Thing To Know About Joe Ely
Joe Ely doesn't seem to give a damn whether or not his records sell, and he has never went "platinum". Here are the facts about Texas' enigmatic musical genius Joe Ely:
* Was born between Route 66 and the Rock Island Railroad line in Amarillo, Texas.
* Saw Jerry Lee Lewis playing on a flatbed trailer in a dust storm when he was six years old.
* Took Hawaiian guitar from the same door to door salesman who taught Buddy Holly.
* Rode a motorcycle down the hallways of Monterey High School on the first day of his freshman year. Was later expelled for singing "Cherry Pie" at a school assembly.
* His first band, the Twilights, opened for Jimmy Reed at the Ko Ko Palace when he was 15.
* Saw his first hundred dollar bill when Hall of Fame quarterback Bobby Lane and Yankee star Mickey Mantle tipped him one hundred dollars for playing the Willie Nelson Classic, 'Nightlife'.
* Played the Cellar Club in Houston alternating sets from six in the evening until six in the morning with the Moving Sidewalks - who would later become 'ZZ Top'.
* Moved to Austin and started playing at the original location of Stubbs BBQ. Alternated nights with guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn, passing the hat to make fifteen dollars a night.
* Along with friend, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, recorded four songs in Lubbock, produced by Buddy Holly's father. The tape has since been lost.
* Recorded seventeen songs with the Flatlanders in Nashville in 1972. After 20 years in obscurity, released on CD for the first time in America under the Rounder Label in 92. Though the record has sold hundreds of thousands of copies, the Flatlanders have received zero 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 Belgian horses. In Houston, was kicked unconscious by the lead horse as the elephants were being led in.
* In the fall of 1974 was asked to play the part of Buddy Holly for Twentieth Century Fox. Went to Hollywood and rehearsed for two weeks with Gary Busey and others. Fox 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 bars around Texas. Recorded nine songs at a local studio which led to a recording contract with MCA Records within a year.
* Recorded first album for MCA, who pushed to use studio musicians instead of Joe's band. Joe fought for his band who played on the entire album. The record 'Joe Ely' was released in 1977.
* Went to England in the summer of 1977 for several weeks of dates around Europe with legends Carl Perkins and Merle Haggard. Toured US with Linda Ronstadt.
* The Clash came to the his band's London show at the Venue Theater and invited the band to come to the studio where they were recording London Calling. The Clash came to America later in 1979, and the two bands played several shows together in Texas and California
* Joe conceived the plan for a concert at Lubbock's Buddy Holly Park on May 11, 1980 to be called the Tornado Jam (the 10th anniversary of the infamous 5/11/70 tornado). The event drew 6000 people and prompted it to become an annual happening.
* Toured with The Kinks, The Stones, Tom Petty, and other acts. Robbed in San Francisco, Joe and his band lost every piece of equipment with three months to go. Musicians from around the country helped the band get back on their feet.
* Traveled to Washington DC with Terry Allen, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock for a project to write a new National Anthem. The group wrote 13 new National Anthems and performed them at the Smithsonian in DC. The tape of the event was lost in a fire only months later.
* Signed with MCA again and toured the world. Played at Farm Aid, toured with John Hyatt and Lyle Lovett. Did a Buddy Holly set with Paul McCartney at NYC's Lone Star Road House.
* Took a year off in 1991 and wrote new songs, spent time with family, and fought the IRS.
* Performed the first of many appearances on 'Late Night with David Letterman' in 92.
* Wrote with the Flatlanders the soundtrack for the Robert Redford film 'The Horse Whisperer'.
* Recorded Live at Antones in Early 1999 for Rounder Records. Won Grammy with Los Super Seven. Worked with Dwight Yoakum in ill-fated western 'South of Heaven, West of Hell'.
* Flatlanders toured US in 2000. Played at Willie's Picnic and toured ten cities with Dixie Chicks.
* Played benefit for WTC victims organized by Gary Tallent of the E Street band, guests included Phoebe Snow, John Bon Jovi, Joan Jett, Heraldo Rivera and Bruce Springsteen.
* Did a cameo as Bruce Willis' limo driver in film, Grand Champion. Also appearing in film are Julia Roberts, Natalie Maines, George Strait, Robert Earl Keen, and Charlie Robison.
* Flatlander record, Now Again, released April 2002. 70 City Tour begins.
* Completed critically acclaimed Streets of Sin CD release in early 2003.
Joe Ely is one of a handful of artists who have defined and redefined the concept of Texas music over the past 30 years. He's neither country, rock nor blues. Nobody ever forgets a live performance by Joe Ely. He's finally starting to get some of the respect he deserves. This month he appears at BB Kings in NYC; on the Prairie Home Companion Radio Show; at the Chicago House of Blues; and at the Houston International Fest on April 24th.