West Texas native Ely is a part of a loose confederation of players and singer-songwriters from around Lubbock whose songs have a mythical, larger-than-life quality to them. Ely, along with Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock, was briefly in an acoustic group called the Flatlanders. They released one legendarily obscure record in 1972 that was rereleased to almost ecstatic acclaim in the '90s. When Ely formed his own group in the mid-1970s, they played a hard-driving form of Honky-Tonk music that veered very close to rock. The group capitalized on the more open nature of the Outlaw Country movement and became very popular in Texas, which led to a major-label record deal. The Clash were enamored of Ely's sound and had him come to England to open a tour for them. Ely has never had anything resembling a hit record, but his incendiary live shows and near-constant touring have given him a loyal worldwide cult following.