Joe Ely / Little Known Facts
The Early Years
— Born Feb. 9th 1947, between Route 66 and the Rock Island Railroad line in Amarillo, Texas. Both sides of his family arrive by 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 trailer 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 friend’s brother-in-law, Bob Blasingame, teaches Joe to play guitar in his garage. Thirty years later Joe learns that Buddy Holly once lived in the same house where he learned to play.
— Took Hawaiian guitar from a door to door salesman from The Dunnagun School of Music. Found out years later that Buddy Holly had taken lessons at the same school.
A 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 Hide-a -way Club. Hall of Fame quarterback, Bobby Lane, who was out on the town with fellow Yankee star Micky Mantle, tipped Joe one hundred dollars for playing the Willie Nelson Classic, 'Nightlife'.
— Recorded three songs with his early band. The tape has since been lost but now it’s found.
— 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 original version) as a musician in the production. Played off-Broadway at Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare 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 Schoener 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. The recordings, The Odessa Tapes, is released in 2016.
— 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 on vinyl 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. The project is released under the title More A Legend Than A Band. 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 Belgium horses. Played every stop in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In Houston, was kicked un-conscience by the lead horse as the elephants were being led in by famed trainer, Gunther Gunther 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.
— Joe’s friend Jesse Taylor asks Joe to join his roofing crew to earn some extra cash. Joe’s roofing career is short lived after his crew removes the roof off the wrong house. Joe says, “We just missed it by one”.
— 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, Ponty Bone on accordion, 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 Young’s 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.
— His self-titled record is released in 1977 followed by a short tour of the states which included a February five night stand at New York City’s Lone Star Cafe where MCA arranged for Joe to arrive at the club in a horse drawn covered wagon on opening night. In July, Joe would play his first of many gigs at North Hollywood’s famed Palomino Club. Joe's childhood hero, Chuck Berry, joined the band in St. Louis for a string of songs at the end of the night.
— Joe’s band plays Luckenbach, TX and is filmed for the the Lone Star Texas Music Special TV program. The band features Lloyd Maines, Jesse Taylor, Ponty Bone, Gregg Wright, and Steve Keeton. The setlist includes an early version of “Down on The Drag” with alternate lyrics. The show airs seven songs.
— 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 Q.,which led to numerous performances in the Lubbock Area.
— Extensive US tour followed by another tour of Europe. Met up with Linda Ronstadt 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. The album is released to widespread acclaim in 1979.
— Back to London in 1979 for another tour. The Clash come to Joe’s 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 Austin’s Armadillo World Headquarters, 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.
— “Lubbock Calling” - Joe and band travel to London to play shows with the Clash and 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. Earlier that week, Joe’s band and the Clash get together for an impromptu gig at the Hope & Anchor. The show is recorded.
— While in London, Joe developed a 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 anniversary 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 featured, among others, Stevie Ray Vaughan as well as the Planets whose drummer was Davis McLarty. Davis would join Joe’s band 5 years later and begin his 35 year run as the primary drummer.
— The Tornado Jam became an annual happening. The next year it 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 Ronstadt, Buddy Holly's original band The Cricket's and many others.
— In October of 1980, Joe begins a ten show run opening for Linda Ronstadt (Billboard’s #1 Female Artist of 1980). During this run, Joe’s guitar player, Jesse Taylor, injures his hand. Filling in six shows for Jesse is 23-year old Lee Roy Parnell.
— Joe closes 1980 with a New Years Eve gig at the Club Foot in Austin. The show is capped by Ralph The Diving Pig doing his famous “swine dive” at midnight.
— Joe releases Musta Notta Gotta Lotta in 1981 and begins a rigorous two year tour to promote the album.
— In April at the Cathay De Grande in Hollywood CA, Joe is joined on stage by Roy Brown who wrote “Good Rocking Tonite”. Joe and Roy perform the song together. Roy Brown passed away 4 weeks later.
— In May, WLIR FM in New York simulcasts Joe’s full show live at “My Father’s Place in Rosslyn NY. Three weeks later, a Boston FM station simulcasts Joe’s show from the Paradise Theater. Joe played 2 sold out shows at the Paradise Theater that night.
— In May, Joe shares the bill in Lochem Holland with The Kinks and The Stray Cats.
— In July of ’81, Joe 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.
— Joe’s concert at Nick’s Uptown in Dallas TX is filmed for the TV program Rock & Roll-Then and Now, an hour long show. Joe splits the hour with Carl Perkins. The show airs on ONTV - a subscription cable channel. The footage of Joe and his band is legendary and truly captures the spirit and energy of the era.
— In the second half of ’81, Joe opens 17 shows for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, 5 shows for The Kinks, and 3 more shows for Linda Ronstadt. In December, the Joe Ely band opens for The Rolling Stones in Tempe Arizona.
— In May of ’82, Joe hosts Tornado Jam 3 in Lubbock featuring Linda Ronstadt, Joan Jett, The Crickets, Terry Allen and more. The night before the concert, Joe and Linda, Ronstadt surprise Lubbock Monterrey High School students when they pop-in on their graduation dance at The Cotton Club in Lubbock. Joe and Linda join the Maines Brothers on stage for an impromptu jam.
— In June of ’82, after guitar player Jesse Taylor injures his hand, 13-year old Charlie Sexton (Bob Dylan, Arc Angels) sits in for a dozen shows in Texas. MTV sends a reporter to cover the story and the reporter interviews Joe, Jesse, and Charlie. The news story airs on MTV.
— In September of ’82, Joe joins Linda Ronstadt again for 11 shows - including a 10 show run at The Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles.
— Joe closes ’82 with a New Year’s Eve show at the Cotton Club in Lubbock. The 1981-1982 schedule is rigorous for the band members, and one by one they drop out. When Jesse Taylor calls it quits after the New Year’s Eve gig, Joe decides to hang it up for a bit and this era of the band ends.
— The Lubbock City Council votes "No more music in Buddy Holly Park." Joe moves to Austin.
— Spends a year off at home with his wife and in November they have a baby girl, Marie Elena Ely.
— In 1984, Joe releases Hi-Res and 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. Joe’s limited tour to promote Hi-Res includes his second featured appearance on Austin City Limits and also a show at Edstock at the Bronco Bowl in Oak Cliff TX. Edstock was the first and last Mister Ed “National Convention” for the Mr. Ed Fan club. On The bill was Joe Ely, Tiny Tim, T Bone Burnett and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Even Alan Young , who played Wilbur on the Mr. Ed TV show, made an appearance.
— In February of ’85, Joe tours Australia with Jimmy Barnes making stops in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, Newcastle, Forester, Sydney, Canberra, and Perth.
— While in Australia, IRS comes to take his house and studio. Barely makes it home in time to save it. IRS investigates 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 defense is to leave the country.
— Leaves MCA Records in 1985 after seven albums. Returns to Lubbock for another Tornado Jam indoors at the Coliseum. 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. The foursome is also joined by Rolling Stones sax player Bobby Keys for most of the year. 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. Signs with Hi-Tone records, a label started by a San Francisco artist, Robert Cray. Joe would release 2 records on Hi-Tone - 1987’s Lord of the Highway and 1988’s Dig All Night.
— Joe’s band films and releases the 60 minute VHS video Live From Texas. The video is a collection of songs from Joe’s September concert at Gruene Hall in Gruene TX. Joe’s band consists of Bobby Keys, David Grissom, Jimmy Pettit, and Davis McLarty.
— 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" promoter’s 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.
— Joe is asked by the Texas State Department of Highways and GSDM advertising company to participate in the “Don’t Mess With Texas” anti-litter advertising campaign. Joe and band film a 60 second advertisement on a lit-up stage the shape of Texas. Joe chooses his song “Are you Listening Lucky”and changes the lyrics to address littering. The revised song title is “Don’t Mess with Texas”. The advertisement appears regularly on Texas TV stations.
— Another tour of Scandinavia 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 for Will Sexton on MCA Records. Joe and Will Sexton co-write the song “All Just To Get To You” which Will performs on the record. Joe also produces a record for Jimmie Dale Gilmore on High Tone Records. Records 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 with David Grissom, Jimmy Pettit, and Davis McLarty 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.” Begins writing Love and Danger. Tours coast to coast USA and back to Europe in fall.
— In September of ’90, Joe joins Paul McCartney on stage in NYC for a 3-song set at the Lone Star Road House party for the premiere of the Broadway play, Buddy. Joe and Paul trade versus on “Rave On,” “Lucille,” and “Oh Boy.” The band also includes Max Weinberg and Gary Tallent of the E Street Band, The Crickets, Dave Edmunds, Steve Forbert and more. A house camera records the three song set.
— Takes a year off in 1991 and writes new songs, spends time with family and fights the IRS. Does Montreaux Jazz Festival in July.
— Joe joins John Mellencamp, John Prine, Dwight Yoakam, and James McMurtry to form the supergroup the Buzzin’ Cousins. The group records the song “Sweet Suzanne” for the soundtrack to the movie Falling From Grace, John Mellencamp’s acting and directorial debut.
— Releases Love and Danger in Sept. of 1992. The Love and Danger Tour includes both Europe and the USA. Joe’s Love and Danger touring band includes legendary keyboardist Reese Wynans and 24 year old guitarist Ian Moore. 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.
— In May of ’93 Joe takes the band to Ireland and Switzerland. At Joe’s gig in Ireland, Bruce Springsteen joins Joe and the band for Woody Guthrie’s “Old Dusty Road,” “Fingernails,” and “Settle For Love.” The next night, Bruce invites Joe to his show and Joe sings “Settle For Love” with Bruce’s band. Jerry Lee Lewis follows Joe that night with Bruce. Later in 1993, Bruce asks Joe to perform at two of his benefits at the Meadowlands in New Jersey and Madison Square Garden in New York. Joe sings “Settle For Love” with Bruce’s band both nights.
— In 1994, 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 Philadelphia. Later performs same show at Lincoln Center in NYC to mixed reviews.
— 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 the 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 Zandt to join him in Sesto Callende, Italy in November 1998. Was the last time he sees Townes and Band member Rick Danko alive.
— In November of ’95, the Joe Ely Band is the featured band on the national morning show “CBS This Morning.” The show is taped at Billy Bob’s in Ft Worth and Joe and band perform “All Just To Get To You” and “Oh Boy.” Joining Joe on stage is Jesse Taylor, Lloyd Maines, David Grissom,Tye, and Glen Fukunaga, and Davis McLarty.
— Tours much of 1996. Second appearance on David Letterman and first on Conan O’Brian.
— Joe writes and records the song “Character Flaw” for the soundtrack to the movie Tin Cup. The film stars Kevin Costner, Don Johnson, Rene Russo, and Cheech Marin.
— Takes much needed time off in 1997 to write and record. Begins Twisting in the Wind.
— Joe and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock (The Flatlanders) are asked by Robert Redford to write a song for the 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. The Los Super Seven record earns Joe a Grammy Award.
— Records Live at Antone’s over two nights in Jan. 1999. On stage with Joe for the recording are Jesse Taylor, Lloyd Maines, Joel Guzman, Teye, Gary Hermann, and Rafael O’Malley Gayol. The album is released on Rounder Records in early 1999. 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.
— In July of 1999 Joe begins writing novel, Super Reverb, in Cody, WY while working on Hillbilly Heaven. Plays private party with Los Super Seven for Julia Roberts at her ranch. Writes more songs with Flatlanders and begin work on new Rounder Album. Records fourth Austin City Limits performance.
— In 2000, the Flatlanders embark on their first ever Tour of the USA. Record new songs with Flatlanders. Continued work on novel.
— Also in 2000, he records the I-10 Chronicles with various artists including members of the Buena Vista Social Club. He returns to play Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic and tours ten cities with Dixie Chicks. Joe also joins Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band on stage in Austin to sing “All Just To Get To You.” Records 12 CD's of spoken word material gathered from Journals written while years on the road.
— In 2001 the Flatlanders continue touring and playing new songs never recorded. Recorded ‘Blue Wind Blew’ for Townes Van Zandt Tribute album. Joe finishes his first novel in July in Talequah, OK. He continues writing more songs with Jimmie Dale and Butch for the Flatlanders, and first rehearsal tapes. Began recording new Rounder Record. The Flatlanders make first appearance 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 Talent of the E Street band, guests included Phoebe Snow, John Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, Geraldo 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 the 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. A 70 City Tour begins. Repeat appearance on David Letterman Show, makes first appearance 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 (originally 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 with 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.
— Joe records Bruce Springsteen’s “Working on the Highway” for the CD Light of Day (a tribute to Bruce Springsteen) and Joe also participates in the recording of Old Plank Road (The Chieftains and Friends).
— In 2007, Joe releases Happy Songs From Rattlesnake Gulch. Later that year, he releases Silver City, recordings of songs he wrote during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The album includes “Indian Cowboy,” which Joe wrote and once played for Guy Clark. Joe forgot about the song which Guy eventually recorded. Joe explained that he had to get Guy’s record to re-learn the song.
— 2007 — Joe is honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Live Performance from The Americana Music Assocation.
— 2007 — Joe releases (through University of Texas Press) his first book, Bonfire of Roadmaps, a collection of sketches, prose entries and poetry from the journals he has kept on the road for decades.
— 2011 — Joe releases Satisfied At Last
— 2014 — Joe releases B484, a pioneering album originally recorded in 1983 that was among the first albums ever recorded digitally using an Apple II Computer. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak provides the liner notes.
— 2014 — Joe releases his first novel, Reverb • An Odyssey, earning tremendous acclaim. “Texas singer-songwriter Ely has been making music since the 1960s, notably with the Flatlanders on and off since ‘71. Now he’s crafted his first novel, a coming-of-age story which starts off in the West Texas town of Lubbock — a place that’s in “a normal state of static chaos” — where Ely grew up. It’s 1965 and high-school dropout Earle has just registered for the draft. He’s also let his hair grow long and picked up a guitar. Times are tense in town for kids like him as he hits the road via an outstretched thumb.” — BILLY HELLER / NY Post
— In 2014 — Joe releases a duet with the legendary singer Linda Ronstadt. The rare duet, “Where Is My Love,” dates back to 1987. During a recent 2014 visit with Ronstadt the two artists recalled the session for “Where is My Love.” After a search, the recording was found. Ely and Ronstadt agree the song has held up well over time. Written by West Texas songwriter, Randy Banks, it is a love song of regret that brings Linda Ronstadt back to her days as the country-rock queen of the early 70’s. Her vocal interchange with Ely carries a soulful reminder of how two fine artists create magic through chemistry and the sheer joy of sharing together in a great country song.
— In 2016, Joe is named the Official Musician for the State of Texas, Ely spent 2016 as the reigning "Texas State Musician,” a prestigious one-year designation which he formally accepted in a ceremony at the State Legislature that spring. Previous recipients include Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Dale Watson, Ray Benson and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top).
— In 2016, Joe is inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriter Associations Hall of Fame along with Roy Orbison and JD Souther.
— In 2017, Joe is given membership into the prestigious Texas Institute of Letters (with active members Cormac McCarthy and Larry McMurtry) as the first musician ever honored by the group. The invitation was the result of Ely’s second book, Reverb: An Odyssey. Ely became the first musician ever invited to be part of the prestigious group.
— In 2018, Joe releases The Lubbock Tapes: The Lubbock Tapes, his first known recordings as a solo artist. Recorded in two different sessions at Caldwell Studios in Lubbock — the town in west Texas where Buddy Holly was born — in 1974 and 1978, Full Circle documents the moment Ely’s music began to take shape before his first solo record as well as a period before his third album that shows a shift toward a more rocking band and style.
— On Feb. 29th , 2020, 40 years to the day of the live recording of Joe’s first live album Live Shots in London, Joe celebrates the album’s 40th anniversary by performing the album in it’s entirety at Gruene Hall in Gruene, Texas
— On July 3, 2020, Joe releases Love in the Midst of Mayhem. As usual, the album draws rave reviews!