RIP Joe Gracey, Austin Media Giant

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Another Austin music legend, Joe Gracey, passed away this morning of cancer complications. He was 61.

When Lonesome, Onry and Mean arrived in Austin in June, 1973 after having worked in radio in West Texas, Gracey immediately became our hero. A disc jockey at the notorious KOKE-FM, Gracey and cohort Rusty Bell were the voices of the progressive country movement, having invented a format that basically spun nothing but what we would today call alternative country. It was an amazing mishmash that included Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Murphy, Jimmy Buffett, Commander Cody, Kinky Friedman and a host of others who were making what would later be termed Redneck Rock.

Gracey, who had ties to all the Austin bands bubbling along in that red hot scene -- Freda and the Firedogs, Greezy Wheels, the Lost Gonzo band and a dozen others -- was the coolest cat on the airwaves. What he and Bell achieved at KOKE caused the staid, old-school country stations like KVET to up their game, yet this was just the tip of the iceberg of achievements of Joe Gracey in a life of activity and creation.

Gracey was also the rock critic at the Austin American-Stateman during the infancy of the Cosmic Cowboy and Outlaw period, and he frequently pointed readers towards guys like Willie Nelson, whom Gracey once described as the Bob Dylan of country music. Gracey also did advertising work and was the voice of the legendary Austin venue, the Armadillo World Headquarters.

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The Fort Worth native, who married folk singer/playwright Kimmie Rhodes, was instrumental in causing the birth of the Austin City Limits television series. Along with KOKE-FM, which Billboard magazine named its Radio Trendsetter of the Year in 1974, Austin City Limits became a lynchpin in making Austin "the live music capitol of the world." Gracey was the original talent coordinator for the series, and in that capacity exposed the world to Townes van Zandt, Clifton Chenier, Marcia Ball, and Asleep at the Wheel. He was also the driving force behind the reunion of Bob Wills and the Playboys.

Cancer struck Gracey in 1978 and he had his larynx removed, ending his career as a radio/tv personality and a singer. But Gracey bounced back from the operation and hooked up with Alvin Crow, handling radio and promotion for the budding Austin country act. Legendary Nashville producer Cowboy Jack Clement befriended Gracey and inspired him to open Electric Graceyland Studios, where he recorded Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Skunks and numerous other Austin acts. He was also a huge supporter of Austin roots music maverick Calvin Russell.

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Photo by Lluís Sala
He met Ms. Rhodes when she was brought to record at the studio and they married in 1979. The couple has one daughter, Jole Morgan Goodnight Gracey.

In his later years, Gracey continued to play bass in Kimmie's band and to record. One of his last projects is the Ray Price/Willie Nelson album recently released on Lost Highway, Run That By Me One More Time. There are a slew of other projects in the mill, including another Willie Nelson album. He appeared as a dancer in the world premier of Windblown, a Texas-based musical written by Rhodes and Joe Sears. He also became an avid blogger and wrote extensively about cooking and food as well as a diary of his cancer treatments and operations. He was a frequent contributor to Saveur magazine.

For the past several months, Gracey had been living off and on in the Hotel Zaza and taking treatment at M.D. Anderson. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Lonesome, Onry and Mean will forever remember Gracey's radio catch phrase: "Another day in paradise."

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19 comments
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karylsdawgs
karylsdawgs

"Drink lots of water, stay off your feet and come when you can." -Ol' Blue Eyes

dan huckabee
dan huckabee

Joe Gracey was born with that deep resonant voice.  I was fortunate enough to be in his sunday school class at University Christian Church in Ft Worth from age 3 till we graduated from the pastor's class and went thru the baptism in 7th grade.  At the time, Joe's hero was golfer Ben Hogan, but destiny took him in another direction.  Joe was a gentle soul.   

Twangzine
Twangzine

I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to call Gracey friend. For a man who couldn't speak, he could sure be one long winded son of a bitch. I remember closing my eyes and telling him I wasn't listening to his ass anymore. This world is suddenly a whole lot less beautiful knowing that Gracey is no longer in it. I love you fucker, I really love you.

Struan
Struan

I am delighted to recall a man so full of kindness and love that he overlooked the faults of others. Incredible sense of humour and sharp too, over and above his huge contribution to music, something we can all take with us and let his spirit fly like the eagle he surely was. Love and peace to the man with a plan who made it happen, and helped everyone along the way.

Unforgettable.

Love from Scotland and London.

Cheers Man!

Lang may your lum reek.

rosie flores
rosie flores

My heart goes out to Kimmie and Jole. Joe was an amazing person who did so much and inspired so many. A great loss and I feel fortunate that I ever spent anytime around him.

wms
wms

For those of you who are interested, here's a note from Joe Nick Patoski: There will a celebration of Joe Gracey's life on Sunday, December 4. Location will be announced soon

Lluís Sala
Lluís Sala

Glad to see you used my picture of him in Port de la Selva, Catalonia, Spain, taken in 2007 (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/l.... I know he used it for his blog and I am proud of that. He was a dear friend I will miss him a lot. He taught me so much about Texas music, food, wine....

Norton
Norton

Joe and I were friends from childhood in Fort Worth growing up around the corner from each other. As a 6th grader, I listened to the radio station Joe had set up in his attic-- must have had a broadcast radius of a whole block. In late spring 1969, a few days after graduating high school, Joe and I took a lazy 3 day canoe trip down the Brazos River, easy paddling, a little fishing, camping each night by the bank, talking half the night around a fire, smoking endless camel non-filters, beautiful scenery, buzzed a few times (real close) by helicopters-- Fort Wolters in Mineral Wells was nearby where pilots for Vietnam were trained. A great, well, the best, of memories, and times.

Nancy Ennen Schaefers
Nancy Ennen Schaefers

Joe's radio station in the neighborhood was KRUD - he and Sandy McConnell set it up in the McConnell's 2nd floor bedroom.  It was really neat knowing a "real" DJ back then.

Norton
Norton

Wow.  But, I have this memory of being at Joe's house on Lanark one afternoon after school and him taking me up to his attic and showing me his set-up, and I recall that night being the first time I ever tuned him in.  My memory could be faulty.  But I do not think I know or recall Sandy McConnell.  I wonder if I witnessed the predecessor of KRUD--

Nancy
Nancy

Norton - Sandy McConnell lived next door to us, but it could be that after Joe started it in his attic, that Sandy felt they could get better reception if they moved it to his house.  Sandy was 2 years ahead of us and graduated in '67, and I think Sandy's father was very electronically inclined and helped them.  Of course, I was not allowed in Joe's bedroom (2nd floor), so it could be that they both had the station going from both locations, but I do remember Johanna and I standing in my backyard trying to look up into the McConnell's upstairs.

Norton - hope you are doing well - can't remember, but were you in a carpool with me and Scott Deaver?  I have slept since my McLean/Paschal days!

Sarah Scott
Sarah Scott

RIP Joe Gracey... You will forever remain a legend in the Austin music scene. I'm proud to call you my cousin. 

Sweathog
Sweathog

Joe was everyone's muse.  No matter what kind of mood you were in, if you tuned in to KOKE, Joe took control.  He brought out the best in you just by listening to his voice, what he had to say and the music he chose for you to hear.  His show was regrettably a "one and only" program.  he played what ever he felt like playing whenever he felt like it.  And no matter what it was he played, you felt like hearing it.  It was a tremendous loss to us all when he lost his voice.  But his positive and loving spirit continued to provide us all with an enriching, enlightening and positve outlook on life.  What a brave, talented and wonderful MAN!!

Thank you Joe for all the pure joy and enlightenment you brought to me and so many.

You're my hero.I love you man.

The Old Sweathog** the nickname endowed on me by Joe Gracey Jr.

Michael Malone
Michael Malone

i'll never forget joe gracey. a great austin & fort worth legend. we met in ft worth in 76, 77...he gave me a KOKE t shirt i still have. just one of those one of a kind. what a party they are havin tonight up in paradise.

Nancy Ennen Schaefers
Nancy Ennen Schaefers

Texas has lost one of its greatest citizens today.  Having known Joe for almost 59 years, I have to say that his passing has found me crying like I've never cried before and sending all my thoughts and prayers to Kimmie and the rest of Joe's family.  God speed my friend.

wms
wms

Got this nice tidbit from an anonymous sender just now.

"My on air audition was a failure, but the pain was eased when Joe took me out to his car and lit a number. "

wms
wms

A nice rememberance from Bill Bentley that begs sharing.

"I remember Joe's great signoff at KOKE: Stay off your feet, drink lots of water and come when you can. I also remember what Big Boy Medlin told him when he lost his voice: Don't worry Joe, you can be a DJ on a station for deaf people.

Sahm-Nambulist
Sahm-Nambulist

OK, enough with the obituaries. Doyle Bramhall and Joe in the same week. Jeezus.

John
John

Kimmie , our thought go out to you and family , Joe give us some great nights in Bad Bobs Dublin Ireland , and at the Seamus Ennis centre , may he rest in peace .

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