Known Facts about Joe Ely's history
from various interviews and articles
- Born between
Route 66 and the Rock Island Railroad line in Amarillo, Texas.
Both sides of his family came with the trains at the turn of
the century, attracted by the promise of work. His family follows
the trains to San Antonio, Fort Worth and back to Amarillo by
the first grade.
- Became ill
and close to death at age 7 with borderline rheumatic fever.
Missed four months of school.
- Saw Jerry
Lee Lewis playing on a flatbed trailor in an Amarillo dust storm
when he was six years old. Attracted by free hot dogs and Cokes,
his parents nudge up to the front of the stage. A Pontiac dealer
is selling cars. He announces a " piano playin' fool from
Feriday". He remembers the microphone blowing over from
the strength of the wind and everyone wearing bandanas over their
- His first
instrument at age 8 was a violin made by Amarillo craftsman,
Jimmy Meeks. He played in the Avondale grade school orchestra
for three years. After moving to Lubbock when he was eleven,
continued playing the violin for two more years until discovering
the electric guitar at a friends house down the street. He sold
his violin to musician friend for a fraction of its worth to
put a down payment on an electric guitar.
- His friends
brother in law, Bob Blasingame, taught him to play guitar in
his garage. Thirty years later Joe found out that Buddy Holly
once lived in the house where he learned to play.
- Took Hawaiian
guitar from a door to door salesman from The Dunagan School of
Music. Found out years later that Buddy Holly had taken lessons
from the same school.
- At J.T.
Hutchinson Jr. High School, watched schoolmate Norman Odom, aka
The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, perform every morning on the steps
of the auditorium. A few years later he performed his masterpiece,
'Paralyzed' on the hit variety show, Rowan and Martin's Laugh
- Rode a motorcycle
down the hallways of Monterey High School on the first day of
his freshman year.
- His band,
the Twilights, opened for Jimmy Reed at the Ko Ko Palace when
he was 15. Jimmy Reed got drunk and never performed that night.
- Opened for
sax stylist, Ace Cannon, at the KoKo Palace.
- Got expelled
from Monterey High School for singing "Cherry Pie" at a school assembly.
- Saw his
first hundred dollar bill in a Lubbock speakeasy called the Hideway
Club. Hall of Fame quarterback, Bobby Lane, who was out on the
town with fellow Yankee star Micky Mantle, tiped Joe one hundred
dollars for playing the Willie Nelson Classic, 'Nightlife'.
three songs with his early band. The tape has since been lost
- Played the
Cellar Club in Ft. Worth and Houston alternating sets from six
in the evening until six in the morning with the American Blues
who would later become 'ZZ Top'.
- Heard the
Doors at the Cheetah Club in Venice California.
- Moved to
Austin and started playing at the One Knight Tavern thirty years
before it became the Austin location of Stubbs BBQ. Alternated
nights with guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn passing the hat to
make fifteen dollars a night.
- Went to
New York City with Austin artist Jim Franklin to mix paints for
a mural he was painting for a theater group named Stomp. The
project was immediately abandoned by Franklin stranding Joe in
- Joined the
cast of Stomp (the origional version) as a musician in the production.
Played off-Broadway at Joseph Papp's New York Shakspeare Festival
Theater for three months before traveling to the theater festivals
of Europe for six months .
to Germany after Stomp to work with Munich composer, Eberhard
Shoener and fellow Stomp musician Bruce Gambill, on a music piece
for the Museum of Modern Art in Munich. Eberhard had the first
Moog synthesizer in Europe and combined it (electronically) with
the folk songs of Joe and Bruce for the installation and album.
- Along with
friend, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, recorded four songs in Lubbock,
Texas produced by Buddy Holly's father. The tape has since been
fourteen songs with The Flatlanders in a studio in Odessa Texas.
The tape sat in a closet for thirty years. Presently in the possession
of The Flatlanders with plans of a future release.
seventeen songs with the Flatlanders in Nashville in 1972. Only
a few dozen copies were released in the form of an eight-track
tape. Ten years later released onvinyl and cassette in England
under the Charley Label. Became a cult hit. Ten years after the
Charley release the record was released on CD for the first time
in America under the Rounder Label. Though the record has sold
hundreds of thousands of copies, none of the Flatlanders have
received any record royalties.
- Joined Ringling
Bros. Circus in the summer of 1974 and took care of the llamas
and the world's smallest horse. Later took care of the Arabian
and Belguim horses. Played every stop in Texas, New Mexico and
Oklahoma. In Houston, was kicked unconcious by the lead horse
as the elephants were being led in by famed trainer, Gunther
Gebal Williams. Gunther witnessed Joe's accident and temporarily
left his elephants to pull Joe to safety. This event probably
saved Joe's life. He hitchhiked back to Lubbock down Hwy 36 with
two broken ribs and laughed only when necessary.
- In the fall
of 1974 was asked by Jerry Allison, Buddy Holly's drummer, to
play the part of Buddy Holly in a script he had written for Twentieth
Century Fox. Went to Hollywood and rehearsed for two weeks with
Gary Busey, who had been cast in the role of Jerry, Buddy's drummer.
Twentieth Century pulled the project after legal battles arose
with Buddy's family and heirs.
- Put together
a new band in early 1975 with Lloyd Maines, Rick Hulett and Greg
Wright and began playing the bars around Texas Tech in Lubbock.
Later joined by local musicians, Curley Lawley on fiddle, Don
Caldwell on Saxophone, Ponti Bone on accordian, Country Dick
Barnett, TJ McFarland and Steve Keeton on drums, John (X) Reed
and Jesse Guitar Taylor on guitars. Recorded nine songs at local
studio which led to recording contract with MCA Records within
first album at Chip Youngs Studio in Murfreesboro Tennessee.
MCA pushed to use studio musicians instead of Joe's band. Joe
fought for his band who played on the entire album. The Muscle
Shoals horns appeared on two songs.
- The record
'Joe Ely' was released in 1977 followed by a short tour of the
states. Joe's childhood hero, Chuck Berry, joined the band in
St. Louis for a string of songs at the end of the night.
- The band
went to England in the summer of 1977 for several weeks of dates
around Europe with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins. Several more
weeks with country star Merle Haggard followed around England
Stevie Ray Vaughn to his BBQ friend C.B. Stubblefield of Stubbs
Bar B Que which led to numerous performances in the Lubbock Area.
'Honky Tonk Masquerade' in 1978. Time Magazine does feature story.
Extensive US tour followed by another tour of Europe. Met up
with Linda Rondstadt for tour of States. Records first Austin
City Limits Show.
- Bonnie Raiit
tries to get Jesse Taylor to join her band. Jesse stays loyal
Down on the Drag with Bob Dylan producer Bob Johnston in Seattle
in December of 1978.
- Back to
London in 1979 for another tour. The Clash come to the show at
the Venue Theater and invite the band to come to studio where
they are recording London Calling. Become friends and show the
Lubbock boys around the London scene. The Clash come to America
later in 1979. The two bands play several shows together including
Houston, Dallas, Laredo, LA and the Monterey Pop Festival. Joe
invites them to come to Lubbock to do a show together. They stay
for several days mesmerized by the dusty home of Buddy Holly
and the strange cowboy culture. In return the Clash invite Joe
the following year to come to London for their London Calling
- While in
London, Joe and band record Live Shots at the Venue Theater.
The bouncers, mistaking Joe for a backstage intruder, throw him
from the club. The London press covered the event bringing notoriety
to the band.
- While in
London, developed plan for a concert at the newly created Buddy
Holly Park on May 11, 1980 to be called the Tornado Jam. The
city council was upset that it was to take place on the tenth
aniversary of the devastating tornado that passed through Lubbock
that arrived on May 11, ten years earlier. Joe reminded the city
council that, although the tornado did arrive on the eleventh
of May, it also departed on the same day. He assured them the
departure was the event he and his band were going to celebrate.
That event drew 6000 people and prompted it to become an annual
happening. The next year attracted double the crowd and the following
year brought 30,000 people to Buddy Holly Park for a day of music
with such national acts as Joan Jett, Linda Rondstadt, Buddy
Holly's origional band The Cricket's and many others.
- The Lubbock
City Council votes "No more music in Buddy Holly Park." Joe moves to Austin.
- Throws a
'Tornado Jam South' in Austin with such notables as Stevie Ray
Vaughn, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Jimmy Barnes (from Australia)
along with many other Austin faves.
two albums, 'Live Shots' and 'Musta Notta Gotta Lotta', in 1981
and books shows back to back for over a year touring with The
Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and
others. The schedule proves to rigorous for the band members
and one by one they drop out. When Jesse Taylor quits on New
Years Eve 1982, Joe decides to quit as well.
- Spends a
year off at home with his wife and in November they have a baby
girl, Marie Elena Ely.
with other kinds of music and with other musicians including
Mitch Watkins, Roscoe Beck, Charlie and Will Sexton, David Grissom
and others. Builds a studio at home and records dozens of new
songs, most of which have never been released.
- Tours Australia
with Jimmy Barnes in the winter of 1984 (summer in Australia).
Does Austin City Limits.
- While in
Australia, IRS comes to take his house and studio. Barely makes
it home in time to save it. IRS ivestigates Joe's management
who have 'lost' most of his records including road receipts.
IRS follows Joe for the next seven years often raiding the ticket
booth to confiscate the nightly proceeds. Joe's only defence
is to leave the country.
- Leaves MCA
Records in 1985 after seven albums. Returns to Lubbock for another
Tornado Jam, indoors at the Collesium. The stigma of the City
Council Fiasco deems it a dreadful failure. Drops most band gigs
and tours solo acoustic, writing and working out a new set of
an album for his daughter which he gives to her on Christmas
Day, 1985. The record has never been released to the public.
- 1986 sees
a new band with Davis McLarty on the drums, JImmy Pettit on the
Bass and David Grissom on electric guitar. Tours extensively
with a new group of songs. Robbed in San Francisco, loosing every
piece of equipment with three months to go. Musicians around
the country help the band get back on their feet. Record and
mix Lord of the Highway.
two albums back to back with Hightone Records a label started
by San Francisco artist, Robert Cray.
- Tour Europe
in winter of 1987 during extremely cold winter from England to
France to the Artic Circle in a Fiat Van with no heater. "Borrow" promoters Mercedes for return to England and back to Texas. Lord
of the Highway wins many Austin Music Awards. Travel to Washington
DC with Terry Allen, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock for
a project to write a new National Anthem. The group writes 13
new National Anthems and performs them at the Smithsonian in
DC. The tape of the event is lost in a fire only months later.
tour of Scandanavia in November 1987. Tape a TV Show in Helsinki,
Finland with the first rock band ('Dialogue') allowed to tour
outside the Soviet Union under new Glasnost policy.
a record on Will Sexton for MCA Records and one for Jimmie Dale
Gilmore on Hightone Records. Record Buddy Holly special in 1988
for PBS with John Fogarty, Kris Kristofferson and the Crickets.
Summer of 1988 is spent writing and recording 'Lord of the Highway'.
Another tour of Europe and USA.
'Live at Liberty Lunch' in 1989 and tours Europe and the United
States from coast to coast. Produced another record for friend
Butch Hancock. Inducted into Buddy Holly walk of fame in Lubbock
- Signs with
MCA Records again and releases Live at Liberty Lunch in early
1990. Tours the world. Records a third Austin City Limits Show.
Plays Farm Aid in April. Does 10 city acoustic tour with Guy
Clark John Hyatt and Lyle Lovett. Meets Robert Earl Keen, Jr.
and records "The Road Goes On Forever and the Party Never
Ends". Begins writing Love and Danger. Does Buddy Holly
set with Paul McCartney at Lone Star Road House at party for
premiere of Broadway play. Tours coast to coast USA and back
to Europe in fall.
- Takes a
year off in 1991 and writes new songs, spends time with family
and fights the IRS. Does Montreaux Jazz Festival in July.
'Love and Danger' in Sept. of 1992. Tours 200 cities. Performs
for the first time on 'Late Night with David Letterman'
- In 1993
begins writing a play called Chippy (about a notorious West Texas
prostitute) with Terry and Jo Harvey Allen, Butch Hancock, and
his wife, Sharon. Sharon goes on to work on Lonesome Dove filming
in Montana. Plays Ireland in May. Spingsteen joins band for a
set at the boxing arena in Dublin. Joe plays the next day with
Bruce and Jerry Lee Lewis at Football Arena. Later in 1993 Bruce
asked Joe to perform at two of his benefits at the Meadowlands
in New Jersey and Madison Square Garden in New York.
Chippy Album and helps write songs with Robert Earl Keen, Wayne
Hancock, Butch Hancock, Jo Carrol Pierce, Terry and Jo Harvey
Allen and many others. Performs Chippy for 14 shows in Philidelphia.
Later performs same show at Lincoln Center in NYC to mixed reviews.
- Writes and
records Letter to Laredo Album. Breaks up with wife. Goes crazy.
Has art shows in Philidelphia, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville
and Austin. Tours California and goes crazier and moves out of
- Comes home
to family in 1995 and patches up differences. Breaks right arm
and left leg 3/11/95. Can't walk for 2 months. Releases 'Letter
to Laredo' and tours over a hundred cities in USA and Europe
barely able to walk. Records a 20 minute video documentary on
an Amtrak tour up the West Coast. Wins VH1 awards in Europe but
is not played in USA at request of Springsteen management. Another
Video of lead song 'All Just to Get to You', produced by friend
Adrian Pasdar, is not released by MCA. Films another episode
of Austin City Limits. Tours much of 1996 including a tour of
Italy in 1994,1995, twice in 1996 and twice in 1998. Invites
Townes Van Zant to join him in Sesto Callende, Italy in November
1998. Was the last time he sees Townes and Band member Rick Danko
- Tours much
of 1996. Second appearance on David Letterman and first on Conan
- Takes much
needed time off in 1997 to write and record. Begins Twisting
in the Wind. Also begins writing with Flatlanders for soundtrack
album for the film 'The Horse Whisperer'. Third appearance on
David Letterman, this time with the Flatlanders.
'Los Super Seven' record in March 1998 with Joel Guzman, Flaco
Jimenez, Rick Trevino, Freddy Fender, Rubin Ramos, Doug Sahm,
Augie Myers, and three members of Los Lobos. Appears on Conan
- Record Live
at Antones in Early 1999 for Rounder Records. Wins Grammy with
Los Super Seven. Works with writers Joe Sears and Kimmie Rhodes
in theater production "Hillbilly Heaven'. Works with Dwight
Yoakum in ill-fated western 'South of Heaven, West of Hell'.
Begins novel, 'Super Reverb' in July in Cody Wyoming while working
on Hillbilly Heaven. Plays private party with Los Super Seven
for Julia Roberts at her ranch. Write more songs with Flatlanders
and begin work on new Rounder Album. Record fourth Austin City
- The year
2000 saw a Tour of the USA (first ever) with Flatlanders. Record
new songs with Flatlanders. Continued work on novel. Recorded
the I-10 Chronicles with various artists including members of
the Buena Vista Social Club. Played Willie' Picnic and toured
ten cities with Dixie Chicks. Recorded 12 CD's of Spoken Word
material gathered from Journals written while years on the road.
- 2001 saw
another tour of the Flatlanders playing new songs never recorded
on the road. Recorded Blue Wind Blew for Townes Van Zandt Tribute
album. Joe finished his first novel in July in Talequah, Oklahoma.
Wrote more Flatlanders songs with Jimmie and Butch and made first
rehearsal tapes. Began recording new Rounder Record. First Flatlander
appearence on David Letterman Show.
- Was asked
to play benefit for World Trade Center Victims at Count Basie
Theater in Red Bank, NJ. Organized by Gary Tallent of the E Street
band, guests included Phoebe Snow, John Bon Jovi, Joan Jett,
Heraldo Rivera and Bruce Springsteen. The concert and local broadcast(the
State of New Jersey) earned over a million dollars.
- Finishes recording with
Flatlanders at end of 2001. Continues work on solo record, Streets
of Sin. Does short piece as Bruce Willis' limo driver in Barry
Tubb film, Grand Champion. Also appearing in film are Julia Roberts,
Joey Lauren Adams, Jacob Fisher, Emma Roberts, Buck Taylor, Natalie
Maines, George Strait, Robert Earl Keen, and Charlie Robison.
- Flatlander record, Now Again,
released April 2002. 70 City Tour begins. Repeat appearence on
David Letterman Show, first appearence on Don Imus in the Morning.
The record stays at number one on the Americana Charts for 15
weeks. Finish tour with shows in England, Scotland and Ireland.
- Completes Tracks and Mixes
for Streets of Sin (origonally called Torn from the Road) in
The 4 Horsemen Tour, Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, Joe Ely and Guy Clark kicks off 2003 with 18 shows.
Tours Streets of Sin.
Stays at number one on the Americana Chart for 9 weeks. 20 city tour begins with Joel Guzman covering the solos. Each tour collides with the next.
released, Light of Day (a tribute to Bruce Springsteen) and Old
Plank Road (The Chieftans and Friends). Cuts tour short to work
on Anthology project. Begins work on new novel....
- Begin recording new Flatlanders CD.