Ramblin' Jack Elliott
"One of the few authentic voices in folk music."
By Jessica Cassyle Carr
Born in Brooklyn, Ramblin' Jack Elliot began to cultivate his cowboy image when he ran away from home at 15 and joined the rodeo. He learned to play the guitar and was recording by the early '50s. He traveled and lived with Woodie Guthrie, and through him, met Bob Dylan, later playing in his band. He's also toured with Pete Seeger and worked with other American folk greats like "Utah" Phillips, Emmylou Harris and Tom Waits, to name a few. Still, Ramblin' Jack goes mostly unrecognized for his contribution to American folk music. Most recently, he was left out of Martin Scorcese's chronologically confusing documentary “Bob Dylan: No Direction Home," although he was a key figure in the '60s folk explosion which spawned Dylan. Ramblin' Jack is, however, in Bob Dylan's Chronicles: Vol. 1, on pages 245 to 255 (that's according to Jack's tour manager).
In spite of it all, the Grammy-winning, traveling folkie says it makes no difference to him. Ramblin' Jack, like Guthrie, tends to conjure up images of the America of yore, embodied in the traveler with the gunny sack, the common man with a tale to tell. Jack, on his way from Austin, said this America does still exist and is, in fact, "alive and well," though it's obviously different than it was in the '30s and '40s.
So what makes Ramblin' Jack Elliot want to keep performing after 50 years? The answer is colorful and acutely honest: "It's my need to get money for movin' and diesel fuel. I like to travel. I'm not a music lover; I just do it for the money."
Ramblin' Jack Elliott appears at the Outpost Performance Space (210 Yale SE) on Friday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m. Opening for him is Nels Andrews.
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