Jon Dee Graham was raised on a Texas ranch down near the Mexican border and moved to Austin to attend school. By 1979 he was playing guitar for seminal punk band The Skunks, with the legendary Jesse Sublett, and by 1984, after a stint with Lou Ann Barton and some crack new wave units, he had joined Alejandro Escovedo and Javier Escovedo in the True Believers, revered early practitioners of what would come be known as cowpunk.
Graham looked a bit like a misplaced surfer and played guitar like a country punk or a punched-up bluesman. He started writing songs with the Believers, and began a journey that would someday make him a pillar of the Austin scene, enriching the city as an artist and as a citizen.
Jon Dee has released ten albums of mostly original music to date, all critically acclaimed. His most recent LP, Do Not Forget, a compilation of earlier work, came out in 2014. He has collaborated with the likes of John Doe, James McMurtry, Eliza Gilkyson, Kelly Willis, Patty Griffin, Calvin Russell, John Hiatt, Michelle Shocked, Charlie Sexton, and many more. He joined the Austin Music Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 2000 and was named Austin Musician of the Year at SXSW in 2006.
Graham’s work has plenty of worn and beautiful angst, anchored by powerful guitar that is at once searing and soaring. If you poke around a little bit, though, his real message is profound hope and dogged perseverance.
For years Jon Dee was a member of The Resentments. Currently, he can be caught regularly on Sunday at the El Mercado with the Purgatory Players and at The Continental Club on Wednesday nights.
Three things to know about Jon Dee Graham: (1) he dropped out of the University of Texas Law School to join The Skunks, (2) he recently released a book of his engaging Bear Art, and (3) a feature-length documentary on the man and his music, Jon Dee Graham: Swept Away, was released in 2008.