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

(live) in concert by Bill Markwick

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.

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 File)

Merrell Fankhauser muses in memory

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 Hamilton

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 my damnedest.

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 to mind.

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 platinum.

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 County Independent

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 the helm.

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 assembly below.

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 cowboy."

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 1940.

"Run away from home when I was 13," he tells it. "Joined the rodeo. J-E Ranch Rodeo."

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 speaks.

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 the Mountain."

"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 roots Americana.

(John Beck) 2020/06/01: pressdemocrat.com

Bluegrass Annie

"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."

David Bowie 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.

recollection on the road

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.

Spalding Gray

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 Gate)

David Blue

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

James Nolan

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 Corpse)

Stefan Grossman

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 Ginsberg.)

Greg Keckler (Jackson, Wyoming)

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.

(Carl Newman)

. . . . 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 another story.)

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 else altogether.

(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 Elliott.

(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 between.

(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!