Joe Gracey, broadcaster, musician, studio engineer, and producer, was born on November 14, 1950, in Fort Worth, Texas. With an unusually deep baritone voice and an interest in music, he began playing bass in bands when he was twelve, operated a "pirate" radio station at age thirteen, and began a career in commercial radio at the age of fifteen. He attended the University of Texas in Austin and earned a degree in American Studies.
By the early 1970s after his move to Austin, Gracey, Eddie Wilson of the Armadillo World Headquarters, and Willie Nelson came up with the idea of a "progressive country" radio format. Gracey, who was also the "Voice of the Armadillo," began broadcasting the format in 1972 at KOKE-FM. Billboard magazine awarded its "Trendsetter of the Year" to KOKE-FM in 1974. Gracey became its program director from 1975 to 1977. He was also the first talent coordinator for the Austin City Limits television show, working during its first season, and during the early to mid-1970s he was the rock music columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.
Gracey left KOKE-FM in 1977 and began doing promotion for Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys. He started a band with his brother Bill called the Gracey Brothers, opening for Alvin Crow. During this period Nashville producer and label owner Jack Clement became friends with Gracey and planned to record Joe on his label.
In 1978 Gracey was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and throat. After a series of operations which resulted in the removal of his larynx, he was cancer-free but without a voice. At the urging of Jack Clement, Gracey began a recording business and a new career as an engineer and producer. His Austin studio, Electric Graceyland, recorded many major Texan artists, some of them for his labels, Jackalope and Rude Records. One of those musicians was singer–songwriter Kimmie Rhodes, who was introduced to him in 1979. They began a musical collaboration and were married in 1984. Through the years, Gracey worked on many recording projects at his studio for such artists as Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe King Carrasco, Alvin Crow, Alejandro Escovedo, Calvin Russell, Sue Foley, Asleep at the Wheel, Willie Nelson, as well as many recordings for his wife Kimmie.
In early 2011 he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He went for treatment at M.D. Anderson in Houston, where he died on November 17, 2011. Joe Gracey was survived by his wife Kimmie, their daughter Jole, and his stepsons Gabe and Jeremie.
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Austin American-Statesman, August 29, 2011; November 18, 2011. Bill Hood, “Joe Gracey—Making a New Road,” Austin Sun Reunion (http://universaldomainexchange.com/sun/?p=94), accessed November 19, 2011. Margaret Moser, “Joe Gracey RIP,” Austin Chronicle, November 17, 2011 (http://www.austinchronicle.com/blogs/music/2011-11-17/joe-gracey-rip/), accessed November 19, 2011.
Radio and Television
Business, Promotion, Broadcasting, and Technology
Texas Post World War II
Texas in the 21st Century
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Gary S. Hickinbotham,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 23, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
October 18, 2014
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: