 1981 and was directed by Edo Bertoglio.[32] The film starred artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and featured Debbie Harry, James Chance, Arto Lindsay, and August Darnell in supporting roles. Falco was featured in a cameo role shot on Super 16mm film, where he created and then recited improvised dialogue with Basquiat. Basquiat hated the dialogue so much he walked off the set.[14] Initially abandoned, the film was released by Metrograph Pictures in 2000.[32]

After taking an interest in tango dancing in the 1990s and devoting time to studying the dance in Buenos Aires,[22] Falco appeared as a tanguero in the 2003 film Dans Le Rouge du Couchant.[4]

As author[edit]

Falco has collaborated with Erik Morse, an American underground author, music writer and journalist, on a two-volume book series about the city of Memphis entitled Mondo Memphis.[34] Falco's book, Ghosts Behind The Sun: Splendor, Enigma, and Death/Mondo Memphis: Volume 1, is a 450-page encyclopedic history and psychography of Memphis,[9] beginning well before the Civil War and moving forward to more recent autobiographical accounts set in that city.[35] Morse's Bluff City Underground/Mondo Memphis: Volume 2 roman noir follows a West Coast graduate student and his encounters with a Memphis secret society.[34]

In 2015, Falco's book of photography, a collection of black & white images of the American South entitled Iconography of Chance: 99 Photographs of the Evanescent South, was published by Elsinore Press and distributed by University of Chicago Press.[36]

As solo musician[edit]

After moving to Vienna, Falco took an interest in tango, cabaret, and similar continental musical styles.[37] The 1995 Tav Falco & The Panther Burns album Shadow Dancer introduced these influences to his music.[38] In 1996, he released two 10" LP releases, Disappearing Angels and 2 Sides of Tav Falco, under the "Tav Falco" name.[39][40]

Tav Falco in Bangkok, Thailand, July 2022.

In 2016, Falco released the holiday-themed album A Tav Falco Christmas on the Los Angeles-based record label ORG Music.[41] Recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Service, the album featured Mike Watt on bass,[42] and was produced by guitarist Mario Monterosso.[43] The Los Angeles Times called it "gloriously demented enough to act as a tonic for anyone who can't bear the thought of another dose of sugary sentimentality."[44] A track from the album, "Santa Claus is Back in Town," was included on the 2021 digital compilation album XO for the Holidays, Vol. X.[45][46]

Also in 2016, while on a European tour, Falco recorded the single "The Drone Ranger" b/w "Tram?" with producer Sterling Roswell. The single was released in February 2017 on the Blang! label.[47]

In a 2018 interview with Adam J. Harmer of the British indie rock group Fat White Family, Falco stated, "I'm getting away from the rock and roll world to get a little peace of mind."[48] In April of that year, Falco recorded the sessions that would become the album Cabaret of Daggers at Terminal 2 Studio in Rome, with Mario Monterosso producing once again.[49] Two of the album's songs, including the anthemic "Red Vienna,"[9] are Falco originals. The remainder includes selections from the Great American Songbook such as "Strange Fruit" and "Born to Be Blue," and veers far enough away from The Panther Burns' signature sound that Falco opted to present it as a solo album, despite Panther Burns members being featured prominently on the album.[49][50] Cabaret of Daggers was released by ORG Music on limited edition yellow vinyl on Record Store Day on November 23, and on black vinyl and digital formats on November 30.[51] Mojo magazine stated that the album "conjures up a potent mix of blues, jazz and tango rhythms in which 1920s Vienna café culture seamlessly rubs shoulders with Beale Street juke joints," and rated the album four stars out of five.[52]

Falco and producer Monterosso performed with British television and radio personality Jools Holland on BBC Radio 2's The Jools Holland Show on December 15, 2019.[53][54]

In 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Falco began a musical collaboration with Mike Watt at the latter's suggestion. The project developed into a five-song EP entitled Club Car Zodiac, which featured Watt as well as other performers such as The Stooges percussionist Larry Mullins (aka Toby Dammit) and Argentine surf guitarist Didi Wray. The album was produced by Mario Monterosso.[11] Club Car Zodiac was released as a purple vinyl 12" 45 RPM EP on Record Store Day Black Friday, November 26, 2021.[55]



Title Film type Role Year Country
71 Salvage Short Actor 1971 USA
Shadetree Mechanic Short Actor 1986 USA
Memphis Beat Short Director 1989 USA
Great Balls of Fire! Feature Actor 1989 USA
Highway 61 Feature Actor 1991 Canada
Helene of Memphis Short Director 1991 USA
A nagy postarablás (The Great Post Office Robbery) Feature Actor 1992 Hungary
Born Too Late Short Actor 1993 USA
Downtown 81 Feature Actor 2001 USA
Wayne County Rambling Feature Actor 2002 USA
Dans Le Rouge du Couchant Feature Actor 2003 France/Spain
Urania Descending Feature Director 2017 Austria


Title Year Publisher Notes
Ghosts Behind The Sun: Splendor, Enigma, and Death/Mondo Memphis: Volume 1 2011 Creation Books Part of a two-part book collaboration with Erik Morse
Iconography of Chance: 99 Photographs of the Evanescent South 2015 Elsinore Press
(Dist. by University of Chicago Press)
Photography book

Solo discography[edit]

Title Type Year Label
Disappearing Angels 10" LP 1996 Frenzi / Sympathy for the Record Industry (USA)
2 Sides of Tav Falco (live) 10" LP 1996 Frenzi / Helter Skelter Records (Italy)
A Tav Falco Christmas 12" Mini LP 2016 Frenzi / ORG Music (USA)
Cabaret of Daggers LP 2018 Frenzi / ORG Music
Club Car Zodiac 12" EP 2021 Frenzi / ORG Music
"Torture" b/w "Garda Che Luna" 7" single 1991 New Rose Records (France)
"Ghostwriter" (Tav Falco) b/w
"Into the Garden" (JE & III)
Split 7" Single 1992 Buback Tonträger GmbH (Germany)
"The Drone Danger" b/w "Tram?" 7" single 2017 Blang! (UK)
Compilations curated by Falco
Swamp Surfing in Memphis Full Length 1986 Frenzi / Au Go Go (Australia)
Tav Falco's Wild & Exotic World Of Musical Obscurities Double Album 2014 Stag-O-Lee (Germany)
Other compilation appearances
XO for the Holidays, Vol. X Digital compilation 2021 XO Publicity


  1. ^ Armstrong, Gene (February 11, 1988). "Tav Falco and his Panther Burns bringing 'wreckabilly' to Tucson". Arizona Daily Star. 147 (42). Tucson, AZ: Lee Enterprises: Sect. D, pg. 5. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  2. ^ Needs, Kris (October 6, 2012). "Talking With a Panther" (Online). Record Collector (407). Brentford, UK: Diamond Publishing Ltd. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c DeVault, Russ (October 2, 1987). "Panther Burns' music soothes savage party animals". The Atlanta Constitution. Atlanta, GA: Cox Enterprises: Sect. P, pg. 9. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e Burdine, Darby (August 26, 2016). "Tav Falco (1945–)". Encyclopedia of Arkansas (Online ed.). Little Rock, AR: Central Arkansas Library System. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
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  7. ^ a b Smarrelli, Mara (January 16, 1987). "Panthers cook with swamp gas". The Age. Melbourne, Victoria, Australia: Nine Publishing Co.: Sect. EG, p. 2. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
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  13. ^ Tav Falco's Panther Burns: The Unreleased Sessions (Compact Disc). Paris: Marilyn Records (France). 1992. Back Cover. FM 1011 CD. Retrieved May 2, 2021.
  14. ^ a b c Haecker, Randy (August 19, 2022). "Downtown 81: Tav Falco Recounts East Village Adventures". Rock & Roll Globe. Sea of Reeds Media. Retrieved August 26, 2022.
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  16. ^ Gage, Justin (February 23, 2021). "R.L. Burnside: Brotherhood Sportsmen's Lodge, Como, Mississippi, September 28, 1974". Aquariam Drunkard. Los Angeles, CA. Retrieved July 25, 2021.
  17. ^ Pleuger, Richard A. (April 20, 2010). "INSIDE THE INVISIBLE EMPIRE: My Travels With Rock 'N' Roll Legend Tav Falco And His Unapproachable Panther Burns" (Blog). Arthur Magazine. Jay Babcock / Jason Leivian. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  18. ^ Lanham, Tom (May 8, 2019). "Tav Falco pursues art, culture, and rock in Vienna". San Francisco Examiner. CLIII (142). San Francisco: San Francisco Media Co.: Sect. A, pg. 16. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  19. ^ Charlie Feathers: Honky Tonk Man (12" LP). Paris: New Rose Records. 1988. Back Cover. ROSE 144. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  20. ^ a b c Tav Falco interview (1988). Art Fein's Poker Party #142 (video). Hollywood, CA: Art Fein. Event occurs at 19:35–21:45. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  21. ^ Various Artists: Swamp Surfing in Memphis (12" LP). Memphis/Melbourne: Frenzi Records / Au Go Go Records. 1986. Back Cover. FZ6000 / ANDA47. Retrieved May 3, 2021.
  22. ^ a b c Needs, Kris (November 17, 2014). "Vienna and Voodoo: Tav Falco Interviewed" (Online). The Quietus. John Doran. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  23. ^ "Tav Falco's Wild & Exotic World of Musical Obscurities". TheWire.co.uk. The Wire. November 2014. p. 83. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  24. ^ a b c Thompson, Elise (June 1, 2017). "The American Cinematheque Presents Tav Falco's First Feature Film, 'Urania Descending' June 2nd and 3rd" (Online). The Los Angeles Beat. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  25. ^ a b Corbett-Batson, Sarah (September 26, 2014). "Tav Falco : interview with legend about his new film and album". Louder Than War. John Robb. Retrieved July 31, 2021.
  26. ^ "Urania Descending". American Cinematheque Calendar. Los Angeles, CA: American Cinematheque. Retrieved October 29, 2021.
  27. ^ "London Listings: Film". The Guide. The Guardian. London: Guardian Newspapers Ltd. October 25, 2003. p. 6. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  28. ^ Lake, Kirk (September 2014). "Tav Falco London Film Premiere: Urania Descending Lands at the Horse Hospital". Outsideleft.com. London. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  29. ^ Leveritt, Alan, ed. (December 17, 2015). "A&E News". Arkansas Times. 42 (15). Arkansas Times Limited Partnership: 33. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  30. ^ Etherington, Rose (September 7, 2011). "Silencio by David Lynch" (Online). Dezeen. London: Dezeen Ltd. Retrieved October 24, 2021.
  31. ^ "A nagy postarablás (1992)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  32. ^ a b c Rowin, Michael Joshua (October 20, 2019). "Review: Downtown 81 Celebrates a Bygone New York's Creative Energy". Slant Magazine. Retrieved February 22, 2021.
  33. ^ Jönsson, Peter (December 12, 2018). "Wayne County Ramblin'". PopDiggers.com. Malmö, Sweden: PopDiggers. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  34. ^ a b "The MONDO Memphis Book Tour". Powerhouse Arena Events Newsletter. Brooklyn, NY: Powerhouse Arena. Retrieved September 23, 2021.
  35. ^ Hart, Gabe (November 10, 2011). "Tav Falco: Sexual, Abandoned, Political". LARecord.com. Long Beach, CA: L.A. Record. Retrieved September 6, 2021.
  36. ^ Mehr, Bob (October 8, 2015). "Mid-South ex-pat Tav Falco returns to scene of 1970s provocations with Lafayette's show". The Commercial Appeal. Memphis, TN. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  37. ^ "Scoring the Clubs: Friday, June 7: Tav Falco's Panther Burns, Deepwater Pink at Jacks Sugar Shack". LA Weekly. 18 (28). Los Angeles: Semanal Media LLC: 107. June 7, 1996. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  38. ^ Gettelman, Perry (August 11, 1995). "Tav Falco's Panther Burns, "Shadow Dancer" (Upstart/Rounder) (review)". Calendar. Orlando Sentinel. 119 (223). Orlando FL: Tribune Publishing: 9. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  39. ^ Tav Falco: Disappearing Angels (LP). Olympia, WA: Sympathy For the Record Industry (USA). 1996. Front Cover. SFTRI 460. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  40. ^ Tav Falco: 2 Sides of Tav Falco (LP). Rome: Helter Skelter Records (Italy). 1996. Front Cover. BAMF 49. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  41. ^ Falco, Tav (November 24, 2017). A Tav Falco Christmas (CD). Los Angeles: ORG Music. Back cover. ORGM-1059. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  42. ^ Widner, Ellis (December 10, 2017). "Q & A: Tav Falco" (Online). Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Little Rock, AR: WEHCO Media, Inc. Retrieved October 23, 2021.
  43. ^ Jönsson, Peter (January 1, 2020). "Interview with Tav Falco – an undercurrent artist with a mission". PopDiggers.com. Malmö, Sweden: PopDiggers. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  44. ^ Lewis, Randy (November 26, 2017). "Albums for Making Merry". Calendar. Los Angeles Times. CXXXVI (358). Los Angeles: F3. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  45. ^ "XO FOR THE HOLIDAYS VOL X". XO Publicity. Detroit. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  46. ^ Maps, Paul (November 18, 2021). "Album Premiere: Hear "XO for the Holidays Vol. X" First Here" (Online). Joyzine. London: Paul Maps. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  47. ^ "Review: TAV FALCO: 'Drone Ranger/Tram?'". Whisperinandhollerin.com. Cork, Ireland: Tim Peacock. Retrieved September 26, 2021.
  48. ^ Tav Falco, Adam J. Harmer. Fat White Family meet Tav Falco – The Blues Kitchen Presents... [Interview] (video). London: Blues Kitchen TV. Event occurs at 1:07–1:11. Retrieved September 27, 2021.
  49. ^ a b Barnard, Jason. "Tav Falco (interview)". The Strange Brew. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  50. ^ Marty Duda, Tav Falco (January 29, 2019). Tav Falco Found! The Elusive Panther Burns Frontman Talks To The 13th Floor (audio) (podcast). The13thfloor.co.nz. Event occurs at 14:55–16:45. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  51. ^ Scrudato, Ken (November 14, 2018). "BLACKBOOK INTERVIEW + PREMIERE: Tav Falco Covers Grace Jones' 'Libertango', Broods Intensely About America" (Online). BlackBook. Evanly Schindler. Retrieved October 3, 2021.
  52. ^ Décharné, Max (May 2019). "Tav Falco: Cabaret of Daggers (review)". Mojo (306). London: Bauer Media Group: 95.
  53. ^ "Interview with Tav Falco (B.A. '72)". English Department Blog. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas. May 24, 2020. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  54. ^ "Jools Holland: Tracey Ullman and Tav Falco guest". BBC Radio 2. London: British Broadcasting Corporation. December 2019. Retrieved December 28, 2021.
  55. ^ "RSD BLACK FRIDAY – TAV FALCO: CLUB CAR ZODIAC". Orgmusic.com. Los Angeles, CA: ORG Music. September 14, 2021. Retrieved October 3, 2021.


External links[edit]