Country-rock singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Ely was born Earle R. Ely on February 9, 1947, in Amarillo, TX. His family had worked for the Rock Island Line railroad dating back to the start of the century. He dropped out of school and began playing music professionally in local clubs, forming a band called the Twilights that became successful enough for him to quit being a dishwasher. Soon after, however, he became sufficiently restless to begin traveling, at first to other cities in Texas, then California, and later New York, with even a trip to Europe working for a theatrical company. Ely returned to rambling around the country, but he was back in Lubbock by 1974, when he began putting together a permanent backup band to play there and around Texas. Ely and his band toured extensively in the late '70s, headlining small shows and opening for bigger acts. Among these, surprisingly enough, was the British punk rock band the Clash. By the end of 1982, Ely was arguably on the cusp of breaking through commercially as a country-rock crossover artist. He had opened shows for the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and even the Rolling Stones. For a man who has spent the lion's share of his life on the highway, sleeping in all manner of inns, tents, under bridges, and naked to the stars above, it may seem ironic that, for more than twenty years, Joe Ely has lived with his wife Sharon in the first and only home Ely has ever owned.
- Monterrey High School, Lubbock
- 2014, Lostbound Memory: Works by Joe Ely and Marie Ely, The DEN, Austin
- 2007, Bonfire of Roadmaps, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin
- 2012 Artful Musicians, South Austin Popular Culture Center, Austin