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 Horse's Mouth |
October 31, 2008

Doing Political Impressions

NAME: Jim Morris | AGE: 51 | HOMETOWN: Flower Mound | QUALIFICATIONS: Masterfully mimics the past seven presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, as well as a range of presidential candidates, from John Edwards to Al Sharpton / Has provided voices for Saturday Night Live’s “The X-Presidents” cartoon

Film & TV |
September 30, 2008

Dude!

Yes, yes, new baby and new movie— but what Matthew McConaughey really wants to talk about is the cushion of the flip-flop, the skooching of hoodie sleeves, the proper thickness of koozies, and his coming career as the arbiter of redneck-Buddha chic.

Travel & Outdoors |
December 1, 2007

The Last Resort

After telecommunications tycoon Steve Smith bought the Big Bend town of Lajitas on a whim for $4.25 million, he spent perhaps $100 million more developing what was going to be a five-star, world-class getaway. The desert, however, had other ideas.

Music |
September 30, 2007

Number One With a Bullet

Miranda Lambert likes guns, but there’s more to her than that, just as the sultry pouts on her album covers don’t tell the whole story of an East Texas girl who always wanted to be Merle Haggard.

Politics & Policy |
June 30, 2006

My Life As an Illegal

You’ve heard enough from the politicians and the activists, the demagogues and the bleeding hearts. Here’s my story. I only wish I could put my name on it. By Immigrant X

Web Exclusive |
April 1, 2006

My Friend Willie

Writer Larry L. King talks about his new book, In Search of Willie Morris.

Business |
February 1, 2006

The Man In the White Hat

To hear John Poindexter tell it, he’s one of the good guys—a faithful steward of his West Texas land and therefore a worthy bidder for 46,000 acres of Big Bend Ranch State Park. But sometimes having your heart in the right place simply isn’t enough.

Sports |
September 30, 2005

Six Brothers

The tragedy of the Von Erichs—the state’s first family of pro wrestling—is well known not just to fans of the sport but to the many groupies who oohed and aahed at the matinee-idol athletes over the years. Still, you haven’t really heard the story until it’s told by the sole

Where Are They Now |
June 30, 2005

A Sell of a Town

Catching up with characters from our pages—A new owner for Cornudas.

Being Texan |
April 30, 2005

Strangers on a Train

There was something irresistibly romantic about the gutter punk’s description of stowing away in freight cars. No wonder I wanted to try it—even if, at 38, I probably should have thought to myself, “You’re too old for this.”

Lives + Times |
April 1, 2004

Road Warrior

"There were a lot of wild nights, people taking us in and offering us whatever they had. There were a lot of those 'offerings.'"

Music |
April 1, 2004

Spoon at a Fork

According to Time, the Austin rock-pop trio Spoon "just might be your next favorite band." But Britt Daniel and the boys have been burned by such pronouncements before, so this time they’re carefully considering their options—and, as always, putting their music first.

Reporter |
February 1, 2004

Off the Wall

Call it "Glove Story": Being the president of the international Michael Jackson Fan Club means never having to say you're sorry—even now.

Reporter |
December 1, 2003

Dream for Sale

Who wants to own a West Texas town? At least two eBay bidders have offered the asking price—but it could still be yours.

Web Exclusive |
September 30, 2003

Talk To Me

Associate editor John Spong talks about Hollywood types, drinking beer, and a typical high school scene.

Books |
September 30, 2003

King’s Ransom

At UT's Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, extraordinary cultural treasures are available for your inspection—if you know the magic word.

Politics & Policy |
June 30, 2003

State Bar

If Texas politics is your thing and you live in Austin, sometimes you want to go where every lobbyist knows your name. And they're always glad you came.

Feature |
May 31, 2003

The Story of O

Never mind that he got kicked out of St. Mark’s and dropped out of UT, or that his line readings seem a little . . . off. Somehow, Owen Wilson is the kind of guy who gets movies made. And he gets $10 million a pop, dude.

Food & Drink |
April 30, 2003

Top Fifty

Unless otherwise noted, all places take credit cards.ABILENE: Harold’s Pit Bar-B-Q We didn’t catch pitmaster Harold Christian singing gospel songs to his customers, but we’re told that isn’t an unusual occurrence. This cozy little room, packed with nine picnic tables, seven booths, and a congregation of athletic trophies, is where

Feature |
March 1, 2003

Chasing Shadows

Why is James Evans so good at photographing the mavericks and renegades who make Big Bend one of the most interesting places on earth? Because he is one himself.

Reporter |
May 31, 2002

Hooked

Why have Americans fallen for Longhorns hoof, line, and sinker?

Reporter |
April 30, 2002

Sand Trap

John Spong surveys the remaking—or is it the unmaking?—of Lajitas.

Law |
April 1, 2002

I, the Juror

As a "recovering" attorney with a mixed record at picking juries, I always wondered what made them tick. After receiving a summons this year, I'm still deliberating.

Business |
November 1, 2001

Dreade Locke

Russell Erxleben and Brian Russell Stearns were first-rate frauds who cheated scores of unsuspecting investors. So how did the prominent law firm of Locke, Liddell, and Sapp get stuck footing a $30 million bill?

Sports |
August 31, 2001

Billy “White Shoes” Johnson

In 1988, when former Houston Oiler Billy “White Shoes” Johnson ended his fourteen-year NFL career, he was the league’s all-time leading punt returner and one of only seven men to have returned four kicks for touchdowns in a single season. But despite all the juking and jetting that earned

Sports |
August 31, 2001

Randall “Tex” Cobb

On the April morning that opened the last day of shooting the Walker, Texas Ranger series finale, the center of attention was not the all-American star of the show but a retired heavyweight boxer who played a bloodthirsty galoot. Randall “Tex” Cobb had barely twenty words of scripted dialogue, but

Law |
July 31, 2001

The Judge, Judged

Corpus Christi's Manuel Bañales believes that some sex offenders should post warning signs in their yards. He says it's about good law; his critics say it's about good publicity.

Feature |
April 1, 2001

History in the Making

Austin's new Bob Bullock museum sports six bas-reliefs that tell the story of Texas. Here's how a sculptor and a team of artisans made them, like the museum's namesake, larger than life.

Music |
November 1, 2000

Almost Famous

For brothers Charlie and Bruce Robison, making country music safe for men again is an intriguing proposition—and a risky one because of their wives.

Music Review |
June 30, 2000

Transcendental Blues

In the fourteen years since Steve Earle released his debut LP, Guitar Town, and carved “Dwight Yoakam Eats Sushi” into an elevator wall at MCA-Nashville, he has given a generation of songwriters the courage to buck the Nashville suits. But somewhere in Earle’s well-documented war with authority (a dollar for