Joe Ely

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Joe Ely
Joe Ely in concert, 2006
Background information
Born (1947-02-09) February 9, 1947 (age 70)
Amarillo, Texas, United States
Origin Lubbock, Texas, United States
Genres Americana, Texas country, country rock, progressive country, outlaw country, alt-country, heartland rock, Tex-Mex
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, guitarist
Instruments Vocals, Guitar
Years active 1970–present
Labels MCA, Hightone
Associated acts The Flatlanders, Los Super Seven, James McMurtry

Joe Ely (born February 9, 1947, Amarillo, Texas, United States) is an American singer, songwriter and guitarist whose music touches on honky-tonk, Texas country, Tex-Mex and rock and roll.

He has had a genre-crossing career, performing with Bruce Springsteen, Uncle Tupelo, Los Super Seven, the Chieftains and James McMurtry in addition to his early work with the Clash and more recent acoustic tours with Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt, and Guy Clark.


Early life and career[edit]

Ely spent his formative years from age 12 in Lubbock, Texas, and attended Monterey High School.

In 1970, with fellow Lubbock musicians Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, he formed the Flatlanders. According to Ely, "Jimmie [Gilmore] was like a well of country music. He knew everything about it. And Butch was from the folk world. I was kinda the rock & roll guy, and we almost had a triad. We hit it off and started playing a lot together. That opened up a whole new world I had never known existed."[citation needed]

In 1972, the band released their first and—until 2002's Now Again—only album, but have appeared together on each other's albums. Since the band's initial breakup just after their first album was cut, the three musicians have followed individual paths.

Solo career[edit]

Ely's own first, self-titled album, was released in 1977.

The following year, his band played London, where he met punk rock group the Clash. Impressed with each other's performances, the two bands later toured together, including appearances in Ely's hometown of Lubbock, as well as Laredo and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas. The Clash paid tribute to Joe Ely by including the lyrics "Well there ain't no better blend than Joe Ely and his Texas Men" in the lyrics of their song If Music Could Talk, which was released in 1980 on the album Sandinista. [1] Ely sang backing vocals on the Clash single "Should I Stay or Should I Go?". Joe Strummer planned to record with Ely's band, but died before that ever happened—one of Ely's greatest regrets.[2] Another collaboration was with Dutch flamenco guitarist Teye, with whom he recorded Letter to Laredo (1995)[3] and Twistin' in the Wind (1998).[4]

Throughout his career, Ely has issued a steady stream of albums, most on the MCA label, and a live album roughly every ten years.

The Joe Ely Band song "Brainlock" was featured in the 1980 movie Roadie starring Meat Loaf, Alice Cooper, Don Cornelius and Kaki Hunter.

In the late 1990s, Ely was asked to write songs for the soundtrack of Robert Redford's movie The Horse Whisperer, which led to re-forming The Flatlanders with Gilmore and Hancock. A new album from the trio followed in 2002, with a third in 2004.

In February 2007, Ely released Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch on his own label, Rack 'Em Records. Ely said in an interview with Country Standard Time that he thought it would be easier to release the material on his own label instead of dealing with a regular record label and their release cycles. A book of Ely's writings, Bonfire of Roadmaps, was published in early 2007 by the University of Texas Press. In early 2008, Ely released a new live album featuring Joel Guzman on accordion recorded at the Cactus Cafe in Austin, Texas late 2006.

The Flatlanders released their newest album "Hills and Valleys" on March 31, 2009.

In 2011, Ely released the critically acclaimed album, "Satisfied At Last."

In September 2015, he released Panhandle Rambler, an album with a reflective west Texas feel.[citation needed]



Year Album Chart Positions Label
US Country US US Heat US Folk
1977 Joe Ely MCA
1978 Honky Tonk Masquerade
1979 Down on the Drag
1980 Live Shots 159
1981 Musta Notta Gotta Lotta 135
1984 Hi-Res 204
1987 Lord of the Highway Hightone
1988 Dig All Night
Milkshakes and Malts Sunstorm
What Ever Happened to Maria
1990 Live at Liberty Lunch 57 MCA
1993 Love and Danger
1995 Chippy Hollywood
Letter to Laredo 68 MCA
1998 Live at Cambridge Strange Fruit
Twistin' in the Wind 55 MCA
2000 Live @ Antones 66 Antones
2003 Streets of Sin 51 Rounder
Ten in Texas Icehouse
2007 Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch Rack 'Em Records
Silver City
2008 LIVE Cactus! (with Joel Guzmán)
2009 LIVE Chicago 1987!
2011 Satisfied At Last 46 18
2015 Panhandle Rambler 43 24 18


Year Single Peak chart
US Country US MSR
1977 "All My Love" 89 Joe Ely
1981 "Musta Notta Gotta Lotta" 40 Musta Notta Gotta Lotta
1993 "Highways and Heartaches" Love and Danger
1996 "All Just to Get to You" Letter to Laredo
2011 "You Can Bet I'm Gone" Satisfied at Last
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Guest singles[edit]

Year Single Artist Peak positions Album
US Country
1992 "Sweet Suzanne" Buzzin' Cousins 68 Falling from Grace soundtrack

Music videos[edit]

Year Video Director
1993 "Highways and Heartaches" Deaton-Flanigen

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "London to Lubbock: Joe Ely meets the Clash". Retrieved 2015-12-12. 
  3. ^ McCall, Michael (1995-08-31). "Restless Spirit". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 
  4. ^ Skanse, Richard (1998-05-18). "Texas Twister: Joe Ely goes to the movies and back to the flatlands". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Alejandro Escovedo
AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing
Succeeded by
Jason & the Scorchers