This Week With Joe Ely – A Guitar Reunion and a Van Robbery

I don’t know if Joe Ely will be doing his awesome rendition of Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road Goes On Forever” at the Mint on Saturday night, but I’m guessing he’s feeling that way. This week has been a very memorable one for Ely – starting with a big high that was all too quickly followed by a big low.

Joe Ely

Joe Ely

First, the happy news. Tuesday night in San Francisco, Ely was reunited with a guitar that had been stolen from him in that city 27 years earlier. The custom-made Newman guitar, bright blue with a distinctive billiard design on its neck was returned to Ely by a man named Matt Wright who had bought it at a San Francisco-area pawn shop over 20 years ago. Wright had recently done some Internet sleuthing on the guitar and discovered that Ely was its rightful owner.


And now the bad news. On Wednesday, Ely’s van was broken into while he was having lunch at a Denny’s in the Bay Area town of Vallejo. The smash-and-grab thief got away a couple laptops, an iPad and a briefcase that contained passports and birth certificates. The silver lining, however,  is that the old blue guitar wasn’t taken. Hopefully, it won’t take 27 years to recover these lost items but it probably will take longer than normal because the Vallejo is in bankruptcy and so its police force can’t afford to investigate this robbery.

After a week like this, it would be nice if Ely gets a warm reception in L.A. on Saturday night. Not that folks need the sympathy excuse to go see him. Ely has long been one of the standout performers in the Texas music scene. His rough ‘n’ tumble mix of rock and country (with a dose of Tex-Mex) packs an irresistible energy. The Clash, famously, picked him as their opening act back in ’79 and other superstar acts (Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, Tom Petty – to name a few) also put Ely in their bills. After some 4 decades of music making, Ely is still going strong. His most recent release, 2011’s Satisfied At Last, is a wonderfully satisfying effort.

Joe Pug

Joe Pug

If you are headed to the Mint, make sure you get there earlier enough to catch Joe Pug’s set. The young singer-songwriter (he has been on this earth for about as long as Ely was separated from his blue Newman guitar) seems like an old soul and his tunes (which have a bit of Dylan and Prine in them) possess a sharp, literate quality.

About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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