Hendersonville, Tenn.
December 13, 2020

Dear Jack,

Now didn't you ramble!!??!!! Well, I wouldn't ask where you've been in the last couple of years since I saw you, you'd have a lot of writin' to do I know.

Nashville is still talking about you, asking about you. My record company will never get over that session we did together. They still would like for me to try and get you to sign with them.

But it looks like you're in pretty high cotton where you are. Just be sure and watch out for Hollywood and don't let any of it rub off on you. On the other hand keep rubbin a little of Jack Elliott off on them.

Jack, come see me. I'm anxious to hear your album, Young Brigham. And here's a switch: Don't send me a copy. I'll buy one.

Not long after I saw you last, I wrote a little bit of "back porch philosophy" that I herewith dedicate to you. It's concerning your hands, and the way they play the guitar — or especially the way that — many times — your hands have eagerly reached out to shake other hands of every religion, tongue, race, creed, color -- rich and poor — the royalty and the ruined — all the same.

To "Ramblin' Jack Elliott"

(copyrightable, 'cause this here was made up and meant by Johnny Cash, Y.O.O.L., 1996)

"When a feller has given life a good grind and is layin' on his dyin' bed with his hands folded acrost his chest-bone, feelin' the final thumpin' of his innard warkin's, he ort t'feel proudful of hisself if he can know in his own head that all his 'layin' by' is 'laid by' proper...

Then some of his good folks ort t' raise up his head a tad t' let him take one last facin' look thru his waxin' eyeballs oncet agin at his own two hands, an' ort t' feel more proudful of hisself if he can say in his own head, concernin' his own hands:

'A bunch of times I have did sump'n' 'nuther good with 'em.'"

Your Friend, Johnny Cash

If you're suddenly expectedly eager to hear Jack with Johnny, pick up Cash's 1966 Everybody Loves a Nut lp on Columbia, in print on cd only as part of the Bear Family's five disc The Man in Black: 1963-1969. Jack and Johnny also dueted on Cash's tv show in 1969, available on The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack Soundtrack. On a 1975 Earl Scruggs Review release titled Anniversary Special, they alternated vocals (along with Earl Scruggs and the New Riders of the Purple Sage) for a version of "Song to Woody," then Jack swaps lines with everyone from Leonard Cohen to Joan Baez on a version of "Passing Through." Vangard's Nashville at Newport cd also includes both Jack and John, though not playing jointly.

Rambling Jack Elliott, that fine and loving gentleman, driving us up [to Woodstock] from New York; Albert Grossman, Bob [Dylan]'s manager, putting us up at his house, where the food was great, the spirit free, and the hours flexible; Bob and I, and whoever else was around, indulging ourselves in lots of guitar picking and song trading. There's nothing on earth I like better than song trading with a friend or a circle of them, except perhaps doing it with my family. As Bruce Springsteen wrote, "Nothing feels better than blood on blood."

Johnny Cash (with Patrick Carr), Cash: The Autobiography, San Francisco, CA, 1996, p. 198.