Joe Ely and his Stolen, Reunited and Nearly Stolen (Again) Custom Newman Guitar

joe elyTo say that legendary country rock singer/songwriter and guitarist Joe Ely has had a tumultuous week thus far would be an understatement and we wanted to share this crazy story with you.

UPDATE: VIA LA TIMES – Neither Ely’s Newman or his ’57 Strat were stolen in yesterday’s break-in as earlier reported by us (via, however, the band lost some valuable chattel:

The Newman guitar, however, was not taken a second time. “That guitar was real close to the window,” he said, noting that Denny’s management let his party copy its parking lot surveillance video as evidence to submit with the report they filed with the Vallejo Police Department. “It barely escaped. Unfortunately, Jeff lost his passport along with all our computers.”

Back in 1986 when the Newman guitar was stolen, along with a 1957 Fender Stratocaster that Ely says “is worth a small fortune,” thieves took all the band’s gear as well as the road manager’s briefcase with contracts, hotel reservations and other business paperwork.

Now, Ely said, his manager has copies of all the documents and touring information contained on the stolen computers, but Ely admitted the loss of devices containing personal and professional data is troubling.

To summarize: Rewind 27 years to when Ely had his tour van broken into in 1986 in San Francisco a few blocks from Slim’s (remember for later) after a gig in Berkeley. The thief took one of Ely’s beloved guitars (see below) – a custom made, 80’s style Newman axe that Ely had toured with and notably played on a 1985 taping of Austin City Limits.

Newman Jones GuitarFast forward 27 years to this week: Ely receives notice from a Bay Area musician that he found and purchased the custom Newman at an area pawn shop and wished to return it to its rightful owner. Rejoiced, Ely is reunited with the guitar (for one night only), playing it at a gig at Slim’s in SF (only three blocks from where it was originally taken) on Tuesday night. The following morning (yesterday), in an absurdly unfortunate turn of events – while stopped at a Denny’s in Vallejo, CA, Ely’s tour bus was again broken into and the guitar is once again gone the guitar luckily was not taken, however, a number of other expensive items were taken (see above) from the bus.

Fit for a Hollywood screenplay, this story is still a living, breathing and developing story. By spreading awareness of the guitar’s theft, perhaps it will end up in the rightful owner’s skilled hands once again. For now, the bankrupted Vallejo Police Department is of no service (despite the theft being caught on tape).


Despite the fact that the entire incident was caught on camera, Vallejo police told Joe that they would not be investigating because the city has filed for bankruptcy and the local police department is understaffed and underfunded as a result.

NOTES: Look for another story on Reuter’s today or tomorrow and you can follow Joe Ely on Facebook for updates on this hard-to-believe turn of events. Here’s the earlier report from Ely is set to play San Luis Obispo tomorrow night, The Mint in Los Angeles Saturday night and Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, CA on Sunday.

…and here’s the guitar in action