Jon Dee Graham
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Jon Dee Graham is a rocker with a poet’s heart.
His lyrics have been called hilariously cynical, and a mix of honey and darkness. He’s said to celebrate both the tender mysteries of love and the feral grace of a loud electric guitar solo, often simultaneously, and is known to deliver blistering jams and delicate ballads, all in the same set.
Jon Dee holds the distinction of being the only musician to be inducted into the Austin Music Hall of Fame three times — as a solo artist in 2000, as a member of The Skunks in 2008 and in 2009 as a member of True Believers. In 2006, he was also named “Austin Musician of the Year” by the Austin Chronicle.
In addition to his solo albums, Jon Dee has also contributed to over 60 others, and he’s played with everyone from John Doe, Patty Griffin, Alejandro Escovedo, and James McMurtry, to Michelle Shocked, John Hiatt, Eliza Gilkyson, Kelly Willis, Calvin Russell, The Gourds, Toni Price, The Resentments, and Lone Justice.
Jon Dee’s first book of poetry has also just been released, entitled, DON’T TRY (Mezcalita Press, September, 2016) with former Oklahoma Poet Laureate, Nathan Brown. The title of each poem is a line or phrase from the work of poet Charles Bukowski. Selected poems from DON’T TRY have appeared in Switchgrass Review, Conclave and Red Truck Review.
Jon Dee was raised on a ranch in Quemado near Eagle Pass, on the Texas-Mexican border. He grew up listening to country, rock and conjunto music, and began playing guitar when he was 12 years old. He briefly attended the University of Texas, before dropping out to play guitar full-time with The Skunks, one of the first punk bands in Texas, alongside Austin’s own Jesse Sublett. The Skunks toured nationally and are remembered for their gigs at Raoul’s and the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin.
After a year with Texas blues queen Lou Ann Barton, Jon Dee joined the notorious 80’s band, True Believers, with brothers Javier & Alejandro Escovedo. The band toured constantly, earning national recognition for their post-punk sound and fusion of literary songwriting and punk rock. True Believers recorded two albums before disbanding in 1987.
Next, Jon Dee moved to Los Angeles to write, record and tour with John Doe, the founder of the band, X. He spent the next 7 years in L.A., where he collaborated with many well-known musicians, including Exene Cervenka of X, Ryan Hedgecock of Lone Justice, Dan Stuart of Green on Red, Simon Bonney and Michelle Shocked. In 1994, Patty Smyth recorded Jon Dee’s song “One Moment” for her gold album, Patty Smyth. In 1995, Jon Dee co-wrote and played lead guitar on Calvin Russell’s recording, Dream of the Dog, and spent the next year touring with Russell in Europe and the US. Jon Dee returned to Austin in 1996 to work with singer Kelly Willis and to pursue a solo career. What a ride.
In 2008, a feature-length documentary on Jon Dee and his music was released, entitled, Jon Dee Graham: Swept Away, produced by national documentary film maker, Mark Finkelpearl. The DVD features Jon Dee’s live performances, notably a sizzler recorded at his favorite nightspot in Austin, the Continental Club, where he continues to play each Wednesday night. Additional concert footage was captured in several other Austin locations, including the Saxon Pub.
Jon Dee has also released the book, Love Notes Bear, a compilation of drawings, paintings and “love notes” written to his wife Gretchen Harries, a communications professor at Austin Community College. He and Gretchen are parents to musician and singer/songwriter William Harries Graham, leader of William Harries Graham & The Painted Redstarts.