Interview and story by Don Wilcock
Joe Ely raises some dust…
West Texas troubadour Joe Ely was only about six years old, but he remembers the first time he saw Jerry Lee Lewis tear it up on a flatbed truck in the middle of a dust storm. “I was in Amarillo. All I remember is my parents took me out to this car lot,” says the roadhouse rocker who plays at the Hangar in Troy on Thursday night (November 14), presented by the Ale House.
“They were selling cars. I think it was a Pontiac dealership, and I just remember it was kind of a flatbed trailer on a little high-up stage, and the guy would get out there and sell cars, and then they were giving away free hot dogs and Cokes, but I remember it being this terrible dust storm, and you couldn’t hardly see across the street.
“The wind was blowing about 40 miles an hour, and then they said, ‘Now we got this kid to play a little piano for you,’ and I remember him pounding away on this piano in a dust storm, and the wind was blowin’ so hard it actually would blow the microphone over. Somebody would run out there and prop it back up, and then later, I guess it was three or four years later he had a big hit, ‘Whole Lotta Shakin,’ and my parents told me that was who we saw at the Pontiac dealership.”
That performance fundamentally changed the way Ely looked at life.
“I was fascinated. You know, the only other place I’d ever seen a piano before was in a church, and here was this guy just beating the holy hell out of it, and I guess it was the whole scene – the desert storm, the microphone blowing over, somebody pounding this rock and roll out on the piano… And it was the whole combination of all those things made such a lasting memory in my head.”