Joe Ely has collected a lot of labels over his more than five decade career. Initially labelled a Texas music rebel he is now considered one of the states elder statesman – all without changing his style in any significant way.
Ely grew up in Amarillo before moving to Lubbock where he got his first interest in music sparked by seeing a Jerry Lee Lewis concert. After his father died when he was fourteen and his mother was institutionalized for a time from the trauma, the children scattered to various locations. Ely eventually returned to Lubbock, dropped out of school and began playing professionally.
Eventually Ely formed his permanent band and a demo got to Jerry Jeff Walker who recommended him to his record label. Ely’s first album came out in 1977.
Joe Ely toured heavily in the 70s and 80s opening for some unlikely acts, including the Clash. As he appeared to be close to a mainstream breakthrough, Ely’s band broke apart due to the burden of all the touring.
Ely’s membership in the early 70’s Lubbock Americana band the Flatlanders paid dividends in 1992. Asked to write songs for the movie The Horse Whisperer, Ely reformed the band for that work, and found a renewed interest in the band which greatly exceeded their success first time around.
Over this past pandemic year, Ely has focused on completing the audio version of his recently released autobiography Reverb and preparing for another reunion album for the Flatlanders.
Photo Credit: Matthew Fuller