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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  A Few Clouds
The Daily
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Jon Dee Graham honored to be the inspiration for Wisconsin Brewing Company's Big Sweet Life
A beloved song
'A beer is a useful, practical, real-world honor.'
Credit:Per Ole Hagen

Kirby Nelson, brewmaster for Wisconsin Brewing Company, recently asked for permission to name a new Maibock after the Jon Dee Graham song "Big Sweet Life."

The singer-songwriter doesn’t drink, but he was thrilled by the request. When he and his band, the Fighting Cocks, play the brewery on July 6, he'll rely on his "designated drinker," bassist Andrew Duplantis, for a full report.

"I did drink, for a long time," he admits. "Everyone involved agrees that the world is better off with me not drinking. [But] what higher honor is there than having a beer named after you or your work? A Grammy or a gold record is symbolic... while a beer is a useful, practical, real-world honor."

Graham is an iconic figure in Austin, Texas, alongside peers like Alejandro Escovedo, his bandmate from the True Believers. He spent many years as a guitarist for the likes of John Hiatt and Patty Griffin, then released his first solo album in the late 1990s.

These days, Graham spends much of his time on the road. He says the last three years have been his most "honest, magical, satisfying and intense years" of performing.

In 2013 he played 224 shows, not just in traditional venues, but also in living rooms, backyards and basements. He says Kiki's House of Righteous Music, where he'll perform on July 5, is his favorite basement in America.

House shows are a good fit for his act, which is focused on "taking the music to the people who appreciate it."

"We're like a house-to-house military operation, or Mormon missionaries -- door-to-door song salesmen," he says.

"Big Sweet Life" will probably be on his set lists in Madison, and not just because there's a beer named after it.

"That song has meant many things to me over the years," Graham says. "But the take-home is still the same: No matter what happens, or doesn't happen, no matter how you feel or don't feel... if you can only take enough steps back and take in enough of the bigger picture, you'll find it is almost unbearably beautiful. Every time.”

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