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True Stories of Amazing People and Places in Texas
Photo Courtesy Steve Hopson
Ely was Born in Amarillo February 9, 1947 as Earle R. Ely. His family had worked for the Rock Island Line railroad since the early 1900s. When he was 12, the family moved to Lubbock, Texas, where his father ran a used clothing store. He attended Monterey High School. His father died when he was 14, and his mother was institutionalized for a year due to the trauma, so he and his brother were forced to stay with relatives in other cities. When the family came back together in Lubbock, he took a job washing dishes to bring in some money and began playing music professionally in local clubs, forming a band called the Twilights who became successful enough for him to quit being a dishwasher. .
Ely and fellow Lubbock musicians Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, formed the Flatlanders in 1970. Ely 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.
In 1972, the band released their first and only album, Now Again. Since the band's initial breakup just after their first album was cut, the three musicians have followed individual paths,. but have appeared together on each other's albums.
Ely's own first as a singer-songwriter was a self-titled album was released in 1977. The album includes several tracks written by Ely's band mates from The Flatlanders. The album Joe Ely and the follow-up album, Honky Tonk Masquerade, helped establish Ely as a solo artist.
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. 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 2020, as the COVID-19 crisis stalled Ely's touring plans and silenced the usually busy Texas music community, he responded by making an album, Love in the Midst of Mayhem (Amazon), gathered from previously unfinished songs in Ely's archives.