Ramblin' Jack Elliott at Old City Hall, Redding California, 1988
May 20, 2012 9:01 PM   Subscribe

Ramblin' Jack Elliott at Old City Hall, Redding California, 1988
This is Ramblin' Jack in his prime.

Friend of the Devil; San Francisco Bay Blues; Plains of the Buffalo; Don't Think Twice, It's Alright; South Coast; All My Trials; Talkin' Fishin' Hole; Railroad Bill; Cool Water; Me & Bobby McGhee, Philadelphia lawyer; Salt Pork, West Virginia and a 20 minute version of 912 Greens, one of only two songs he ever wrote. I first heard it at the Sky River Rock Festival in 1968. It brought tears to my eyes. I have been a fan ever since.

And that was the short version.

And the stories he tells are the frosting* on the cake -- you will understand where he got the cognomen Ramblin'...

*It's a lot of cake and a lot of frosting: the food is excellent and the portion is large.
posted by y2karl (7 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Great find! Just started watching, but wow great!

(And can can I say how much I appreciate it when musicians mic their acoustic guitars instead of relying on those abominable acoustic pickups?)
posted by ericost at 9:17 PM on May 20, 2012

Thank you so much for posting this, now pardon me while I tell all six of my friends to go watch it.
posted by Lorin at 9:20 PM on May 20, 2012

You are awesome y2karl, great find. I can't wait to watch this whole thing tonight - have to be satisfied with just a peek for now!

Here's a few vintage RJE clips from my bookmarks:
Pete Seeger & Ramblin' Jack Elliott - Portland Town/Mule Skinner Blues - maybe about 1960?
And another with Malvina Reynolds: Woody's Rag.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:35 AM on May 21, 2012


Thanks for this. 912 Greens is one of my all-time favorites. Jack's guitar arrangment (in C, if anyone is interested) is beautiful music in its own right.

"Now you're up. . . now you're over. . ."
posted by rdone at 7:57 AM on May 21, 2012

"Now you're up. . . now you're over. . ."

The Sky River Rock Festival, where I first heard Ramblin' Jack sing 912 Greens, happened a year after the Monterey Pop Festival and a year before Woodstock.

I got recruited by one of the writers for the Helix, the local underground newspaper, to be a security guard, which gave me a cardboard medallion on a string to wear around my neck. It was not a very well organized event on the ground. I was given no direction and no one would have listened to me, anyway.

But my cardboard medallion did work as a backstage pass. Which was where I was when someone tapped me on the back and said Excuse me, can I get through, please ?

It was Ramblin' Jack himself. I hopped out of his path forthwith. Thus ended my first celebrity encounter.

Flash forward to 1976, where I was in New Orleans, helping the then love of my life, Jeanne Legault, a graduate student at Tulane University, pack up to move to Seattle. As part of the grand tour of the Bis Easy which she gave me, I asked for a trip to 912 Toulouse Street, which was the artist's colony in 1953 wherein lived the three legged gray cat named Gray, who used to lope along... [thumping slide on the low E string] and then fall down, because Gray, he had had a stroke and he couldn't get along good on them three legs no how.

In 1976, the artist's colony had become an art gallery still featuring a(nother) banana tree growing in the courtyard.

It was a lot smaller place than it was in the song.

Flash forward to 1990 at the Backstage in Ballard, where I got to interview Ramblin' Jack for the Rocket. I showed him my photos of 912 Toulouse Street. Between that -- You know, a lot people have told me they went there when they were in New Orleans but you're the first who ever showed me pictures... -- and mentioning his tap on my shoulder backstage at Sky River, (for which he apologized!), he talked to me for an hour and a half and was as nice to me as anyone I ever interviewed. Boy, did he remember Sky River. And, man, the stories he told. I got the Ramblin' Jack interview of all time.

Which Charles Cross, the then editor of the Rocket, never ran because Ramblin Jack ...doesn't have any product out now..

I wish I could say that I still had it somewhere but in 2005 I loaned it to Johny Broomdust, a local blues musician who moved to Albequerque without returning it. He was a big fan and I thought he would be interested in it. (He used to sing <>em> The1913 Massacre at parties: not exactly the song to liven up a social event, imho) I tried to get it back when he was in town but the time when I went over he had left before I got there. Then he moved out of town.

Had I known he was moving, I would have gone over and camped out on his doorstep until I got it. I write, I leave voicemails but to no end.

I can't believe he threw it away -- he was a big ramblin' Jack fan. It's been seven years now. It took him six to bother to respond to my entreaties. They are going to go out to the garage to look for it when they get the chance. In the meantime, he did find my dormant Facebook page and asked me to friend him, so now I get Like requests forwarded from there to my email every time he posts a new video of his band.

Injury, meet insult. I can't say I Like it.
posted by y2karl at 9:52 AM on May 21, 2012 [4 favorites]

Ramblin' Jack hung out with Dylan and van Ronk at the Gaslight. He knew Woody Guthrie and Phil Ochs. How much cooler can you get? It's no wonder he has a million stories.

I've really enjoyed his collaborations with Guy Clark, too.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:10 PM on May 21, 2012

Wow! This is great stuff. Yet another great post from y2karl. Thanks.
posted by RussHy at 5:56 PM on May 22, 2012

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