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Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Ramblin' Jack Elliott is one of folk music's most enduring characters. Since he first came on the scene in the late '50s, Elliott influenced everyone from Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger to the Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead. The son of a New York doctor and a onetime traveling companion of Woody Guthrie, Elliott used his self-made cowboy image to bring his love of folk music to one generation after another. Despite the countless miles that Elliott traveled, his nickname is derived from his unique verbiage: an innocent question often led to a mosaic of stories before he got to the answer. According to folk songstress Odetta, it was her mother who gave Elliott the name when she remarked, "Oh, that Jack Elliott, he sure can ramble."

Pressured by his parents to follow in his father's footsteps and become a doctor, Elliott resisted their urging. Instead, inspired by the rodeos he attended at Madison Square Garden, he became fascinated with the image of the American cowboy. After reading the books of cowboy novelist Will James, he ran away from home at the age of 15 and joined the J.E. Ranch Rodeo. Although he was only with the rodeo for three months (before his parents tracked him down and he was sent home), Elliott was exposed to his first singing cowboy, a rodeo clown who played guitar and banjo and sang songs. Returning home, Elliott taught himself to play guitar.

Elliott's recording debut came in the mid-'50s when he recorded three songs for a multi-artist compilation, Bad Men, Heroes and Pirates, released by Elektra. Elliott was so influenced by Guthrie (whom he had met during a Greenwich Village picking session in 1950) that he began his musical career by mimicking the legendary folksinger. When Guthrie traveled to Florida in 1952, he sent for Elliott to join him. By the time Elliott arrived, however, Guthrie had already left for Mexico, where he was turned back at the border and forced to return to New York. Elliott reunited with Guthrie a few months later. In the winter of 1954, they traveled together back to Florida; in the spring of 1954, they continued on to California's Topanga Canyon. The trip marked the last time that Elliott saw a healthy Guthrie. When he went to Europe in 1955, Elliott sang Guthrie's songs and told stories about him. England provided the setting for Elliott's early success; his first album on his own, Woody Guthrie's Blues, was recorded in England for the Topic label. In addition to recording four more albums for Topic, he attracted attention with his performances with Derroll Adams, a banjo player he had met in California. The duo barnstormed throughout Europe and had a profound influence on the British music scene.

After living in Europe for six years, Elliott returned to the United States in 1961. The day after he returned, he visited Guthrie in the hospital and was introduced to Bob Dylan. (In the mid-'70s, Elliott joined Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue and was featured in Dylan's film Renaldo and Clara.) Before long, he renewed his friendship with Guthrie, and ended up staying with him, his wife Marjorie Guthrie, and their children for a year. Elliott was an influence on folksinger Pete Seeger. During an early-'60s tour of England and Scotland with Seeger and the Weavers, he inspired Seeger with his tales of sailing ships. Among the many other musicians Elliott befriended was Jerry Garcia. Elliott often performed opening sets for Garcia's bands and occasionally sat in with the Grateful Dead.

In 1990, Red House released Legends of Folk, a live recording of a concert that Elliott had performed with Bruce "U. Utah" Phillips and Spider John Koerner at the World Theater in Minnesota. Bob Feldman, owner of Red House, later persuaded Elliott to record his first studio album in more than two decades, South Coast. Recorded at Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, MN, the album's 25 tracks were recorded during three four-hour recording sessions. The album received a Grammy Award as Best Traditional Folk Album of 1995. Elliott returned to the recording studio to record Friends of Mine. Released in 1997, the album featured duets with Joe Ely, Tom Waits, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, and Bob Weir. The Long Ride followed in 1999. A documentary about Elliott, The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack, and its soundtrack appeared in 2002, while Anti released the album I Stand Alone in 2006. A second album from Anti, the Joe Henry-produced A Stranger Here, followed in 2009. ~ Craig Harris, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

clarkee1955
Got to see Rambling Jack in Sellersville Pa 2 years ago. He played , sang, and rambled flawlessly for nearly 3 hours. Then sat in lobby signing CDs and chatting it up , just being himself .
We felt blessed to be there.


Thanks for Pandora, I am learning there others out there who have great talent too. Jack Elliot is one of them with great talent.
rickbriggs44
Ramblin' Jack! No use saying anything more.
I sit silently and respectfully in the shadow of a great big heritage.
Never heard of this guy but sure love his rendition of the Tennessee Stud. :o))
Bob Dylan is a Ramblin Jack impersonator
b.robertson3 3 3
We shared a drink one time!
I saw Jack on a local TV show in Indiana in the mid 60's and never forgot him, He taught Bob Dylan how to be Bob Dylan.
wali1949
I remember him at the Oxford in Denver...
matt.rendlem a n
Saw him in St. Louis last week. He's 81 and still good.
Saw him in Columbus,Ohi o about 7 years ago, still going strong
I had forgotten about Jack Elliot, shame on me.
we want to have the version of 912 Greens from Young Brigham on the playlist!!
I haven't heard of him until right now. You learn something new everyday.
I've got a great pic Ramblin' Jack and his dog on stage at the Ashgrove 1970. Wish I could post.
Jacks' the real deal!
rbriggs93
This guy is good.
I first saw Jack playing a high-school near my house back in the late-60's. My buddy and me were right up front and I kept asking him to do Woody's 'Ruben James'. Annoyed, he finally looked down at me and said 'do it yourself'... s o I did.
if you open your ears you will find that the most interesting music is the stuff that most people have never even heard of
Just starting to listen to Ramblin' Jack. I like him.
jfrancis3000
Pandora has opened the door to a lot of voices I needed to hear :)
jfrancis3000
David, I've been familiarized with Chris B fairly recently. Great singer-songw r i t e r for sure!
ibrace2004
Please give a listen to Chris Buhalis, in the same vein as Jack, but with a Detroit and Union slant,real,g o o d , stuff!
johnmargie6
Thank God for singers like him
love this guy!
heavy
sang some songs with this wonderful singer at a yacht club bar one night....he probably wouldn't remember.
Wow, yeah, definitely know who Bob Dylan was inspired by.
I'm so glad people are still remembering Ramblin Jack and enjoying his music.
cstraw
good old Jack. won't ever stop ramblin'
last of a breed
great discography about an American folk tradition, the one, the only, Ramblin' Jack Elliott.
So good, and not credited nearly enough. So Jack, I give you credit! And thanks, with blessings.
rap,ramblin' Jack !
God bless.
kgb720
Saw him on Bleeker St in the late 70s he hit my ex-wife in the head with his guitar 2 times as he walked and played through the seats- I never got to thank him.
kgb720
The best
1st heard of this artist while listening to Kris Kristofferso n ` s music,mentio n e d Ramblin`Jack Elliott,Jerr y Jeff Walker,etc. Thank you for finally letting me actually HEAR HIS MUSIC! I Love it!
f_margo_horn b a c k
Legend, artist, pal - Jack has a new collection comiong out soon produced by Joe henry - let's hope he makes enough to buy some more gas for the pickup...
Margo and Gil
levi3151
My dad loved this guy and now I am listening to him as well...goes to show that talent and good songs go on forever! Lucky us...
Wow, what a legacy.
I was 5 feet away from Jack at the Egress Club in Vancouver British Columbia Canada back in the early 70's...he was amazing...sp e l l - b i n d i n g . . . h e 'built 'the bridge' as well as any musician I have seen
I saw Ramblin' Jack at Gratefulfest in August 2008. Can't believe he's still kickin' it.
The third sentence of this account is ambiguous, as it may be read to mean that Elliott's mother was "a onetime traveling companion of Woody Guthrie" ... One possible edit would be: "A onetime traveling companion of Woody Guthrie and the son of a New York doctor, Elliott used his self-made cowboy image to bring his love of folk music to one generation after another.
one the true legends of our generation. thanks for having so much of his music.
capnjoe

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