John Spong's Profile Photo

John Spong is a Texas Monthly senior editor who writes primarily about popular culture, and he hosts the magazine’s popular music-history podcast One By Willie. He has been nominated for three National Magazine Awards, most recently in 2021 as co-editor and lead writer on two large Willie Nelson projects: Willie, Now More than Ever, a special issue that was a finalist for best single-topic issue; and “All 144 Willie Albums, Ranked,” which was nominated for best digital storytelling. He has also twice won the Texas Institute of Letters’ O. Henry Award for Magazine Journalism—for “Holding Garmsir” (January 2009), about a month he spent with a U.S. Marine platoon fighting in Afghanistan, and for “The Good Book and the Bad Book” (September 2006), about a censorship battle at an elite private school in Austin. He is the author of A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove, and his stories have been collected in The Best Food Writing and The Best American Sports Writing, among others. He lives in Austin with his wife, Julie Blakeslee, and their two boys, Willie Mo and Leon.

The Culture |
June 19, 2013

A Homecoming at Fort Bliss

Soldiers and their families wait desperately—and courageously—for the moment when they will be reunited. And when, for the lucky ones, it finally comes, it does not disappoint.

Behind the Lines |
June 10, 2013

The Long Return

After more than a decade of combat, Texas soldiers are finally coming back for good. But the real journey home still lies ahead.

Music |
March 11, 2013

Chicks in the Wilderness

Ten years after their remarkable fall from grace, no one is quite sure why the onetime Nashville darlings tumbled so far—and never got back up.

The Culture |
January 23, 2013

All Grown Up

Austin is booming with jobs, condos, festivals, traffic, hipsters, joggers, and high-concept dive bars (anyone for Lone Star and seared foie gras?). Does that mean it’s no longer Austin?

How to Raise a Texan |
January 21, 2013

Confessions of a Seventh-Grade Texas History Teacher

Bobby Jackson has taught students in the Aransas County school district about the Plains Indians, the Battle of San Jacinto, and Spindletop since the state celebrated its sesquicentennial. How he does it bears no resemblance to the class I took when I was stuck in middle school.

Feature |
January 21, 2013

Ted or Alive

In the late seventies, Ted Nugent (a.k.a. “the Nuge” or “Uncle Ted”) had the country’s biggest hard-rock touring act—a wild-ass blend of in-your-face energy, obscene language, and a well-placed loincloth. Now he’s the country’s biggest gun rights advocate—and all that’s changed is the loincloth.

Music |
January 21, 2013

That ’70s Show

Forty years ago, Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff, and a whole host of Texas misfits grew their hair long, snubbed Nashville, and brought the hippies and rednecks together. The birth of outlaw country changed country music forever.

Art |
January 21, 2013

Sketchy Characters

Before cameras were allowed in courtrooms, artist Gary Myrick and his assortment of colored pencils provided Texas television audiences with a vivid look at the state’s high-profile legal proceedings against figures like T. Cullen Davis, Henry Lee Lucas, and Charles Harrelson.

The Culture |
January 21, 2013

Come and Take a Look at Me Now

Against all odds, Phil Collins has turned himself into a world-class Alamo buff who will happily talk your ear off about Santa Anna and Davy Crockett. Can you feel it coming in the Bexar tonight?

Film & TV |
January 21, 2013

The Spirit of ’76

How Matthew McConaughey got discovered, why Renée Zellweger’s part is so small, why some of the actresses can’t eat ketchup to this day, and everything else you didn’t know about the making of the classic high school flick Dazed and Confused.

Food & Drink |
January 21, 2013

How Not to Cook Like a Texan

I’m still shocked by the number of people who suggested I didn’t know what I was doing. The first such skeptic just happened to be the Texanist, my housemate that winter of 1995, who was then known to the greater world simply as Dave. When I informed him of my

Music |
January 20, 2013

Pitch Perfect

What’s the secret to writing a great country song? Which comes first, music or lyrics? Looking to answer these and other questions, we gathered a group of singer-songwriters—Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Sonny Throckmorton, Patty Griffin, and Jack Ingram—set out a couple guitars, and let the tape roll.

Feature |
January 20, 2013

The Good Book and the Bad Book

When parents at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, in Austin—where the Capital City’s moneyed elite have educated their kids for more than fifty years—rebelled against the teaching of Brokeback Mountain, it was, you might say, a learning experience for everyone involved.

Letter From Houston |
January 20, 2013

Schoolhouse Rocked

How an angry parent’s e-mail turned an elite Houston private school into a political battleground.

Feature |
January 20, 2013

Light in the Darkness

The title of James Evans’s new series of Big Bend photographs is “The Camera Never Sleeps.” It doesn’t matter, apparently, that the photographer does.

Feature |
January 20, 2013

Big State, Small Screen

Is Friday Night Lights the best TV show ever made about Texas? Or just the first one (sorry, J.R.! Sorry, Hank!) that’s tried so hard to get the details right?

Books |
January 20, 2013

True West

Twenty-five years ago, Larry McMurtry published a novel called Lonesome Dove—and Texas hasn’t looked the same since. Listen in as more than thirty writers, critics, producers, and actors, from Peter Bogdonavich and Dave Hickey to Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Duvall, and Anjelica Huston, tell the stories behind the book (and

Politics & Policy |
January 20, 2013

You’re Rick Noriega. Do You Approve This Message?

Since the Republicans took over Texas, every plausible Democratic candidate for high statewide office has been the subject of an obligatory profile in Texas Monthly. Here’s yours—only it’s a bit different. It’s a memo containing loads of free advice—the kind you can afford—on how you can beat John Cornyn.

Business |
January 20, 2013

Wheels of Fortune

For automakers in the U.S. and overseas, Texas is the very best market for the pickup truck. And for Texans, the pickup truck is the very best vehicle—if only for what it says about who we are. Or who we'd like to be.

Sports |
January 20, 2013

Untitled Mike Flynt Project

A veteran Hollywood screenwriter couldn’t have come up with a better narrative arc: Seeking redemption, 59-year-old reenrolls at university he was once asked to leave, tries out for football team, makes it, becomes one of oldest-ever players in NCAA history. Or at least that’s how the hero wants it to

Feature |
January 20, 2013

Carlos Brown Is a Hero (No Matter What He Says)

My best friend from high school is no longer the uncool, baseball-card-collecting goofball he once was. He’s a Navy surgeon and commander, and for two horrific weeks I got to watch him calmly and bravely save lives in wartime—not just Americans’ and not just soldiers’—in one of the most dangerous

Feature |
January 20, 2013

Pug

He asked me if I was going to be white my whole life. I was, of course. But because of our friendship, I’m no longer the clueless upper-middle-class kid I once was.

Feature |
January 20, 2013

L. on Wheels

Eight days in a rental car with Larry L. King, the crotchety West Texan who has written some of the greatest magazine stories of all time, would be enough to drive anyone crazy. Except his biggest fan.

Feature |
January 20, 2013

Holding Garmsir

Fighting the Taliban, the 130-degree heat, the boredom, the homesickness, and the weight of history with the Marines of Mustang Platoon in Afghanistan.

Feature |
January 20, 2013

Dome Away From Home

Inside the Eighth Wonder of the World—the largest shelter ever organized by the American Red Cross—faith, hope, and charity helped the survivors of Hurricane Katrina begin the process of rebuilding their lives.

Arts & Entertainment |
December 23, 2012

RIP, Larry L. King

The writer who was known for writing the book for the Broadway musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas died Thursday at 83. Read three of senior editor John Spong's favorite stories by the giant of Texas letters. 

Art |
April 30, 2012

Tejano Monument, Austin

The figures in the Tejano Monument, a 275-ton granite-and-bronze statue unveiled on the Capitol grounds in late March, depict the forging of modern Texas. A Spanish explorer gazes over a new world, his clothing and sword placing him in the early 1500’s, when Alonso Álvarez de Pineda became the first

9/11 |
August 31, 2011

Karen Wagner’s Life

She lived outside the spotlight, quietly serving her country as most members of the military do, until one terrible day.

Food & Drink |
June 30, 2011

Do I Dare to Eat a Peach?

As a kid I was the pickiest eater you have ever seen, and family meals gave new meaning to the words “food fight.” But I gritted my teeth and overcame it—one disgusting tomato at a time.

The Culture |
October 31, 2010

Just Dance

As we mourn the passing of Club 21, one of the state's most beloved dance halls, remember to scoot across one of the many other historic, century-old two-stepping floors.

Feature |
July 31, 2010

On the Road—Westbound and Down

Most vacations in Texas mean filling up the gas tank and logging long hours on the highway. Yet whether it’s a classic buddy trip or a full-blown family vacation, the charms of the open road remain. May it always be so.

Sports |
March 1, 2010

Hook’d

The Longhorns may have lost the BCS National Championship on the hallowed field of the Rose Bowl, but they gained something almost as important: a long-lost fan.

Music |
December 1, 2009

Step Right Up

Press your jeans, pull on your boots, shine up your buckle, and come along on this two-stepping tour of classic country dance halls, from Tom Sefcik Hall, in Seaton, to Club Westerner, in Victoria.