Joe Ely (album)

Joe Ely is the self-titled debut album by Joe Ely, released in 1977 on MCA Records. The album includes several tracks with "near-classic" status among Ely fans, including several written by Ely's bandmates from The Flatlanders. Although the The Flatlanders never actually broke-up, there would be several decades between their poorly distributed 1972 album and their next release.

Joe Ely, together with his follow-up, Honky Tonk Masquerade, established Ely as a solo artist. Although the reissued CD doesn't credit Ely's backing musicians, the original LP included a one-page insert containing lyrics and musician credits. The core of the backing band that Ely had assembled for his debut was the same Lubbock-based crack team that appeared with him the following year on Honky Tonk Masquerade and continued to follow him on the road until 1982.

Years later Ely would recall that the band had not initially made plans for a recording career:

"We had recorded some songs at [Don] Caldwell's studio," Ely said. "Don took that tape to Jerry Jeff Walker, and Jerry Jeff recorded one of the songs and played it for a guy with MCA Records. Then one night in 1975 at the Cotton Club, an A&R guy with MCA asked, 'Do y'all want to make some records?'"

"I told him we'd sure never planned on it. But we hadn't planned anything else either, so why not?"

In the years that followed the release of Joe Ely, the band would become an act of national stature.

LP track listing

All songs written by Joe Ely except as indicated.

Side one

  1. "I Had My Hopes Up High" — 3:32
  2. "Mardi Gras Waltz" — 2:50
  3. "She Never Spoke Spanish To Me" (Butch Hancock) — 3:34
  4. "Gambler's Bride" — 2:35
  5. "Suckin' A Big Bottle Of Gin" (Hancock) — 3:15

Side two

  1. "Tennessee's Not The State I'm In" (Hancock) — 3:04
  2. "If You Were A Bluebird" (Hancock) — 2:59
  3. "Treat Me Like A Saturday Night" (Jimmie Gilmore) — 3:02
  4. "All My Love" — 3:09
  5. "Johnny Blues" — 4:10


Credits are summarized from track-by-track credits listed in liner notes.


  • Bass – Gregg Wright
  • Drums – Steve Keeton
  • Piano, electric piano, clavinet and organ – Bobby Emmons
  • Electric guitars – Jesse Taylor, Rick Hulett, Joe Ely, Chip Young
  • Acoustic guitars – Joe Ely, Chip Young, Lloyd Maines, Rick Hulett, Ray Edenton
  • Gut & 12 String Guitar – Jesse Taylor
  • F-Hole Guitar – Ray Edenton
  • Steel guitarLloyd Maines
  • Dobros – Jesse Taylor, Rick Hulett
  • Slide dobro – Joe Ely on "Saturday Night"
  • Harmonica – Joe Ely
  • Percussion – Farrell Morris
  • Horns – The Muscle Shoals Group
  • Trumpet – Harrison Callaway
  • Tenor Saxophone – Harvey Thompson
  • Baritone Saxophone – Ron Eades
  • Trombone – Charles Rose
  • Vocal Harmonies – Joe Ely on "Johnny Blues"; Rick Hulett on "Mardi Gras Waltz", "She Never Spoke Spanish", "Tennessee" and "All My Love"



  • Cover illustration – Paul Milosevich
  • Back cover photo (of Ely and band in cafe) – Jim Eppler


The album was digitally remastered and released on CD and cassette in 1991. In 2000, a remastered edition of Ely's first two albums (Joe Ely and Honky Tonk Masquerade) were released together on a single disk. Dirty Linen reported that this disk was especially worth seeking out since it was (at least at the time), "the only place on two continents you can get Ely's debut." The reviewer described Ely's first two albums together: "Ely's self-titled effort and HTM are a bit leaner than most of his other honky-tonk rockers, with a bit more piano than electric guitar backing his lonesome warble -- dry and forceful as the wind whistling through Waco."

year format record company catalog number
1977 LP MCA 2808
LP MCA 2242
CD MCA 1-219
Cassette MCA MCAC-10219
2000 CD Beat Goes On (BGO) BGOCD502

Notes and sources

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