Joe Ely

Joe Ely

A Texan singer, songwriter and guitarist, Joe Ely spent his teenage years in Lubbock, and as someone said, “There is a mystical link between Joe Ely and Buddy Holly.”

There is now even more of a link as Joe was presented with a copy a Buddy’s J-45, named Down the Line.

In his early twenties Joe formed The Flatlanders with fellow Lubbock musicians Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock. “Jimmie was like a well of country music…Butch was from the folk world…I was kinda the rock & roll guy.” Joe and the guys released their first and only album, Now Again, in 1972, and although they didn’t stay the course as a trio, have played on each other’s albums. Joe headed to New York to play the folk clubs and ended up working in a circus, looking after ‘”The world’s smallest horse.” It kicked him, broke three ribs, so he wisely headed back to Lubbock. “I’d sit at the Broadway Drug Store by the campus of Texas Tech, go in there every day, drink a pot of coffee and sketch out set lists of a future band.”

Joe’s eponymous debut solo album was released in 1977 and the following year he met the Clash in London, with a mutual musical respect emerging between the group and Ely. They toured together, Joe sang backing vocals on the Clash’s Should I Stay or Should I Go and the band name-checked him in their song If Music Could Talk. The death of Joe Strummer meant that the planned collaboration with Ely never happened.

Joe Ely has also performed with such musicians as Bruce Springsteen, The Chieftains, recorded with Dutch flamenco guitarist, Teye and toured with Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt. Joe’s song Brainlock was featured in the film Roadie, starring Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper and in the late 90s he was asked to write songs for the soundtrack of the Robert Redford film, The Horse Whisperer. The request led to the re-forming of the Flatlanders and two new albums in 2002 and 2004. In 2007 Ely released the album Happy Songs from Rattlesnake Gulch and book of writings, Bonfire of Roadmaps. There was another solo album in 2006 and another Flatlanders album, Hits and Valleys, three years later. Following two more albums Satisfied at Last in 2011 and Panhandle Rambler in 2015 Joe Ely was made “Texas State Musician” in 2016, a designation which he held for a year.

Don McLean
Paul Carrack