In July 1973, Van Zandt performed a string of shows over five sweltering nights at the Old Quarter bar owned by Rex ("Wrecks") Bell and Dale Soffar that were recorded on a portable four-track by Earl Willis, the album's producer and engineer. They would eventually be released four years later by Van Zandt's previous producer and manager Kevin Eggers on his new Tomato Records label. The liner notes describe the recording as the "Rosetta Stone" of Texas music. One can hear Van Zandt's influences in covers by artists like Bo Diddley, Texas bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins, and country picker Merle Travis. Van Zandt's most famous works can also be heard, such as "If I Needed You" and "Pancho and Lefty" played to an audience not already familiar with these songs. The singer's laconic banter and corny jokes are also on full display. The album is also noted for the intimacy of the performance, with Van Zandt taking the stage alone and accompanying himself on guitar as he did thousands of times during his career. In the 2007 biography To Live's To Fly: The Ballad of the Late, Great Townes Van Zandt, John Kruth writes that Van Zandt played "to nearly a hundred folks per set, packed shoulder to shoulder within the bar's bare brick walls. The room was so jammed that it was impossible for a waitress to wend her way through the crowd to take drink orders. People had to pass money hand over fist and wait, in hopes that a mug of cold beer would eventually find its way back to them." Van Zandt is introduced by Dale Soffar and, after apologizing for the busted air conditioning, performs a gentle reading of "Pancho and Lefty", describing how he wrote the song while traveling near Dallas with Daniel Antopolsky. At the end of the song, the singer remarks, "I've never heard it so quiet in here." The photograph on the album cover was shot by Steve Salmieri.