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 coeditor 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 146 Willie Nelson Albums, Ranked,” which was nominated for best digital storytelling. He has 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 American 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.

180 Articles

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.

Food & Drink |
January 20, 2013

Famous Texans on Their Favorite Burgers

Yes, even famous people have favorite burgers. And since the hamburger was invented right here in Texas, we decided to ask a few famous Texans to tell us their stories about their favorite burger experiences. Rebecca RobinsonMiss Texas 2008, Miss Congeniality in Miss America 2009Lives in Dallas Rebecca

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.

Food & Drink |
January 20, 2013

Pit Stops

Where are the best places to eat barbecue in Texas? Six years ago we published a highly subjective—and hotly debated— list of our fifty favorite joints, and now we’ve gone back for seconds. Ten intrepid souls drove more than 21,000 miles in search of 2003’s worthiest ‘cue. Here’s what they

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.”

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.

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