Jon Langford

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Jon Langford
Jon Langford playing with The Mekons at the Hideout, Chicago, IL on July 15, 2015
Jon Langford performing with The Mekons at the Hideout in Chicago on July 15, 2015
Background information
Also known asChuck Death
Born (1957-10-11) 11 October 1957 (age 61)
Newport, Wales UK
Rock and Roll
Punk rock
Years active1977-present
LabelsBloodshot Records
Associated actsMekons
The Three Johns
Waco Brothers
The Killer Shrews
Pine Valley Cosmonauts
The Sadies
Wee Hairy Beasties
Skull Orchard
Bad Luck Jonathan
Men of Gwent
Four Lost Souls

Jonathan Denis Langford (born 11 October 1957) is a prolific[1][2] Welsh musician and artist based in Chicago, USA.[3] He is one of the founders of punk band The Mekons, post-punk group The Three Johns, and alternative country ensembles The Waco Brothers and Pine Valley Cosmonauts. He has worked to campaign against the death penalty in Illinois.[4]

Early life[edit]

Langford was born in Newport, Wales, the youngest son of Kit Langford and Denis Langford, an accountant for Lloyd's Brewery.[4][5] Langford's older brother is science-fiction author and critic David Langford, who lives in Reading, England.[4]

When he was young, Langford would visit his grandparents in Croesyceiliog, whose family friend ran two pubs, the Cambrian Arms and The Six In Hand.[4] He attended Gaer Infants School and Gaer Junior School, then Brynglas Primary School, the Newport High School middle school, before Queen's Hill.[4] In 1972-1973, after playing rugby and football, at the age of 15 Langford decided he liked playing music better. He played a lot of David Bowie and was listening to a lot of Man.[4]

Langford attended art school at University of Leeds as a painter.[6] He left school temporarily when the Mekons were founded, but later went back to college and finished his degree.[4]


Since the mid-1980s, Langford has been one of the leaders in incorporating folk and country music into punk rock. He has released a number of solo recordings as well as recordings with other bands outside of The Mekons, most notably the Waco Brothers, which he co-founded after moving to Chicago in the early 1990s. He is involved with the Chicago-based independent record label Bloodshot.

In a 2010 interview, Langford said his earliest influences were Tom Jones, Slade, T. Rex, The Kinks, Johnny Cash, Man and Black Sabbath.[7]

The Mekons[edit]

Langford was originally the drummer for the punk band The Mekons when it formed at the University of Leeds in 1977, but he later took up the guitar as other band members left.[8] The Mekons were signed to Virgin Records but according to Langford they "got fired."[4] They played their first US appearance on New Year's Eve in 1980, gave up live performances for a while, and released 1982's The Mekons Story. They began performing again in public in 1984, playing their first shows as benefits for the British miners' union.[9] After being signed by major American label A&M Records in the late 1980s, label shuffling resulted in the band trying to leave the label. In response, they gave the label, The Curse of the Mekons, which became only available overseas as an import.[10] A documentary called The Revenge of the Mekons was released in 2014 by director Joe Angio.[11] The Mekons continue to record and perform live, as of 2019.[citation needed]

The Three Johns[edit]

With John Hyatt and Phillip Brennan, Langford released several albums of drum-machine-fueled punk between 1982 and 1987. A retrospective box set was released in August 2015.[12]

The Waco Brothers[edit]

The Waco Brothers make country-punk music, and are a Chicago-based amalgam of players from the Pine Valley Cosmonauts family and others (including Dean Schlabowske, Tracey Dear, Joe Camarillo, Alan Doughty, Mark Durante, and Mekons drummer Steve Goulding), who have been recording since 1995.

Pine Valley Cosmonauts[edit]

Langford initiated another project, the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, which performs the music of other country music groups. Several alternative country musicians have guested alongside a revolving assortment of Chicago musicians who have backed both Langford and other musicians such as Kelly Hogan.

Solo and Skull Orchard[edit]

Langford's first official solo album, Skull Orchard, a look back at his hometown of Newport, Wales, was released in 1998. He followed it with All the Fame of Lofty Deeds, in 2004, Gold Brick in 2006, Old Devils in 2010 and Here Be Monsters in 2014.

In the late 2000s Langford came into contact with the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus based near Toronto, invited them first to accompany him at a CeltFest in Chicago in 2007, then to re-record the whole of the Skull Orchard. The album Skull Orchard Revisited (credited to Jon Langford and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus) was released on 3 June 2011 by Bloodshot Records.[13]

2010's Old Devils is a follow up to the first Skull Orchard album.[14]

Men of Gwent[edit]

Are a group of mainly Newport-based musicians, including members of Give Me Memphis and The Darling Buds. Previously known as LL, the group have written and recorded intermittently for over 20 years[when?], and have been playing live since 2007.[15][16] As LL, their only release was a demo track ("Rechem") on the 1999 compilation Fear of a Red Planet.[17] Debut album The Legend of LL was released in 2015 and included reworkings of several songs from the same LL demos, as well as a new version of "Pill Sailor", first released on Skull Orchard in 1998.[18]

Bad Luck Jonathan[edit]

Langford debuted Bad Luck Jonathan at the 2014 Hideout Block Party in Chicago.[19][20] The band, described as "socialist voodoo space boogie",[21] features Alan Doughty and Joe Camarillo from the Waco Brothers, Phil Wandscher from Whiskeytown, and Martin Billheimer from Chicago's Pritzker Military Museum and Library.[22]

Four Lost Souls[edit]

Is a collaboration between Langford, John Szymanski, Tawny Newsome and Bethany Thomas. Their eponymous debut album was produced by Norbert Putnam and released in 2017.[23][24]


Langford has produced portraits of country music icons including Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. His paintings appear on bottles and other items for the Dogfish Head Brewery.[25]

Langford has produced paintings of famous and forgotten figures from the dawn of country music. His artwork is available from the Yard Dog Art Gallery in Austin, Texas. Nashville Radio, a collection of his artwork and writings, was published in 2006.[26]

For over 10 years, Langford illustrated the comic strip Great Pop Things under the pseudonym Chuck Death with a friend from his hometown, Newport, Wales, Colin B. Morton, who wrote the text.[27] The cartoon strip was published in alternative weekly newspapers in Los Angeles and Chicago, and was a pen-and-ink history of rock-and-roll.[27] An anthology of the best strips was published in a book of the same name.[28]

In 2015, Langford was commissioned by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to paint a series of portraits for its "Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City" exhibition, which opened on March 27, 2015.[29][30]

Since 2015, Langford has designed covers for a series of novels by author Jay Spencer Green, including Breakfast at Cannibal Joe's and Ivy Feckett is Looking for Love.

In 2018, Langford designed the cover for "Commercial Suicide Man",[31] a collaborative single by the Nightingales and Vic Godard.



  • In 2005, Langford's multimedia music/spoken-word/video performance, The Executioner's Last Songs, premiered at Alverno College, and has been performed in several other cities.
  • In January and February 2009, Chicago's Walkabout Theater Company and Collaboraction premiered a stage adaptation of Langford's Goldbrick that featured a live band, two actors and video projections.[34]
  • In November and December 2009, The House Theatre of Chicago staged a production of All the Fame of Lofty Deeds, written by rock journalist Mark Guarino and based on Langford's art and 2004 solo album of the same name.[35]


Politics and service[edit]

Langford considers himself "working class socialist."[4] Langford said he became politicized on the death penalty after the execution of John Wayne Gacy.[4]

Langford is an honorary board member of the Chicago-based nonprofit organisation Rock for Kids.

Personal life[edit]

Langford is married to architect and jewellery designer, Helen Tsatsos. Tsatsos' jewellery was awarded Macy's "Designer of Distinction" award in 2010 and has a line of pieces that incorporate Langford's artwork.[40] Langford met his wife in 1986 at a party after a gig in her home town of Chicago.[4] They have two children, Jimmy and Tommy, and live in Chicago.[41] Jimmy Langford has a band called the Ungnomes, and Tommy is the lead singer in a band called Mock Nine.[4]

Solo discography[edit]


  • 1998: Skull Orchard (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2003: Mayors Of The Moon (Bloodshot Records) - as Jon Langford and his Sadies
  • 2004: All the Fame of Lofty Deeds (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2006: Gold Brick (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2009: All the Fame of Lofty Deeds - The Soundtrack (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2010: Live At The Hideout: Jon Langford and Walter Salas-Humara (Bloodshot Records) - digital only
  • 2010: Old Devils (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2011: Skull Orchard Revisited - debut album Skull Orchard re-recorded with the Burlington Welsh Male Choir; book + CD
  • 2014: Here Be Monsters (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2014: Choice Cuts: Best of Jon Langford (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2017: Four Lost Souls (Bloodshot Records)


  • 1998: Gravestone EP (Bloodshot Records)
  • 2000: Songs of False Hope & High Values (Bloodshot Records) - Sally Timms & Jon Langford

7 inch singles[edit]

  • 2012: Drone Operator (Bloodshot Records) - as Jon Langford and Skull Orchard

Works or publications[edit]

  • Morton, Colin B., Chuck Death, and Greil Marcus. Great Pop Things. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1992. ISBN 978-0-140-17156-3 OCLC 441310470
  • Morton, Colin B., and Chuck Death. The Real History of Rock and Roll from Elvis to Oasis. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press, 1998. ISBN 978-1-891-24108-6 OCLC 41108753
  • Langford, Jon. Nashville Radio: Art, Words and Music. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2006. ISBN 978-1-891-24119-2 OCLC 65470084
  • Langford, Jon, and David Langford. Skull Orchard Revisited: Art, Words & Music. Portland, OR: Verse Chorus Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-891-24130-7 OCLC 670481762

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Christgau, Robert (27 May 2003). "Jon Langford Makes Friends and Influences People: Loser on a Roll". Village Voice. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "Jon Langford - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  3. ^ Bray, Ryan (29 April 2014). "Jon Langford: Sweet Home Chicago". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Williams, Maria (11 September 2013). "First Person: Newport musician and artist Jon Langford talks to Maria Williams about punk, meeting Johnny Cash and moving to the USA". South Wales Argus. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  5. ^ "Skull Orchard Revisited". Verse Chorus Press. Archived from the original on 21 December 2014. Retrieved 20 December 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ Graham, William Harries (19 November 2012). "Jon Langford, Still Punk After All These Years". Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  7. ^ Zimmerman, Lee (16 September 2010). "A Fat Welsh Bastard: Jon Langford". Blurt. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  8. ^ Dougan, John. "The Mekons - Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  9. ^ Pareles, Jon (25 November 1988). "Pop/Jazz; Two Bands That Survived The Summer of Punk Rock". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  10. ^ Parales, Jon (5 July 1991). "Pop/Jazz; The Mekons Shed a Label For a Curse That Works". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  11. ^ Tannenbaum, Rob (24 October 2014). "The Cult Band That Keeps on Chugging: A Documentary Celebrates the Mekons". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 14 July 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ Kelly, Jennifer (3 June 2011). "Jon Langford and the Burlington Welsh Male Chorus - Skull Orchard Revisited". Dusted. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  14. ^ Martens, Todd (24 September 2010). "A Mekon reflects: 'We've always been stupid enough to keep doing this,' says punk survivor Jon Langford". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  15. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ A.V. Fest // Hideout Block Party 2014 day 1
  20. ^ Hideout Block Party/AV Fest
  21. ^ Bad Luck Jonathan with Jon Langford
  22. ^ Jon Langford Live at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival on 2014-10-04
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Q&A: Punk rocker Jon Langford on death, digital art and Dogfish Head". Dogfish Head - Blogfish. 11 November 2013. Archived from the original on 23 December 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  26. ^ Paste: Jon Langford - Nashville Radio
  27. ^ a b Strauss, Neil (3 December 1998). "The Pop Life; Cartoons Dare To Mock Icons". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  28. ^ "Great Pop Things". Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  29. ^ New York Times: ‘Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats,’ an Unlikely Alliance of Rock and Country
  30. ^ Newport musician features alongside Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash in Nashville exhibition
  31. ^
  32. ^ "WXRT – The Eclectic Company". WXRT. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  33. ^ "This American Life". This American Life. Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  34. ^ "Goldbrick". Walkabout Theater Company. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  35. ^ "All the Fame of Lofty Deeds". The House Theatre of Chicago. Archived from the original on 18 April 2010. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  36. ^ "KatJonBand". Carrot Top Records. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  37. ^ Deming, Mark. "KatJonBand Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  38. ^ "List of Castees and Failures". Cynthia Plaster Caster. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  39. ^ "Nardwuar vs. Cynthia Plaster Caster". Nardwuar. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  40. ^ "Rock Candy by Helen - About". Rock Candy by Helen - Etsy. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  41. ^ "Jon Langford". Time Out New York - Kids. 1 July 2006. Retrieved 22 December 2014.

External links[edit]