Ramblin' Jack's Tabou Paris Concert
Paris 1957 Latin Quarter Rue De Tournon Cafe Le
Tournon, hangout of expatriate Americans. Go in the morning for cafe au lait
and croissants and maybe you'll sit next to Richard Wright and James Baldwin
discussing Jean Paul Sartre loud enough for you to get an education. Pop
in for a beer in the afternoon and buy one for a cadging Gregory Corso.
Hang around and play chess with George Plimpton relaxing after an interview
for The Paris Review. Rap with beautiful black American writers, musicians
and just plain guys with their beautiful Swedish wives. Listen to the War
stories of Korean vets on the G.I.Bill sitting around in dirty Marine Corps
Ike Jackets or Infantry Field Jackets, name rank and outfit patches still
identifiable. At night crossword puzzle pencil in hand, wait for PhD John
or ex-WW2 Lt. Eddy Meyers to hawk tomorrow's Herald Tribune. While waiting,
listen to Burroughs tell his story about raising pot between the tomatoes
in Texas. If you ask, Allen Ginsberg will tell you how to cook chicken soup
on an alcohol stove. Hang out, maybe Terry Southern will come and engage
in a glorious verbal joust with English poet Christopher Logue. If you get
bored with all that bullshit you could always feed the Gottlieb pinball
machines your lunch money.
It was winter and the Tournon was full of expats escaping cold, lonely,
dimly lit hotel rooms. The news spread fast, from the pinball players nearest
the door, through the chess players along the wall to the potheads in the
back. After days of flirty eyeballing and nostril flaring, handsome Hennessy
the Irish poet finally ran off with June, Jack Eliott's adored wife. She
was the star of an Otto Preminger box-office flop called "Pick-Up" and she
was, like him, from Brooklyn. Now she passed around the hat while Jack and
Darrel Adams wearing cowboy hats and boots played folk songs on the Paris
streets. The message was that Jack's heart was torn and he was going to
sing it out and needed the heat of his friends for comfort. We all loved
the sweet and vunerable Jack, so helpless without June. We gathered in the
cellar of the fabled existential Club Tabou and sat on the benches lining
the candle lit medieval walls. And Jack sitting in the center played his
guitar and sang his breaking heart out. He sang American and English folk
songs about love and lovers. He sang about young love, and unrequited love.
He sang about love betrayed. He sang about cheating wives and lover murdering
husbands. All through the night he sang. There was no applause from us as
we witnessed this extraordinary Concert; only a sigh now and then from a
tear filled face. In the morning we stumbled out of the Taboo into a cold
misty Paris and headed back up to the Tournon for cafe and croissants.
(Graham Seidman) Date: 2020/01/09
In Toronto in 1993, I had the honor of playing at the Mariposa Folk Festival,
and Jack Elliott was on the same bill. I had never met him, but I thought
of all the hours I had played his records, trying to figure out those guitar
licks (and occasionally slowing Jack down to 16RPM on the tricky bits -
there's not much I mourn about the passing of turntables, but 16RPM had
its uses to us fanatics). Since Jack had one of the first concert spots,
I went over to listen.
recollection (live) in concert by Bill
You have to understand that Mariposa, like all major festivals, needs
external financial support, and that year they had worked a deal with
the government of Ontario to use Toronto's Ontario Place as a site. Ontario
Place is a vast entertainment center on the lakeshore, with a huge amphitheater,
pubs, playgrounds, the Cinesphere IMAX theater and so on, and it's all
done in high-tech - lots of exposed white-painted steel beams with massive
support cables and everything floodlit at night. There are squads of golf
carts whirring around all the time carrying service people, so the overall
effect is "'A Clockwork Orange' Meets 'The Prisoner'". Not the most intimate
place for a folk festival, but the price must have been right.
The concerts were held in the Forum amphitheater (recently replaced),
which had tiered audience seating in a circle around a huge stage that
was slowly revolved by electric motors so that everybody got a good view
at least periodically. Jack stepped out into the spotlights and, by way
of an intro, recalled how the previous year he had been summoned onto
the very same stage to fill in for Jerry Jeff Walker, who had been unable
to make it. Since pop and rock acts are the usual fare for the Forum,
it wouldn't have been a folkie audience for JJW or replacement Jack.
"I was here last year for Jerry Jeff," said Jack, strumming a test chord
or two. "They kept yelling 'L.A. Freeway! LA Freeway!'" There wasn't much
reaction from the crowd, so Jack added, "They thought I was him!" Big
roar of laughter - not for the story, which pokes only mild fun at pop
audiences and their inattention to small details like who is actually
playing, but because it was Jack, he's here now, just get into it and
what's he gonna do next?
What Jack did was
briefly introduce a song which I think was "Buffalo Skinners" and then
launch right into it, except that the song he launched into was "Diamond
Joe". About halfway through, Jack must have calmed down from the coloured
spotlights and the rotating stage and realized that Diamond Joe wasn't
skinning any buffalo and he just stopped cold. "That's the wrong song,"
he said, adjusting his hat, and then went on to play something else entirely.
The audience roared its approval when he finished. Who else but Jack could
start off on the wrong foot like that and still pull it all off?
As luck and playing commitments would have it, I never did cross paths
with him during the weekend. However, at the Sunday evening final concert
it's traditional for the performers to gather on-stage and sing the final
song of the festival, which I think that year was "Wild Mountain Thyme".
We crowded out onto the rotating stage, blinking in the spotlights, digging
the weird effect of electric motors rotating us while we sang a song better
suited to the back porch. I looked next to me, and there was Jack. He
had on a cowboy shirt - not a real cowboy's shirt, but a silk embroidered
one you might find on Roy Rogers or Gene Autry. And I'm right next to
him, rotating along. Here's a hero of mine, complete with a big chance
to say something.
But what was there to say? "Dig the rotating stage, man." Or, "You changed
my life." Two thousand people watching and it wasn't the time or place
and inspiration failed. But that's okay. Jack will go on being Jack and
maybe I'll see him again somewhere else.
((C) 1998 Bill Markwick, as of an online dictionary
-- the treasured Folk
One promoter who had also just moved to [Maui] was Red Shepard who was the
Broadway star in the musical "Hair." He was planning a big happening at
his house 40 miles out in the jungle in the little village of Hana. Red
wanted [Merrell's band] MU to be one of the headliners for this 2 day concert
along with David Carradine, Bonnie Bramlett, & Ramblin' Jack Elliott. We
agreed and found ourselves traveling out the long winding road through the
jungle to Hana. Its one of the most beautiful drives in the world with the
jungle and waterfalls and pools on one side and the breathtaking views of
the South Pacific on the other. This was during the gas shortage of 1974
and there were tons of hippies abandoning their cars along side the road.
We arrived on Saturday morning shortly after David Carradine and his wife
(Actress) Barbara Hershey arrived. David agreed to go on first with Barbara
on flute, Dewey Martin (Buffalo Springfield) on drums and an unknown bass
player. Bonnie Bramlett & Ramblin' Jack had not yet arrived, so MU went
on second. Red had this beautiful teak wood stage built with a 40 foot waterfall
on one side and an awesome view of the ocean!
As the sun was going down Red began wondering what had happened
to Ramblin' Jack, as a car had been left for him at the Hana airstrip just
two miles away. Suddenly all the stage lights and power went off, Ramblin'
Jack comes staggering up the drive he had a little to much to drink
on the flight and hit a power pole about 50 feet from the driveway to the
concert! A bunch of hippies helped the Hana power truck fix the downed wire,
and four hours later the power was on. Ramblin' Jack got cleaned up and
insisted on going on. He went on-stage alright but he forgot his pants.
There stood Ramblin' Jack with a cowboy hat, an aloha shirt and naked from
the waist down doing Bob Dylan songs. I was worried that he would lean into
the mike and get the shock of his life, as I got a good jolt from that mike
earlier in the day!
edited from an extensive interview
transcribed between 11.21.99 and 11.24.99
by MuzikMan for MuzikMan's
Sound Scripts Zine
That's a pretty good
story, but it doesn't top one about Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who broke a leg
when he fell from the edge of a stage, thinking he was jumping on to his
horse. (drunk, of course
Mike Rivers. "Re: WHERE'S EVEANNA?" Online posting. 15 Jan. 2001. rec.audio.pro.
as remembered, in installments, by Frank
One thing off the cuff is that I've always admired Jack for his absolute
fearlessness. We were in a coffeehouse in Los Angeles in the fifties one
time and I made a suggestion that Jack might show his wares by jumping
up on a table and singing impromptu for the crowd. Damned if he didn't
do it without blinking an eyelash. Of course they loved him. Said to myself,
now that's a guy who knows what he was born to do. I carried that sense
of his fearlessness with me and remembered how it is when you really believe
in something. It gives you courage.
I remember Mrs. Adnopoz coming to all the New York folkie parties where
Jack was singing and asking each of us how her little boy was doing, if
he was staying out of trouble. Couldn't keep a straight face but tried
Remember that young Jack was a handful for his parents. Apparently the
very proper family Doctor Adnopoz did a rectal exam to remove piles from
one of his patients. Young Jack made up a song on the spot about his respectable
father, "scratching asses all over the land". I know that Jack loved his
parents but he was like so many of us, fighting the provinciality of the
fifties. Jack showed us the way to the Sizzling Sixties.
Jack always told folks that he came from Sausalito, California because
he liked the boats in the harbor. I think it's more wonderful that he
came from Brooklyn and his brother was a Yalie. Jack is the consummate
truthful actor, and that's the best kind. The great entertainers always
make you feel the truth. If the folk muse hadn't pulled Jack into its
unique path, Jack would have in my view been one of our leading actors.
Probably why one of the reasons Jack Nicholson admires him so much.
Did know that Jack had actor admirers though. Parnell Roberts comes
One thing, Will Geer admired Jack and put him in a Shakespeare presentation
in his outdoor Theatricum Botanicum stage in Topanga Canyon, Calif. Jack
proceeded to improvise on Shake, probably the only one who could get away
with it. He did a bastard soliloquy that was quite effective.
Remember Jack's entrees to New Orleans. Got busted for being a cowboy.
In the fifties, they didn't like cowboys in New Orleans. Guy Carawan and
I, if I remember correctly had to rescue him from the long arm of the
New Orleans police department. Had to get him into a white shirt and tie
which is no mean accomplishment.
When Jack, Guy and I toured Washington, during our tour through the
South in 1954 looking for America, we went to the Library of Congress
to do some folksong collecting. For some odd reason, Jack visited a restroom
the night before and contacted the crabs. I remember we took a picture
of him on the Library of Congress steps scratching his you-know-whats.
Don't know where the photo is now, but it would be worth it's weight in
Jack is one of the kindest persons I've ever known. Like all of us he
could get surly once in a while when inconvenienced, but his heart is
pure gold. He is capable of being a real friend. If you were down on your
luck, you could count on Jack to help out. It's rare to find a great artist
and a great guy wrapped up into one person. It doesn't surprise me to
find out that he was encouraging to Dylan and so many others.
When Guy, Jack and I took our folksong collecting trip, our theme song
was "Goin' Down the Road Feelin' Bad" which wasn't quite right because
we had a helluva lot of fun together. We became the "Dusty Road Boys"
and picked at some of the small Southern radio stations. We blew into
Wheeling West Virginia, WWVA and met a man by the name of Hugh Cherry.
He was producing a show with the very first bluegrass musicians that I
had ever heard. We were blown away! It was the Stanley Brothers with Ralph
Mayo fiddlin' and pickin' away on WWVA. Seems like eons ago. Hugh Cherry
has passed on. It was a blurry montage in our trip probably because I
was badly in need of glasses at the time.
Walked into a creekbed in Topanga Canyon in my formative years. I think
Jack was around then. They held a "hoot" in my honor to buy me some glasses.
Cisco never wore them. He wanted to look like a movie star. I always thought
he looked better than a movie star but he was trying to be an actor. Cisco
blinked a lot, I can relate to that, but he always looked good. He could
have been a Clark Gable if he wasn't such a damn good folksinger.
Jack is a natural mimic aside from being a great performer. Move over
Rich Little! When we had him stay over night at our home in Swamscott,
we were pleasantly surprised to hear Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Jack
having a conversation in his bedroom.
We had heard about a one-man show called "Theodore, A Night of Evil"
playing at a small New York theater. It turns out we could have saved
our money and not had to go to the show because Jack was able to recreate
the entire performance for us personally. In fact, Jack was a better show,
in my view.
Many guitar pickers have learned to play in the folk music style from
recordings, playing the right notes and even copying the needle scratches.
Jack not only learned from the folk masters personally but caught the
spirit and authenticity of their playing. That to me is amazing.
as remembered by Mimi Farina
She tells a story from the early days of Bread and Roses, of a gig at a
folk festival in Winnipeg that spontaneously turned into a trip to a nearby
prison. Among the festival musicians was Ramblin' Jack Elliott, who initially
declined to go to the prison.
"But Jack couldn't resist a party," Farina laughs. "He jumped on the bus
at the last minute. He decided to sing last, and he had his chin on his
guitar, watching all these other singers. Then he got up and he sang 'Pretty
Boy Floyd.' One lyric goes. 'Pretty Boy grabbed the log chain, and the deputy
grabbed the gun, and in the fight that followed, he laid that deputy down.'
"I thought, 'He's a genius!' He knew exactly what he was doing, and when
he got to that line, the prisoners cheered, and he'd won them over. He understood
what they needed to hear, which was their story.
interview by David Templeton (25 Jan. 1996) Sonoma
Maybe 1971 or so. I was a managing editor of the University
of San Francisco's student newspaper and I could wrangle free tickets
to just about any musical event in the San Francisco Bay Area that year,
including the Berkeley Blues Festival which also featured such great artists
as T-Bone Walker, Big Mama Willie Mae Thornton, and Furry Lewis. I had
back stage privileges. (Just a small dressing room in the student union
center.) Other featured artists were Reverend Gary Davis and, God knows
why, Ramblin' Jack Elliott. I got backstage passes and got in the dressing
room. I learned that Reverend Davis was really blind because I had gone
to the bathroom, and was right next to him as an assistant helped him
to urinate into the toilet. We went back to the dressing room, and I stood
by as the Reverend tuned his guitar, facing a wall. Across the room, a
door opened, and, in the doorway stood Ramblin' Jack Elliott (who, by
the way, performed a stellar performance of "912 Greens" that night.).
Jack stood in the doorway, saw Gary Davis on the other side of the room,
facing away from the door, and then played a brief chord or tune on the
guitar he was carrying...wasn't more that 5 or 6 notes. Gary Davis, facing
completely opposite the door, said "Jack! Jack Elliott! Is that you?"
Of course it was, and they greeted each other enthusiastically, and I
enjoyed the moment.
I realized that blind people may have some disability, but they are able
to compensate in other ways.
(Lou Leary) Date: 2020/09/15
memories by Sam Shepard
(from his The Rolling Thunder Logbook, published June
1987, relating 1975-76's Rolling Thunder Review tour and its accompanying
film, Renaldo and Clara.)
Then enters Ramblin' Jack in the guise of Hank Williams, the gatekeeper
to the doors of Rock 'n' Roll Heaven.
Every morning Jack Elliott is out running on the beach with a towel draped
around his neck, swimming trunks, and sometimes his cowboy hat. He has
an even pace. Even in the rain he's running, sometimes straight out into
the ocean and falling face down in the freezing Atlantic. He's up early
too. His resilience is amazing. Everyone inside eating breakfast is amazed.
We cut a wide swath of black rubber through the center of what looks
like "Our Town," and Jack brings the mighty Plymouth Fury to a panting
halt directly across from the local library. No one speaks or moves for
about five minutes. We're all numb from the experience except Jack and
Dylan, who are out bopping through the golden leaves of fall.
"Yeah, I saw that one too. Is that the kind of movie you want to make?"
"Something like that." [Bob Dylan] turns away and nods his foot. This
is the first time I get a real taste of his gift for silence. Of feeling
no need to fill in the gaps. Of leaving words just hanging in air so that
you hear them played back to you in your head. I tell him we're thinking
of shooting some footage with Ramblin' Jack, in the bathroom of the hotel.
He lights up for a second.
"I gotta wait till we get outa this city. Right now I just feel like
gettin' outa here. Once we're up there on the road we'll be able to get
into the film more. I'm just waitin' to get outa here now."
Morning. Knock on Dylan's door. Inside he's on the phone, shirtless,
ordering frankincense and myrrh, royal jelly, long distance. We go outside
and stare at a picnic table, the harbor behind. A couple of lobster boats
with Buick flathead engines, going like cats out to sea. He talks about
the possibility of discovering America. Right here. Right here at the
picnic table. "How 'bout that? We discover America at a picnic? Go get
Neuwirth and tell him. It's the perfect weather for it. And try to get
a boat for Jack. We'll get Jack in the boat with a captain's hat, and
he comes around the point and discovers us at the picnic table." We're
off and flying.
Bitter cold winds whipping the beach as we try to maneuver a dinghy
loaded down with Neuwirth, Ramblin' Jack, Peter Orlovsky, and Dylan at
We meet him on the beach. Jack Elliott has found himself marooned at
the very top of the mast of the replica Mayflower, and we have no recourse
but to leave him to it. He's barefoot and waving silently to the entire
Plenty of opportunity for radical juxtaposition with scenes of Jack Elliott
in cowboy gear waving from a hundred-foot-high balcony to the peons below.
Emerald lawns falling away gently across acres to the blue Atlantic.
Then Ramblin' Jack's beautiful crystal-like yodel comes, transporting
you right across the Great Plains. "Good mornin', captain." The "transcendental
Jerry Jeff Walker autobiography ["Jerry Jeff Walker:
Gypsy Songman"] excerpt
Watching Jack perform, I felt I was watching the real deal. He wove stories
through his songs. He had been places, done things, lived life, and I felt
the words of his songs meant more because of this.
Ramblin' Jack was a true rounder. Mischief-eye smiles and puckish humor.
Just past young. Handsome. Always getting into some sort of mild trouble.
Jack had been born in Brooklyn, Elliott Charles Adnopoz, son of a dentist.
But he grew up reading the western tales of Will James, and was swept away
into dreams of being a cowboy. At nine, Jack went down to the old Madison
Square Garden. The rodeo was in New York City, and he went and hung around
the chutes, trying to talk the cowboys into letting him ride the bulls of
"Run away from home when I was 13," he tells it. "Joined the rodeo. J-E
Jack was cowboys, cowboy music, folk songs. In 1951, he started hanging
around with Woody Guthrie, awestruck. And Woody swept Jack right along with
him as they hoboed and hitchhiked all over America.
Ramblin' Jack learned to subtly mimic the cowboys he worshipped. When he
hit the West, the transformation was complete. He walked that ambling cowboy
walk, smoked the handrolled, and was genuinely perfect cowboy shy.
Among strangers, Jack was, and is, a quiet man. But when he gets to know
you, you can't shut him up. And when he speaks he is all cowboy. Soft voice,
a gentle direct crispness. His mouth, held just so, barely moving as he
Ramblin' Jack became a walking preserve of cowboy lore, stories and songs.
The American ranch cowboy, the rodeo cowboy, the singin' cowboy, the little
boy who dreams of bein' a cowboy he was all of them. He'd sing about
a West and of cowboys we've never actually known, but have felt.
Felt somewhere in the chest, about heart high.
Jack would start playing a song, then he'd pause, talking and endlessly
strumming as the story and the song blended into one rambling yarn. Then
he'd sling his guitar on its strap around onto his back so both hands would
be free to explain, "y'see." Then bring his guitar around front rapidly
for a single strum of a chord.
That's what Ramblin' Jack Elliott taught me as I watched him inside the
Rubyiat. How to put magic and imagination into a song. How to touch strangers
in the audience and put their souls in a cowboy heart on a midnight horse.
I was still learning how to do it, but it dawned on me after watching Jack
that it was easier to do what Woody Guthrie did, which is to have experiences
and write about them. Easier to do that than go out and say "Woody Guthrie
did this." So I just figured I'd do what Woody Guthrie did.
Drifting in and out of people's lives allows you to keep changing on the
go. I would not be tied down. I've got dust on my boots.
live with the Flatlanders
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely, and Butch Hancock
Not that they were ever struggling, but the Flatlanders got a little help
from an unexpected guest Saturday night at the Mystic Theater when Ramblin'
Jack Elliott took the stage to sing the traditional folk song "Sowing on
"I just came down to see these guys cause I really like them. I didn't realize
they were going to put me to work," said Marshall resident Elliott, decked
out in a white cowboy hat and a black shirt with a white guitar emblazoned
on the back.
"We're following in Jack's footsteps," Jimmie Dale Gilmore added. "Just
not as far."
Playing to a faithful sold-out crowd, Gilmore teamed up with Joe Ely and
Butch Hancock to rekindle their unheralded early 1970s run, swapping jokes
and 112-degree anecdotes for plenty of harmonies in a night of West Texas
(John Beck) 2020/06/01: pressdemocrat.com
"I was once assigned to pick Ramblin' Jack Elliott up at the Burbank
airport for a show he was doing that night at the Ash Grove. He must have
called the Carradine Brothers as well because they were also there to meet
him. Jack chose to catch a ride with them and who was I to argue with three,
rather large, grown men?"
"I returned to the Ash Grove where Ed asked me, "Where's Jack?".
That question wouldn't be answered until much later that same day when we
received a call from the local police department where Jack and the two
brothers were safely locked up. It had to have been a pretty small amount
of pot that got them into trouble because he did manage to eventually make
it to the Ash Grove and put on a marvelous show."
interview excerpt entitled
"A candid conversation with the actor, rock singer and sexual switch-hitter,"
taken from Playboy (September 1976)
BOWIE: I hate downs and slow drugs like grass. I hate sleep. I would much
prefer staying up, just working, all the time. It makes me so mad that we
can't do anything about sleep or the common cold.
PLAYBOY: Do you remember the first time you got stoned?
BOWIE: On grass? I'd done a lot of pills ever since I was a kid. Thirteen
or fourteen. But the first time I got stoned on grass was with John Paul
Jones of Led Zeppelin many, many years ago, when he was still a bass player
on Herman's Hermits records. We'd been talking to Ramblin' Jack Elliott
somewhere and Jonesy said to me, "Come over and I'll turn you on to grass."
I thought about it and said, "Sure, I'll give it a whirl." We went over
to his flat--he had a huge room, with nothing in it except this huge vast
Hammond organ, right next door to the police department.
I had done cocaine before but never grass. I don't know why it should have
happened in that order, probably because I knew a couple of merchant seamen
who used to bring it back from the docks. I had been doing it with them.
And they loathed grass. So I watched in wonder while Jonesy rolled these
three fat joints. And we got stoned on all of them. I became incredibly
high and it turned into an in-fucking-credible hunger. I ate two loaves
of bread. Then the telephone rang. Jonesy said, "Go and answer that for
me, will you?" So I went downstairs to answer the phone and kept on walking
right out into the street. I never went back. I just got intensely fascinated
with the cracks in the pavement.
English author and stateside hitchhiker Tim Brookes talks about his new
book, A Hell of a Place To Lose a Cow: An American Hitchhiking Odyssey
(National Geographic). Weekend
Edition's [NPR] Liane Hansen interviews him and happens to wander into
his best hitchhiking experience, around 3:40 into the broadcast. Listen
to his experience in RealAudio.
I took a free workshop with the Open Theater in 1969. Joyce Aaron was running
it, and everybody was encouraged to bring in short autobiographic tales
and to tell them in a theatrical way; and if you had a moment of blocking,
the Open Theater had a technique called "jamming" in which you'd repeat
the word over and over like a musician, like "I fell and I fell and I fell
and I fell and I fell and I fell." I stood up and did one day in my life
with no jamming. I just flowed. And afterwards Joyce said, "Who wrote that
monologue for you?" And then I knew I had something. But that was '69 and
that was the big era of Grotowski and theater of the body and deconstruction
of text, so it never occurred to me that would be appropriate to use as
an art form until 10 years later.
You know, I'm really influenced by the American autobiographic movement.
I am more influenced by writers than I am by theater. I was reading Thomas
Wolfe and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell and even Ramblin' Jack Elliot
[sic]. And Baba Ram Dass, for that matter, when he came back from India
and did those first tapes, which were oral reports of his experiences in
India which he later published as a book.
Interview by Jeanne Carstensen (1 Jan 2020. The
Hitchhiking back east, David discovered Greenwich Village. He got a job washing dishes in the Gaslight Cafe. "Allen Ginsberg used to
do readings there, Jack Elliot played guitar; I ran into Bob (Dylan) in
the kitchen." David took acting classes, wrote poetry and songs, and began
performing in Village clubs. When he began singing professionally, at the
urging of Dylan and others, he changed his name to Blue. "Actually, I got
the name from Eric Andersen. We were together one day, and I knew there
were two other David Cohens in the music business, one with Country Joe
and The Fish, the other a studio cat in LA. We felt that was too many. So
Eric said: "You've got such blue eyes, you should be David Blue. I decided
to do it. I called Ramblin' Jack Eliot and Dylan because they had changed
their names and Dylan thought it was very funny and started singing to me,"It's all over now, David Blue."
An Illustrated Biography
of David Blue © Nesya Shapiro Blue 1984
I was hanging out with an older crowd and by older I mean people twenty-three,
twenty-six who had already dropped out of college and were in constant
motion with a copy of Kerouac tucked under their arms, travelling between
New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. At any moment, a car was leaving.
There was a place to stay! And Babe Stovall was singing, "The ship is at
the landing, don't you want to go?"
Ramblin' Jack Eliott, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ben Jennings, and Mark Ryan were
part of this group of older people, too old to call themselves hippies,
too young to call themselves Beats. So they called themselves bohos. Their
mentor in the Delta blues was Babe Stovall, and they wanted to live just
like he did minus the eleven kids. They called their group the Boho
Band. At this point, what we were hadn't been discovered by the media, so
there was no ready-made identity you had to assume, no costume outside of
basic Army-Navy Surplus. I was a young kid who hung out with older hip people,
so the perjorative term was "hippie," or little hip one. They were hip,
I was hippie, and in 1967 Time did a cover story, coined the phrase, and
the rest is history.
The Golden Triangle: An Interview with James Nolan by Dennis
Formento (19 May 2020. Exquisite
I was living in New York City when Jack came back from Europe in the early 1960s. He was the guitar hero of the folk scene. You just had to be able to play note for note Jack's versions of "The Cuckoo" or "Candyman." And how about the coboy hat, boots and blue jeans! They became the style of all the urban cowboys.
But who could capture the timeless quality of Jack's singing, his pickin', his story telling. The notes were there for us to imitate but the spirit, the feel, the sound were all uniquely Jack's.
(Stefan studied with Rev.
Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mance Lipscomb
and Fred McDowell before forming and working with bands throughout the sixties,
including the Fugs, whose membership also included Harry Smith and Allen
Greg Keckler (Jackson,
A stack of Jack's old records has always been a friend and mentor to me.
I have been lucky enough to have crossed trails with Jack a few times. Once
I asked him if I could see his guitar and he kindly obliged. When I had
his guitar in my hands I got flustered and didn't know what to play. So
I just tore into the intro to San Francisco Bay Blues (which I had learned
off one of his records years before). When I finished Jack smiled and with
a twinkle in his eyes said, "You play that just like Rod Stewart...WRONG!"
God bless you Ramblin' Jack.
as remembered by Steven Sellors
A few years ago (who can count anymore) we bumped into Jack at a musical
wing-ding in Belfast, ME. A dance broke out and Jack and my wife Taffy grabbed
each other and proceeded to flail spasmodically around the floor. I wrote
a song. You'll have to guess at the tune...
Jack and Taffy
(c) I forget when - Steven Sellors
There are foot prints in the desert, in the California sand
There are footprints in Alaska's chilly snows
But the ones that I'll remember tracked all across the land
And tangled up with Taffy's where they tramped each other's toes.
- Taffy danced with Ramblin' Jack
- Me & Ali made him laugh
- We had one chance to give some back to him
- He sang Old Shep a million times and never cracked a grin
- There were mandolins and Martins and a banjo in the choir
And a dulcimer that rang up to the rafters
And the fiddles played so furious they set the night on fire
But Jack & Taffy stomped it out and smothered it in laughter
Look out! Here comes Taffy
Look out! Here comes Jack
They dosey doh'ed too far to the left
And now they can't get back.
- (Mandolins & Martins wail)
- There's singing when you're happy; there's whiskey when you're blue
There's telling lies to make the time go by
But nothing ever happens when your shoes are full of glue
And there's times I wish that I could dance like Jack & Taffy do.
memories shared on rec.music.folk
Ramblin' Jack Elliott is a national treasure.
. . . . and Ramblin' Caesar, too. I can never forget seeing RJ at
the Riverboat in Toronto, late 60's, early 70's, doing his thing on
the soap-box-size stage while his dog happily rooted around the nearby
tables, happy as a clam . . .
(Ken West) Date: 2020/03/22
And he's a pretty fair hand with a mop (on land or sea)...We wrote
a horrible tune together while moppin a kitchen floor, tho...forgettable
moments after it reached the air.
(Bert D. Dodds) Date: 2020/03/26
Here's a little story about RJ. He comes through Mendocino every now
and then and he was here last year to do a benefit concert for a local
music festival. Well, I was just getting ready to go on a national tour
of "Woody Guthrie's American Song" by Peter Glazer. Gene Parsons,
some unidentified blonde woman (to me) and Jack are walking down by
the coast and we run into each other. Gene says, "Jack, this is
Lawrence Bullock. He's gonna play Woody Guthrie in a play." Jack
kinda sizes me up and down, grins and says, "You kinda look like
Woody..." then turns to the blonde and says, "...and you kinda
look like Woody, too..."
(Lawrence Bullock) Date: 2020/04/13
memories on rec.music.dylan
It was back, way back in early 77 in cold, cold Toronto. Way back in the
Riverboat, downtown, on Yorkville Avenue, which was, of course, in even
earlier days (67 was heaven), the very center of the Yorkville Village
and all those acid-dropping times and places. You all know all about all
that you've all heard Neil Young sing the riverboat was rockin in
the rain. THAT Riverboat, I mean to say. And back, way back, in the early
days, way back early in 1977. (The old Riverboat sat next door, more or
less, to the old Mynah Bird, where Neil started his long career. But that's
I was so much younger then. I was the man. I was there. I didn't suffer,
not even a little bit. I was too stoned to suffer, you know. And I definitely
do remember all of it, every bit. The Rolling Thunder Revue had recently
rolled through our home town, and now, early in 77, Ramblin Jack was back,
playing the Riverboat with his guitar.
(Somebody called from the audience, How's Bob? and Jack shot back, in
his cowboy way, Bob who? )
I was there with my friend, Timothy Leary. Old Tim had just recently been
released from prison. (My wife and I had earlier visited him at Vacaville,
in California, but that s another story.) He had flown in to Toronto on
a jet plane and Clare, my wife, and I had met him there at Toronto International.
He was with a friend, Susan, an artist, or else a professor from UCLA.
Clare and I were there with our young newborn baby son, whose name was
Timothy Jay. Young Timothy met old Timothy at Toronto International airport
one fine and chilly winter day. Old Timothy held young Timothy in his
arms and smiled that smile and said, This is amazing. I've been in town
ten minutes and I have a family here already. Then we drank a toast or
two and had some pork chops with applesauce.
Well, to make a long story short, we all made our way the very next day
down to the Riverboat which was rockin with Ramblin Jack, for sure, though
not a drop of rain was fallin.
And old Ramblin Jack came ramblin over to our booth and he said, amazed,
Timothy! and old Tim just replied Hello, Jack. It's good to see you again.
Well, Jack soon returned to his little center stage and sang his song.
(I am truly sorry but, to tell the truth, I just cannot recall what song
it was that he was singin.) And my own young baby boy Timothy was nursing
with my own young beautiful wife, Clare. And we all were rockin in the
rain, though not a drop of rain was falling and Neil, you know, was somewhere
(Let me tell you this. Please let me tell you. It's real. It's true. It's
part of my life, you know, and I'm telling it just to you.)
And all of a sudden, then, young Timothy began to cry. And old Timothy
was there, with his good friend, Susan, too. And old Jack said, from center
stage, just as if he had been through it all once or twice before, he
said, Change titties. And Clare did. And young Timothy settled right down.
And old Timothy smiled. And old Jack just carried on and sang his song.
(Joe McKeon) Date: 2020/10/03
It was somewhere back in them late great '70s and Ramblin' Jack Elliott,
just in from John Barlow's Cora, Wyoming ranch, was in town staying
with a couple of my friends. The historically infamous "Dylan" album
had just been released so I picked it up on the way over to meet Jack.
I also had "Young Brigham", "Bull Durham Sacks and Railroad Tracks",
and that great LP with "Guabi Guabi" which had Jack on the cover with
a Cowboy hat and classic liner notes by Shel Silverstein. He answered
the door when I knocked, offered a big grin and his hand, and said "Hi,
I'm Jack." I got him to add some ball point artwork to his LPs and then
he noticed and picked up "Dylan" and, after turning it over front to
back a few times, shook his head and said "He's done it again." He was
grinning. At this time we thought it was just Dylan's next album and
had fairly straightforward thoughts about song selection motivation.
Jack seemed especially pleased that Dylan would include his good friend
Peter LaFarge's "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" and went on with a story (who'd
a thunk it?") about a photo session for an album cover. Peter had tagged
along on the excursion and, at the photographer's prompting, took off
his cowboy hat and handed it to Jack. It became the cover of the aforementioned
album that I had brought over. Jack picked that album up and continued
with stories about Shel, Peter and Bob. I left the LP with him for a
few days. Guthrie Thomas was with Jack on this trip and they both came
down and joined me on my radio show and picked the night away. I still
maintain that no one does "Don't Think Twice" as good as Rambling Jack
(JM) Date: 2020/06/04
Spent a wonderful Saturday night at the Noe Valley Community Church
here in San Francisco listening to Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The NVCC is
a Presbyterian ran Community Church active in community issues such
as Homeless, AIDS, Abused Women, etc, which has a Noe Valley Music Series
every winter, featuring famous and obscure performers who help the center
raise funds for their programs; previous concerts have included Joan
Baez, John Sebastian and others of such ilk. Held in the sanctuary room
with wonderful acoustics, 100 people grab folding chairs and array themselves
around the altar-very close and intimate.
Ramblin' Jack came on in his all-black cowboy outfit, complete with
bandana and hat, and did a 5 song set, 15 minute break, 5 song second
set and one encore. I left my set-list at home, but songs included House
of the Rising Sun, Battle of New Orleans, Tom Joad (Guthrie's, not Bruuuuuces),
The Yankee Ship Came Up the River, Tennessee Stud (Eddie Arnold and
the Tennessee Ploughboys), McKelvey, McKelvey (Sp?), Master's of War
and Don't Think Twice, It's Alright.
Concert lasted 2 1/2 hours-that's right 190 minutes for 11 songs, because
Ramblin' Jack has stories to tell in between each song-sometimes the
stories are related to the next song, but usually the link is rather
obscure. Made me reconsider the origins of the moniker "ramblin'!!"
Three Dylan references. 1) He talked about the only two times he had
ever worn a Tuxedo, once when he was a presenter and performer for the
BAMMIE Awards concert in San Francisco(the Bay Area Music Awards,presented
to local talent and resident musicians, including performances from
several groups) and the second when he went to Hollywood for a movie
premier "and Bob Dylan told me to wear a Tuxedo. So I did and when
I got there I was the only one and Dylan just laughed at me for being
so foolish." I guessed that maybe that was for Renaldo and Clara,
isn't RJE in the film somewhere?
2) Talked about going to Pennsylvania for a weekend gig and getting
snowed in at a cabin, couldn't get out for three days so "we just
sat around this cabin and all we had was a case of Cutty Sark we had
brought with us, a refrigerator full of venison and one Bob Dylan album
we played over and over again. But then, that was all we really needed."
3) Talked about being nominated for a Grammy this year and how he wasn't
planning to go down to El Lay for the show but Dave Van Ronk had encouraged
him to do so since they would have "good refreshments for us."
Ended story by saying, "The Grammy awards are nice, but really
they should just box them all up and send them to Bob Dylan, no one
can write songs like that man can."
All in all a wonderful evening. If RJE comes to your town you should
make an effort to go see him -- our links to our past are few and far
(Larry Medcalf) Date:2020/01/16
Last Wednesday night, Jack Elliot, Odetta, Jimmy Lafave, and one of
the Flatlanders (can't recall), and Bob Weir/Rob Wasserman performed
the first folk music concert at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
The show was a tribute to Woody Guthrie, and a benefit to aid the Folk
Life Festival, an annual event in Seattle.
The Dylan related nod is that Weir and Wasserman did "Maggie's Farm".
Weir's set was too light on Guthrie music, especially since all others
only performed Woody's material.
Odetta was a stunner, but she disappointed all by only doing a couple
of numbers all night.
Rambling Jack got rapt attention from the crowd as he sang and shared
memories of Woody. Jack mentioned the recent loss of his wife, Jan,
who passed away a couple of months ago. Jack said it has been hard without
her, but he enjoyed being back out on the road. He sang one for Jan
along the way.
Jack talked of his many name changes in the early years, for a time
calling himself Buck, which Woody preferred. Jack then did an impression
of Guthrie's tone saying, "there's five Jack's for every Buck". Undeterred,
he made the switch to Jack...
Having never seen Jack Elliot before, I was struck by his kind eyes,
and commanding way with the crowd-even when stopping a song to drink
some water due to a coughing bout. And a voice of unquestioned authenticity,
simple, but strong and mesmerizing at times. The voice lets you hear
the road and the range at once.
Jimmy Lafave has an amazing voice, with an edge of emotion to every
line. And a tight little back up band...I have begun the search for
more of his music, as for more of Rambling Jack Elliot's music. Great
version of "Deportee", and "Oklahoma Hills" by Jimmy and band.
(Mitch Raths) Date:2020/05/28
memory on alt.religion.mormon
I went to see Ramblin' Jack Elliott at the University of Montana about
six or seven years ago. An old man with a cowboy hat and a scarf around
his neck was sitting next to me while this really terrible local folk
singer opened the show. I turned to the old man and said something about
how much the opening act sucked and how I couldn't wait for the real
thing (Ramblin' Jack) to get on stage. He laughed and agreed with me
and asked me if I had ever seen Jack Elliott play, I said no and then
we talked a little about how much we both liked Bob Dylan. I was thinking
"hey, this is a pretty cool old man" (I was 19 or 20 years old at the
time). When the opening act was over the announcer said "Ladies and
Gentlemen, here's Ramblin' Jack Elliott." Then the old man next to me
stood up and winked at me and walked up on stage! I had been sitting
next to him the whole time!