Folk Artist Ramblin' Jack Elliott
by Mark Scheerer (27 May 2020 Tran: 052716NP.210, NPR Morning Edition)
- Bob Edwards, host:
- Ramblin' Jack Elliott has been making music for
most of his 66 years. He won a Grammy in 1996 for Best Traditional Folk
On his new CD "Friends of Mine," Ramblin' Jack gets help from the
likes of Tom Waits, John Prine, Emmylou Harris, and Nanci Griffith. The
album was produced by another friend.
- Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Folk Singer and Guitarist:
- I first got
together with Roy Rogers when we were acting in a movie together a couple of
- This is not Leonard Slye (ph) -- this is another Roy
- Roy Rogers the record producer...
- ... and fine blues guitar player. And we were playing our
guitars all day long in this movie shot. And in between shots, Roy and I
used up all our spare time playing music on the guitars and getting better
and better at it. Roy suggested to me that he'd like to get together with
me and do an album. I said "yeah, that'd be good."
Decided to invite some friends in to do duets with me -- Arlo
Guthrie was the first one.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, RAMBLIN' JACK ELLIOTT
AND ARLO GUTHRIE PERFORMING)
ARLO GUTHRIE, SINGER/SONGWRITER: Ready Jack?
ELLIOTT: Ready, Ar.
GUTHRIE: OK. Here we go -- "Riding Down the Canyon" -- take
zillion and four.
- You've known Arlo for a couple of years.
- I've known him since he was four. He claims I taught him
how to play the guitar. I don't even remember that. People usually ask him
if Woody taught him. He says: "No, Jack taught me." I'm honored.
ELLIOTT AND GUTHRIE, SINGING: When evening joys are over At the ranch house
on the plains And there's nothing left to do but lay around
I'll saddle up my pony And go riding down the trail Just to watch the
desert sun go down
All right, Jack, play something
- Well, Dylan's another connection here.
- Yep. Dylan is a big connection. I met him when I came
back from Europe. I was bumming around Europe for six years, singing Woody
Guthrie songs. And got back in 1961 and went to visit Woody in the hospital
over in New Jersey, and there I met Bob Dylan who'd recently arrived from
- You have a little message to Dylan here.
- Yeah, I wrote that when I first heard that Dylan was ill,
and I got scared enough to pick up a pencil and write something which is
amazing for me because I've only written about four songs in 30 years.
- So, you wrote Bleeker Street Blues.
- Yeah. It's not really a song. It's just kind of a little
poem, and I strum the guitar in the background to kind of make it into a
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "BLEEKER STREET BLUES")
ELLIOTT, SINGING: The world's best doctors can't cure what's ailing you
Not Freud, not Pasteur, not Eddie Van Halen You've had it forever and you'll
never get rid of it I've got it too, though I tried to hide from it
Sometimes I write it for better or worse Time to unsaddle, take a good
rest Later on, we'll join Woody and Jerry and Towns But right now, we
all need you
So please, stick around.
- Bob Weir's here; Guy Clark -- you got a lot of good
- Oh, Guy -- I've been a friend of Guy's for, I guess, about
18 or 20 years now.
- The two of you do a Merle Travis (ph) number -- "Dark as a
- A classic.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP, "DARK AS A DUNGEON")
ELLIOTT AND GUY CLARK, SINGER, SINGING:
Where the rain never falls Where the sun never shines It's dark as a
dungeon Way down in the mines
- Did you know Merle?
- I only met Merle Travis once, but he was a wonderful man.
Of course, I always worshipped the way he played the guitar. I always
thought that he was the world's greatest guitar player.
- Did anyone do that before him -- the way he picked?
- That finger-pickin' -- well, I think he appropriated that,
probably, from some of his black neighbors. A lot of the old blues pickers
did a similar style of thumb and finger picking.
- I see.
- Incidentally, I brought along a guitar here, and we've got
it all rigged up.
- Well, let her fly whenever you feel the urge.
- Well, here's a little sample. This is sort of like Merle
Travis picking, although I wouldn't call it Travis picking. This is a tune
called "Railroad Bill."
ELLIOTT PLAYS GUITAR
ELLIOTT, SINGING: Railroad Bill Railroad Bill He never worked and He ain't
never will Ride, ride, ride
Railroad Bill Comin' home soon Shot Mac Miller (ph) by the light of
the moon Ride, ride, ride
- That's that finger-picking stuff.
- Yeah, that was nice. Who first called you "Ramblin'
- Odetta's (ph) mother called me Ramblin' Jack. And then a
little while later, Bobby Newirth (ph) saw me singing on the street in Paris
and he coined the phrase "Ramblin' Jack" also. So they share that.
- You still ramblin'?
- I'm still ramblin', but I'm actually slowing down owing to
my extreme dislike of airports. I like to keep my wheels on the ground. My
ramblin' is beginning to slow down. I look forward to doing less and less
concerts in the future, but bigger and better ones.
- Thanks a lot. Good luck to you.
- It's great to meet you. Fun to talk with you.
- Folksinger and guitarist Ramblin' Jack Elliott. His
latest CD is called Friends of Mine.
- This is NPR's Morning Edition. I'm Bob Edwards.
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