by Chip Taylor
I just found out that my old friend Joe Gracey passed away. I was so sad to hear the news. Joe was one of those guys that was a mirror for the best parts of yourself. There are very few people like that. I only saw Joe a handful of times in my entire life. But EVERY TIME I saw Joe, I felt amazingly better. I’m sure he did that for a lot of folks. What a blessing to have a Joe Gracey in this world.
I first met Joe in Austin in ’74. Joe was a legendary DJ at the notorious KOKE-FM, the voice of the progressive country. Joe, cohort Rusty Bell & the folks at KFAT in California invented a format that basically played what we would today call alternative country or Americana. Those two stations were the coolest stations on the planet. It was Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Commander Cody, Kinky Friedman, and a host of others. What a blessing for a Yonkers cowboy (me) to be included in the mix.
My LAST CHANCE album had been out only a short time, when the band and I arrived in Austin to play Armadillo World Headquarters – opening for Tom T. Hall. I met Joe Gracey that day before and we did on air thing at KOKE. I found out Joe had been playing every cut on my album for a few weeks. The next night when the band and I started the set at The Armadillo with “The Real Thing”, the packed young audience started to sing along with the chorus. And when we closed with “I Wasn’t Born in Tennessee”, they kept cheering. That was totally Joe’s doing.
A few years later Joe married folk singer/playwright Kimmie Rhodes, one of my favorite artists on the planet (Kimmie’s West Texas Heaven remains one of my favorite albums of all time). In 1978 Joe was diagnosed with cancer and had his his larynx removed, ending his career as a radio/tv personality and a singer. But Joe continued in the music business as a record producer and musician (bass player in Kimmie’s band). Joe also had a wonderful blog about all things artistic plus food and interesting places. The latter took me by surprise but Joe sure seemed to know his stuff!
Just thinking about Joe now, I feel the good part of myself kicking in. So I’ll ask Joe to guide me a little bit from here on.
[Joe Gracey had many great musical contributions over the years. Here are a couple of clips of the aforementioned West Texas Heaven album (which is amazing):