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Little Known Facts about Joe Ely's history

Compiled from various interviews and articles

by Jason Demiola

  • 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 noses.
  • 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 In.
  • 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'.
  • Recorded 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 the city
  • 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 .
  • Returned 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 lost.
  • Recorded 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.
  • Recorded 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 a year.
  • Recorded 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 and Ireland.
  • Introduced Stevie Ray Vaughn to his BBQ friend C.B. Stubblefield of Stubbs Bar B Que which led to numerous performances in the Lubbock Area.
  • Released '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 to Joe.
  • Recorded 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 Tour.
  • 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.
  • Releases 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.
  • Experiments 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 songs.
  • Records 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.
  • Records 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.
  • Another 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.
  • Produces 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.
  • Records '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 in October.
  • 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.
  • Releases '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.
  • Produces 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 house.
  • 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 alive.
  • Tours much of 1996. Second appearance on David Letterman and first on Conan O'Brian.
  • 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.
  • Records '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 O'Brien again.
  • 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 Limits performance.
  • 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 early 2003.

  • 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.

  • New CDs 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.