Joe Nick Patoski

Writer, historian, Texan



Wyatt McSpadden, photographer

JOE NICK PATOSKI is in his fourth decade writing about Texas and Texans. A former cab driver and staff writer for Texas Monthly magazine, and one-time reporter at the Austin American-Statesman, he has authored and co-authored biographies of Selena and Stevie Ray Vaughan, collaborated with photographer Laurence Parent on books about the Texas Mountains, the Texas Coast, and Big Bend National Park, all published by University of Texas Press, in addition to writing Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy (Texas A&M Press) and Texas High High School Football: More Than the Game (Texas Historical Commission).

His 2008 book Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, published by Little, Brown, was recognized by The Friends of the TCU Library in 2009 with the Texas Book Award for the best book about Texas written in 2007-8. His most recent book for Little, Brown is The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America.

More recent books include Generations on the Land, published by Texas A&M in January 2011, profiles nine families across the western United States who have been recognized for outstanding stewardship in practicing sustainable farming, ranching, logging, and wine-grape growing; and Texas High School Football: More Than The Game, a catalog of the exhibit he curated for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in 2011.

Patoski’s new book is The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America, published by Little, Brown in October 2012. The expansive eight hundred page book explains how and why a 1960 expansion franchise in the National Football League became America’s Team and the most valuable franchise in sports.

Patoski’s byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, TimeOut New York, Garden and Gun, and No Depression magazine, for whom he is a contributing editor. He also recorded the oral histories of B.B. King, Clarence Fountain of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Memphis musician and producer Jim Dickinson, Tejano superstar Little Joe Hernandez, and 15 other subjects for the Voice of Civil Rights oral history project sponsored by AARP and the Library of Congress, some of which appeared in the book My Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Juan Williams, published by Sterling in 2004.

Patoski writes about water, land, nature and parks for a number of publications including Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, the Texas Observer, and National Geographic magazine, where his story about the Transboundary Megacorridor of southwest Texas and northern Coahuila and Chihuahua was published in February 2007. He also wrote a four-part series about water fights throughout the Guadalupe River basin for the San Antonio Current.

He lives near the village of Wimberley in the Texas Hill Country where he swims and paddles in the Blanco River.


  1. Joe Nick Patosky,

    More than twenty years ago you – together with photographer John Dyer – covered an art “happening” of mine for Texas Monthly. By way of your coverage I had the rare opportunity to show my beloved state what a weinie I could be. Not many people get such an opportunity in life. For most folks, mistakes come and go without throngs of witnesses. But it’s not the act of being caught that haunts me, it’s the mistake itself; I made a bluebonnet painting then publicly trashed it.

    This is why I now hang my head in shame:

    I thought, at the time (Oct. 1990), that art was only valid when it had something more important to say than beauty itself, preferably something important about humanity. I was oh-so-wrong because my theory too heavily weighted a tiny portion of the larger truth – never a good thing. But I get it now. I’ve since come to understand that art is equally valid and powerful when it simply says, “If only I were a billionth as talented as God. Hooray for those bluebonnets over there.” And really, when you think about it, nothing else could be any more important to say about humanity than that.

    My deepest, heartfelt apology to all Texans – especially to all bluebonnet painters, and to all lovers of their work – for my foolish high chair tantrum. Flinging my cupcake on the floor is not the part of my childhood I’d like people to remember.

    Keith Clementson

  2. I ran across your old story on the Devils River;

    As a kid, my uncle leased a camping spot on the Dolan Creek Ranch, mid-70′s. We would spend weeks at a time camping, fishing and floating the stretch of river where the Devils meets Dolan Creek. It was incredible. Your story brought back many of those memories. From the crystal clear, ice-cold water water to the caves with Indian hieroglyphics. When I try to describe it to people they think I’m just telling a Texas Tale. Absolutely the most desolate/inhospitable/dangerous place I have ever been to.

    “There is no room for accidents. Rescues are out of the question. Once you get on, there is no turning back.”
    I can attest to this first hand. My cousin got sunburned snorkeling one time and passed out cold the next morning. It was a 3 hour drive down a dirt road back before you could hit a paved road to Sonora… where he lived.

    I had no idea it was a state park now. Can’t wait to take my 6yo son… lots of good times there and some monster catfish back in the day.


  3. Nick, wanted you to know how much my husband Steve & I are enjoying your books. Steve finished Willie and is now on SRV. I’m in the middle of Willie and so many memories are being brought back! I haven’t thought of Panther Hall or Big D Jamboree in years!!!! I remember a group called the Green Men playing @ Panther Hall (couldn’t tell you what they sounded like though). Then I’m reminded of what we were doing in high school during the years that alot this took place. god I feel old…..Kirks, Musagettes, Cacti, Lake Benbrook, The Box, Como, sneaking out at night….it’s a wonder we survived; great seeing you & Kris last September and hope to see you again. Let us know if you all head up Oregon way.

  4. I am trying to preserve the history of the old South Austin as we knew it. I am not a historian but I love history. Any suggestions would be great. I am going to start interviewing what I call “South Austin Legends”. There are some left. Would like to meet you.

    Mike Carlson


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