AUSTIN CITY LIMITS closes out Season 48 with “ACL 8th Annual Hall of Fame Honors Joe Ely” – March 18 at 11 pm

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Austin City Limits
“ACL 8th Annual Hall of Fame Honors Joe Ely”
Saturday, March 18 at 11 pm

Iconic television series Austin City Limits closes out Season 48 with a special installment, Austin City Limits 8th Annual Hall of Fame Honors Joe Ely, celebrating the Texas music legend and new inductee with a song-filled salute from revered Lone Star musicians and Ely’s longtime collaborators, Texas all-stars The Flatlanders, with Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, alongside fellow Texans Rodney Crowell and Marcia Ball. The hour features a memorable induction by renowned Texas author Lawrence Wright along with historic highlights from the influential Ely’s eleven appearances on the ACL stage. The Peabody Award-winning program, recorded live at ACL’s studio home in Austin, Texas, continues its extraordinary run as the longest-running music television show in history. ACL provides viewers a front-row seat to the best in live performance as this American music institution nears its remarkable half-century milestone.

Joe Ely performing at Austin City Limits, 2022
Joe Ely performs at the ACL Hall-of-Fame 2022

In this special installment, ACL Hall of Fame honoree Joe Ely gets his flowers in a magical, memorable salute. A trailblazing artist with longtime ties to Austin City Limits, Ely has made eleven appearances on the series beginning with his 1980 ACL debut in Season 5 and the hour features vintage ACL clips showcasing his distinctive performances across the decades. From the moment he debuted in the 1970s, Ely has mixed a rock-and-roll sensibility with hardcore honky tonkin’ and become one of the most recognized and respected artists to hail from the Lone Star state. Growing up on the vast and empty plains of West Texas, his legend was forged onstage with relentlessly riveting live performances, hammered out over thousands of shows and countless touring miles from Lubbock to London and back again the long way around. Over his remarkable five-decade-plus career, he’s been at the forefront of Outlaw Country, Alt-Country, Texas Country and Americana, and has been recognized as one of the best songwriters of his generation. He has been embraced as a kindred spirit by artists as diverse as The Clash, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen.

Renowned author Lawrence Wright salutes Ely with a heartfelt and hilarious induction, recounting joining Ely on a trip to Lubbock, where Ely was raised and first started playing music more than 50 years ago. In response to the Texas Panhandle’s flat desolation, Wright recalled, Ely told him that “I think all the emptiness made me want to fill it up.” Wright fondly recalls Joe taking him to Buddy Holly’s gravesite in Lubbock where Ely had taken The Clash many decades prior to pay tribute to the legend. “The driving beat of a Joe Ely anthem tells us right away where he’s coming from,” explains Wright. “He’s a honky-tonk poet, an outlaw country minstrel, a corrido balladeer, a rocker with a broken heart, all these traditions experienced, captured, and transformed into his own distinctive style.”

Austin City Limits logoThe musical tribute kicks off with Austin piano legend and ACL Hall of Famer Marcia Ball taking the stage to perform Ely’s song “Fingernails,” a rollicking Jerry Lee Lewis-style number that Ball jokes “he wrote just for me, whether he knew it or not.” The ACL house band features longtime Joe Ely Band members Lloyd Maines (pedal steel), David Grissom (guitar), Davis McLarty (drums) and Jimmy Pettit (bass) along with Chris Gage (keyboards), Bill Whitbeck (bass) and Tom Van Schaik (percussion). Country great Rodney Crowell delivers a revved-up “Cool Rockin’ Loretta,” ad-libbing an entertaining testimony to Ely’s talents: “This is where I have to testify. It was Guy Clark who put me on to Joe, he said, ‘Hey man, there’s this guy from up in the Panhandle who ran away to join the circus and write songs about Indian cowboys and he can rock it all night long.’ The time has come for the man to be sworn into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame.”

Ely steps out front for the spirited, guitar-driven classic “All Just to Get to You,” from his landmark 1995 album Letter to Laredo. For this special occasion Ely is joined by his longtime Flatlanders bandmates Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock for a rare trio appearance. Hancock good-naturedly recalls the time Ely “got thrown out of his own show,” before the trio trade verses on the rockin’ “I Had My Hopes Up High” — the first song on Ely’s very first record in 1977 and the song that kicked off his 1980 ACL debut. “Joe isn’t just a knocked out rocker,” explains Gilmore, “He’s also got this amazingly beautiful sweet side.” Hancock calls the Ely-penned gem “Because Of The Wind,” “One of the most beautiful West Texas songs you’ll ever hear,” as the trio launch into the exquisite acoustic number. Gilmore sums up the essence of Ely, saying, “There’s nobody that loves the music and loves his audience more than Joe Ely.” The finale, at Ely’s request, features a Woody Guthrie song the Flatlanders have often performed, “Goin’ Down the Road (Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way).” The stars come out in the Texas sky as Crowell and Ball join in, with everybody taking a verse to bring the luminous hour to a close.

“There are Texas legends, then there is Joe Ely,” said ACL executive producer Terry Lickona. “He belongs in a class all his own. He personifies a whole era of Texas music, and there’s no more perfect candidate for the ACL Hall of Fame, considering his impact across the board.”