Baring all (or most) for Jon Dee Graham
It's late May and I'm shooting a documentary in Colorado when an e-mail comes in asking me to contribute to a silent auction benefiting Gretchen and Jon Dee Graham's son Willie, who suffers from Legg-Perthes Syndrome, a degenerative bone disease ("TCB," Music, June 24, 2005). With Gretchen's insurance provider bankrupt, and Willie's condition pre-existing welcome to America the child's basically uninsurable.
What to do? In Austin's music community, the answer's easy: Band together. Up went the benefits ("Texas Platters: Live shots," Music, July 1, 2005), Freedom Records' Matt Eskey arranging for the audio/visual souvenir to be sold later. Me? I happened to wander into a radical lesbian bakery in the village where I was working. It had to be kismet the place is only open, like, two days a week for about 15 minutes per day. While I was in there, I came across a calendar, just sitting on a table, featuring Colorado musicians naked but for their instruments. This wasn't a brand new idea: Those ladies in England took it all off to raise money, and their effort led to a Hollywood movie version of geriatric nude time-keeping devices.
But it was an idea new to Austin. I giggled at the thought of making it happen. Figured I'd call some photographer friends to shoot some musician friends. Within days of my return home, I ran into Joe Ely at a party, and he agreed to pose. With the weight of that Flatlander's "Yes, I'll strip," and with Sara Hickman signing on next, that was enough to get other folks involved. The list of who said no and how they said it (Los Lonely Boys, Patty Griffin, Kelly Willis, Charlie Sexton) is almost as exciting as those who said yes.
Those who said yes are actually more exciting, since, well, they said yes, and then they took it all off. Shawn Colvin, Eliza Gilkyson, Glover Gill, Guy Forsyth, the Small Stars, Kathy McCarty, Matt the Electrician, Michael Fracasso, Nathan Hamilton, Tosca, the New Hot Damn, Southpaw Jones, Patricia Vonne, the Austin Lounge Lizards, and the man himself, Jon Dee Graham.
The lineup of local photographers wasn't too shoddy either, with Will van Overbeek, Wyatt McSpadden, Todd V. Wolfson, Mary Bruton, Nils Juul-Hansen, Sarah Bork Hamilton, Brenda Ladd, Kenny Braun, Andrew Yates, Andrew Shapter, Theresa DiMenno, and Michael O'Brien all donating 100% of their time. In stepped design superstars DJ Stout and Erin Mayes over at Pentagram to shape the thing into something gorgeous.
And so what began as a giggly daydream took concrete form, corporate sponsors appeared, PR people volunteered their service, and deals were made with printers and paper people. All I can say is thank God I had no idea what I was getting into because, well, it was a tad trickier than those calendars you put together down at the Kinko's to send to your mom at the holidays.
Naked 2006, $12, will be available at the Waterloo Records merch tent at the ACL Music Festival, as well as the store proper, not to mention BookPeople, the Continental Club, Farm to Market grocery, Moxie & the Compound, and Jon Dee Graham's shows. Also available online at www.frontgatetickets.com and www.spikeg.com.
Charitable donations can also be sent to the newly formed Austin Children of Musicians, Artists and Writers' Fund, which provides emergency funding to artists' families in need. Make checks for tax deductible contributions payable to Women & Their Work and put ACMAWF in the memo line. Mail to ACMAWF c/o Spike Gillespie, PO Box 4843, Austin, TX 78765. For more info on the organization: firstname.lastname@example.org.