On a recent Wednesday night at the Southland Ballroom, Texas Legend Joe Ely was greeted by a little bit of home. As temperatures outside approached 100 degrees, a large crowd filed into the venue to see someone who does not visit this part of the country often. Roots music promoter Marianne Taylor has tried to book Ely during her respective stints at The Pour House, Hideaway BBQ, Berkeley Cafe and now Southland Ballroom, but she’s never been able to secure a date with him. With such anticipation, the few rows of chairs quickly filled.
After delightful sets from Reagan Boggs and Lucette, Ely took the stage, accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Jeff Plankenhorn. In the early ’70s, Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore began the on-again, off-again collaboration The Flatlanders, now regarded as very influential. “Dallas,” maybe the trio’s most recognizable track, was recently picked up by the FX show Fargo for use in an episode. Ely lamented that the group hadn’t received any money for that 1972 work and that this would be the first.
Ely is a master of weaving styles from Tex-Mex and rockabilly to folk and country through his narrative songwriting. During “Indian Cowboy,” for instance, he tells a story of accidentally picking up a job in West Texas with the Ringling Brothers as a young man, even referencing the famous tightrope walkers The Wallendas.
Throughout the evening, Ely received many requests for tunes from his considerable back catalog. He performed a pair of tunes by fellow Flatlander Butch Hancock, “Row of Dominoes” and “She Never Spoke Spanish To Me,” with Plankenhorn providing brilliant flares of Spanish guitar to each number.
As the evening wound down, Ely received a standing ovation as the crowd lined up to meet the Texas legend. Ely greeted each with a warm smile and signed a considerable amount of items. One after another, they declared how far they had driven to see him before filing out into the hot evening air.
Below, catch a handful of clips from the evening’s performance.
Joe Ely, “Dallas”
Joe Ely, “Indian Cowboy”
Joe Ely, “Row of Dominoes”
Joe Ely, “She Never Spoke Spanish To Me”