Joe Gracey
{ "" }
Share
Share Joe's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Joe Gracey After a well-spent life defined by a series of reinventions, each more outrageous and 'way cooler than the previous one, Joe Gracey has left the building - this place we call earth. Born in Fort Worth on November 14, 1950, Joe distinguished himself as a communicator at an early age. He built his own radio studio in the family attic in sixth grade, mowed lawns to get his first guitar, played in teen bands alongside fellow Fort Worthers Stephen Bruton and T-Bone Burnett, and projected gravitas and authority as a veteran newsman and familiarity and intimacy as a country music disc jockey for KXOL-AM and FM when the 16 year old wasn't attending classes at Paschal High School. His mother drove him to work at the radio station. Like many other young Texans of his generation, he gravitated to Austin to attend the University of Texas where he graduated with a degree in American Studies while moonlighting on Austin's Top 40 radio station, KNOW-AM, and writing the first rock music column for the Austin American-Statesman, immediately overstepping his assigned category by writing about country and folk music too, focusing on the unique country-rock musical hybrid that was incubating in Austin. In 1974, he joined KOKE-FM in Austin, the first progressive country radio station in the world. Blessed with a warm, full-bodied voice with enough of a lingering drawl to leave no doubt where he came from, Gracey became an intimate friend to strangers who discovered they could learn a few things about music by listening to the radio; unlike his broadcasting peers, Gracey was fixated on what he said as much as how he said it. Smart and a smartass both, he was a pillar of a burgeoning music community on the verge of being discovered nationally and internationally. He welcomed music fans to some of the most exciting and eclectic music being created as one of the voices who did radio commercials for the storied Armadillo World Headquarters. It was Ol' Blue Eyes, as he called himself, who coolly and casually opened his microphone so Willie Nelson and his friend Kris Kristofferson could perform an impromptu concert for listeners at home. Gracey not only played Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours, he took the time to explain ET's significance and line out Tubb's hip bona fides for a generation that had previously ignored their parents' and grandparents' music. He turned on music lovers to exotic sounds in their own backyard such as Tex-Mex conjunto music as articulated by his friends Doug Sahm, Ry Cooder, and Flaco Jimenez; and western swing, the almost-forgotten Made In Texas country-jazz hybrid popularized in the 1930s, kickstarting its revival by putting Asleep at the Wheel and Alvin Crow into heavy rotation. Gracey played a critical role defining Super Roper Radio, as KOKE was known, demonstrating how the Rolling Stones and Gram Parsons were related to George Jones and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. In that respect, he was as influential as Willie Nelson, Austin's musical godfather, in bringing the hippies and the rednecks together through the common love of music. With Gracey as program director, Billboard magazine crowned KOKE-FM as "Trendsetter of the Year." Gracey's trendspotting abilities earned him the role as talent coordinator for the new "Austin City Limits," now the longest-running music series on American television, when the series started in 1976. Through Gracey, the remaining Bob Wills' Texas Playboys, Flaco Jimenez y Su Conjunto, and Clifton Chenier and his Red Hot Louisiana Zydeco Band performed for national television audiences for the first time. His byline continued appearing in the Austin Sun and the literary country music journal Picking Up the Tempo. In the summer of 1977, inspired by his mentor Cowboy Jack Clement, he left KOKE-FM a few weeks before the station's format switched, and headed downstairs to the basement of the KOKE building where he fashioned a four track TEAC recorder and two windowless offices into the funky, duct-taped recording studio known as Electric Graceyland. The studio was the site of some of the first recordings of future blues legends Stevie Ray Vaughan and Miss Lou Ann Barton; The Skunks, Austin's first punk band; and Tex-Mex rockers Joe "King" Carrasco and the Crowns. Gracey also recorded the demo that scored the Fabulous Thunderbirds their first record contract and worked the dials for Lubbock songster Butch Hancock and his Dixie's Bar and Bus Stop cable television music series. He recorded Stevie Vaughan and Barton and the band Double Trouble at Clement's Nashville studio. He used Electric Graceyland to collaborate musically with his partner in crime, Bobby Earl Smith, as the Jackalope Brothers. Gracey and Smith also did radio promotion for Alvin Crow & The Pleasant Valley Boys while Gracey often opened shows for Crow with his brother Bill as The Amazing Graceys. It was during this flurry of recording and promoting that Gracey was dealt the lousy hand of a cancer diagnosis that eventually robbed him of his gifted voice. Only 27, Gracey fought the hard fight medically while simultaneously adapting. A Magic Slate kids' erasable writing tablet tucked under his arm became a Gracey accessory so he could scribble a quick response to any questions and allow him to engage in conversations, followed by the soft, barely-audible rip as he cleared the pad to erase the message once his words were understood. In 1979, his friend TJ McFarland introduced him to the love of his life, Kimmie Rhodes, a singer-songwriter from Lubbock, as well as a playwright, painter, writer, and all-around creative force. They married in 1984 and settled in Briarcliff where he helped raise Kimmie's sons from a previous marriage, Gabe and Jeremie Rhodes, and their daughter, Jolie Morgan Goodnight Gracey. A family band emerged with Gracey playing bass and Gabe, a talented producer in his own right, who absorbed all the nuances of the electronic recording art from Joe, playing guitar. Kimmie and their neighbor Joe Sears started writing plays together and Gracey joined the fun as an actor, playing the part of the skeleton barkeeper in the play "Windblown," and the role of the clown in "Small Town Girl," in addition to other performances. He also worked the audio console at nearby Pedernales Studios for a number of years and in 1996 was at the controls for Nelson's groundbreaking album, Spirit, which inspired Nelson to redefine his live sound. Gracey and David Zettner built the small, simple recording studio in the back of Willie's Luck World Headquarters saloon where Willie liked to hold court and make music at the spur of the moment, which yielded the albums, Picture in a Frame, Willie's 2003 album of duets with Kimmie, and the Grammy-nominated collaboration between Willie and Ray Price, Run That By Me One More Time. Rhodes and Gracey's shared love of food and fine wine (he learned how to keep boudin warm on his Cadillac's engine returning from a trip to visit Clifton Chenier in Lafayette, Louisiana), along with numerous European tours by Rhodes launched another career for Gracey - food writer - as championed by their friend Colman Andrews, the editor of Saveur magazine, for whom Gracey did several pieces. Joe and Kimmie also taught cooking classes together. Their food adventures and Kimmie's continued popularity in Europe eventually led to the couple's renovation of a small 1,000 year old stable-farmhouse in the Languedoc province of France. Gracey never stopped creating, and he started a blog, Letters from Graceyland (Graceyland.blogspot.com) to share his latest adventures with readers. Cancer-free for 30 years, the beast reentered his life in 2009. The bad news was accompanied by good news though. Doctors at M.D. Anderson Hospital would embark on experimental surgery that led to a partial restoration of his voice. But the new cancer was joined by other cancer, leading to several months of treatments in Houston. Afterwards, Joe and Kimmie were able to spend some weeks together in their French place again with friends and family before returning to Texas one last time. Sickness never defined Joe's life. It was an irritant and obstacle to be overcome so he could pursue his many interests. He defined it; it didn't define him. And although so much of his professional career revolved around music, his life was much more than that too, as his extensive network of family and friends that spanned the globe would attest to. They all knew that Gracey's presence could never be ignored. He was not the kind of person to let that happen. Which is why despite his unplanned departure, he wanted his friends, family, and all the strangers he never met to hold close to their hearts the advice he dispensed whenever he signed off from another shift on the radio: "Drink lots of water, stay off your feet, and come when you can." Joe is survived by his wife Kimmie Rhodes Gracey, daughter Jolie Gracey Musick and husband Jason; sons Jeremie Rhodes, Gabriel Rhodes and wife Carmen; grandchildren Louis and Ruby Rhodes, Isaac and Isabella Bryson; brother Bill Gracey and wife Cathy; nieces Christy and Kate Gracey; and, Louis' mother, Jamie Rhodes. The family is grateful for the loving care and attention provided by M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Nobelity Project (www.nobelity.org) or M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (www.mdanderson.org). A public celebration of Joe's life will be held on December 4, 2011, at 2:00 p.m. at the Austin City Limits Moody Theater, 210 W. Willie Nelson Boulevard, in downtown Austin, Texas 78701. Y'all come.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Nov. 27, 2011.
Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by Charlie and Lynelle Thomas
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
28 entries
September 1, 2014
Your legacy lives on in the hearts of all who came to know you and love you through your many contributions to the arts. We're doin' the best we can right now, stayin' off our feet, drinkin' lots of water, and we'll come when we can! Charlie and Lynelle Thomas
December 26, 2011
Kimmie, Gabe

it just came to my attention that your husband, your father passed.
I never met him in person, but through your tellings I knew he was á wonderful person.

I'll be with you in my thoughts

your friend from berlin/germany
alexander

.
Alexander Heller-Elspass
December 22, 2011
though we only knew joe thru online gaming - he was one of the kindest, funniest people i have ever met. will truly miss him - be at peace my friend, you were a real life keeper - bennie
pat murphy
December 7, 2011
I'll always remember the kindness Gracey showed to my family at my father's passing. Deepest condolances, Kimmie, to you and the kids.
Chris Scherer
December 3, 2011
Kimmie and family,
The Austin community will miss Joe dearly - may he rest in peace.
Ingrid Morton
December 2, 2011
Kimmie and family -
I am so very sorry for your loss. Please know that your family is in my thoughts and prayers.
Joe Gracey - What a great man. He will certainly be missed.
Debbie Glenn
November 29, 2011
Kimmie, I cherish my friendship with you and Joe. The Ennen Family sends you our love and prayers. We know that Joe is now reunited with his parents, grandparents and a slew of friends that preceded him in Heaven.
Nancy Ennen-Schaefers
November 29, 2011
As cousins, Joe and I were born one month apart, and grew up together through the 50's & 60's, and at UT. Though we didn't see each other much after college, we got back in touch a few years ago, and shared some poignant thoughts. Friends out here in San Diego know what Tex-Mex food is, thanks to Joe's enchilada recipe. Cheers, Joe! I know you're in a good place, but will live on with your loving family.....Cousin Pat
Pat Campbell
November 28, 2011
Kimmie , I am so very sorry for your loss. The times I got to spend with you and Joe were few , but he seemed like a great guy and It made me happy to see how happy you were. I don't know if you know how important you have always been to me and how much you mentored to me when we were growing up. You are and will remain in my prayers. Love Youngman ( Pritchard)
Mike Pritchard
November 28, 2011
Joe Gracey and KOKE F.M. defined my teen years. I am very sorry to hear of his passing.
Rev. Rogers Huck Meredith
November 28, 2011
Joe engineered my 1st demo i recorded in Austin years & years ago....he was a big big talent w/ a capital T....RIP Joe. best, Jesse Dayton
jesse dayton
November 28, 2011
Stephen, Rusty, Doyle, Joe --- it's all been a bit much. Too much in fact, but somehow we will go on because this is what they would want us to do, live with grace, compassion, and hearts on fire until our own flame is extinguished and from out of the ashes we arise brand new. ~Randy~
November 28, 2011
Kimmie, I just want you to know how much you and Joe positively influenced my life even though we have only met twice in person. Joe's efforts developing the Austin music scene and coping with his health issues directly inspired my husband Bill to cope positively and productively with his business and disability from MS. We hope to meet up with you in France one day in the future and drink a toast to Joe. Thank you for everything.
Toni Lavery
November 28, 2011
Rock that rodeo in the sky Joe..R.I.P. , Diamond Joe (NYC)
November 28, 2011
What a sweet and precious gift we were blessed with. He will live in our spirits forever. God bless you Kimmy and family. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Jehnean (DeMarco) Washington.
Jehnean DeMarco Washington
November 28, 2011
Sweet Joe Gracey-what a lovely man and a true honor to share tablet time with him. So sorry for your loss Kim, but happy that you will forever have your heart filled with his pure love.
Amy Maner
November 28, 2011
So sorry to learn about your loss Kim. Best wishes to you and your family. Love, Andy Winnegar
November 28, 2011
What an amazing man. He will always be a profound and fun influence on so many of us. Peace be with You and Yours.
Tom Hale
November 28, 2011
Condolences to the Gracey family. RIP Mr. Gracey. ~RosemaryAloisio
Rosemary Aloisio
November 28, 2011
Coleman Andrews and Joe Gracey/NYC dinner party 2003

Thanks for the special times always
Love to the entire family for the extraordinary experience of knowing your Joe Gracey
Love always
Sharon
Sharon ely
November 28, 2011
RIP god be with you
Robert Barr
November 28, 2011
What à fruitful life! Such à fighter and an example to many of us.
He was the only one to my knowledge being able to join the conversation full of humor making use of à simple writing pad. Great and sweet memories.
Bart Hendriks ( In the Woods) Netherlands
Bart Hendriks
November 28, 2011
A special talent & a wonderful human-being. Thank you for so much Joe
Lloyd Coombes
November 28, 2011
Joe taught me Austin and Texas and WC Field , he produced respectfully my album about 19th Century 's poet assassin "Lacenaire", he was a true cookery Chef and wine connaisseur, and above all he was a free spirit, sensitive, caring, bon vivant, a true rare friend . Love forever from your ami Fred (Minervois, France).
DEFRED FRED
November 28, 2011
Kind, gentle and generous with an infectious smile always at the ready. May his memory live with us all forever. Love to you, Kimmie.
Mark Rubin
November 27, 2011
Loved Joe, loved his musical genius, loved his love of life. Joe's soul and Austin's are forever entwined.
Dwight Adair
November 27, 2011
I was a member of the Skunks. He was the first person in Austin musical 'establishment' to show any interest in us. We recorded an album in his studio. It was a lot of fun. He was funny, patient, encouraging and respectful and treated us like a real band instead of a bunch of annoying freaks. I will always remember his kindness and the respect he showed us. To me he was the best example of graciousness and talent I ever encountered in the Austin music business. May he rest in peace.

Bill Blackmon
November 27, 2011
What a beautiful soul, a spirit forever surrounding us, inspiring us to live better and love harder.
Misti Pryor
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences