Folk Music Icon Remembers Some "Firsts"

by Tom Lounges (December 2000 Midwest Beat Magazine)

This writer can testify that Ramblin Jack Elliott certainly lives up to
his name, as it took more than a week and the diligent efforts a dedicated
publicist to finally get me some oneon one time with him. And even then, I
caught him with one foot out literally out the door, so the interview was
brief and well...a bit ramblin'.

While he was in town for a special performance last month at the
prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, Midwest BEAT finally caught up to
the venerable troubadour and got the low down on some of the many "firsts" in
his fabled life.

THE FIRST GIG - "I did my first paid show at a theater in Manhattan in
1954 with the Clancy Brothers.  I got paid $100.  Brownee McGee and Sonny
Terry were also on the bill.  Jack Kerouac was in the audience that night. 
I'd been playing parties and on street corners since 1947, but that was my
first paid gig."

EUROPE, TV & RADIO - "I went in September of 1955 and spent six years
traveling around Europe," he said. "I can boast of having been the first
entertainer to appear on television in Norway and I was on the first
commercial radio music program ever aired in Denmark.  I was the first
American folk singer to ever do a bus tour throughout Europe as well.  Burl
Ives didn't do that and neither did Woody Guthrie."

BOB DYLAN - "I returned to the U.S. in 1961 to visit Woody (Guthrie) in
the hospital because he was pretty ill by that time. It was there that I
first bumped into Bob Dylan. Then I met Peter, Paul & Mary and because of all
that, I got wrapped up in the whole folk movement.  I've been ramblin' ever
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN - "In the '70s I was on the 'Rolling Thunder Revue' tour
with Bob Dylan," said Elliott.  "After a show in Massachusetts, a young
fellow came into my dressing room and asked for an autograph.  I said,
'What's your name son, I'll personalize the autograph for you,' and he said
'Bruce.'  I said 'Bruce what?' and he said 'Springsteen' and I said, 'How do
you spell that?'  He told me that he played guitar and I said, 'Well good
luck to you.'   He was about 20 years old then and very shy.  Two years ago,
I played with Bruce at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame for a 'Tribute To Woody
Guthrie' and he asked if I remembered the first time we'd met.  Of course I

Like Guthrie and Will Rogers before him, Ramblin Jack Elliott is a
national treasure.  Under his gray hair, is a head chock full of tales of
adventure in an America long past.  He's a time capsule on two feet.