John Spong

Senior Editor John Spong holds a B.A. and a J.D. from the University of Texas. In 1997, after working two years as a civil litigator, he joined Texas Monthly as a fact-checker, then moved into a staff writing position in 2002. He was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2010 for his story on Texas dance halls, “Step Right Up” and has twice won the Texas Institute of Letters’ O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism—for “The Good Book and the Bad Book,” about a censorship battle at a private school in Austin, and for “Holding Garmsir,” about a month he spent with a platoon of U.S. Marines fighting in Afghanistan. He is the author of A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove, and his stories have appeared in numerous collections, including Best Food Writing 2012 (Da Capo Press, 2012) and The Best American Sports Writing 2009 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). Inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2013, Spong also sits on the advisory council of the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University. He lives in Austin, his home since 1971, with his wife Julie Blakeslee and their son, Willie Mo.


The Hit List

A playlist of late-seventies and early-eighties country pop made popular by Urban Cowboy. 

Urban Cowboy Turns 35

It was part musical, part dance movie, and part love story, and in June 1980 it unleashed an unprecedented fervor for country music, Western wear, and, yes, mechanical bulls. More than three decades later, the film’s stars (including John Travolta, Debra Winger, Mickey Gilley, and Johnny Lee) and many Gilley’s regulars recall the movie that made America fall in love with Texas.

A Gringo Anniversary

How my wife and I got more than we bargained for on a trip to Boquillas.

The Greatest Lawyer Who Ever Lived

He’s the brashest, most generous, most foul-mouthed trial attorney in the country. And at 89, Joe Jamail can still command a courtroom, mother%*!$#@.

Bottle Rocket

Lone Star was just a brew for dads and cowboys, until Jerry Retzloff helped turn it into the coolest beer in the country.

James H. Evans’s Ranch Project

The photographer from Big Bend known for stunning landscapes gets out of his comfort zone. Here, a first look at several images from his latest collection.

Billy Joe Shaver Is Still Alive

The outlaw singer-songwriter returns.

Phil Collins Donates His Expansive Alamo Memorabilia Collection to the General Land Office

It might yet be the craziest thing he’s done for the Texas landmark.

Six Never-Before-Seen Photos of George Strait

During a 1984 tour through Texas.

All George Strait's No. 1's

Listen to all of King George’s greatest hits.

The Last Ride of King George

After a career that’s spanned more than thirty years, George Strait is wrapping up his 48-stop farewell tour this month. For those of us whose lives he has captured so inimitably in song, country music will never be the same.

This Man Has Written More Than Fifty of George Strait’s Songs

“Unwound,” “The Chair,” and “Easy Come, Easy Go” have all sprung from the powerful pen of Dean Dillon.

Phantom of the Opry House

Sixteen photographs of some of the cooler moments of Austin history, as taken by Scott Newton, the longtime official photographer of “Austin City Limits.”

On Tour With the Sex Pistols

In 1978 Punk magazine sent photographer Roberta Bayley to Texas to chronicle the band’s tour through the South. Her photos of the two Texas shows capture the surreal collision of two radically different cultures.

He Ain't Going Nowhere

How did Guy Clark become the most revered songwriter in Nashville? One hard-won tune at a time.