It was a busy weekend for Joe Ely. After joining more than a dozen other musicians pay tribute to the late, great Guy Clark at the Paramount Theatre on Friday night, he boarded a plane for El Paso to formally be inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.
Saturday’s ceremony inducted 15 new writers into the group whose active members includes such Texas literary luminaries as Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy. In a press statement, TIL president Steve Davis asserted that “we are not inducting Joe Ely as a musician, but as a writer.
“He’s written two books — “Bonfire of Roadmaps,” a memoir of his life on the road, and “Reverb: An Odyssey,” a fantastic book that reads like a Beat novel about his move from Lubbock across the state of Texas. When I read that, I thought this guy has such a well-developed literary sensibility, with a consistent voice and literary technique. He was nominated as a literary writer. It’s why he got voted in.”
Ely, for his part, said in the statement that he was “thrilled and humbled” to be inducted, adding that “I really think this will open the door to other musicians, because there are so many great writers out there.”
According to the organization’s website, “The Texas Institute of Letters is a nonprofit Honor Society founded in 1936 to celebrate Texas literature and to recognize distinctive literary achievement. The TIL’s elected membership consists of the state’s most respected writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, journalism, and scholarship.”
Ely, who turned 70 in February, is back in action this weekend in Austin, playing an acoustic show at the Cactus Cafe. Though his 2016 reign as Texas State Musician ended in December, he’s technically still the occupant of that title, with 2017 and 2018 honorees set to be announced soon by the Texas Commission on the Arts.
READ MORE: Our 2015 interview with Joe Ely