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
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."
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.
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 would later tour 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. 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. Another collaboration was with Dutch flamenco guitarist Teye, with whom he recorded Letter to Laredo (1995) and Twistin' in the Wind (1998).
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."