Join us on Saturday, May 6, for a screening of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s documentary followed by as discussion with him and his daughter, Aiyana Elliott. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and producer Aiyana Elliott, will take part in the screening of the documentary “The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack.” This documentary, about the life and career of the singing legend, took home the Special Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival, a Documentary Award from SXSW Film Festival and was the Winner of the IFP Documentary Achievement Award. After the screening, Ramblin’ Jack and Aiyana will engage in a Q&A session with attendees.
Location: Woody Guthrie Center Theater
This screening is presented free of charge as part of the Woody Guthrie Center 10th Anniversary.
About the film
The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack
Winner Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize
Feature Film; 1 hr. 45 min
Tells the story of the man Rolling Stone Magazine called The Last Folk Singer. From his unlikely roots as the son of a Jewish doctor in Brooklyn to his ongoing wanderings as one of the last of the singing Cowboys, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott has packed so many adventures into his years that he seems more myth than man. Known as the missing link between Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack’s influence extends far beyond folk music and early rock n roll, as told through intimate interviews and footage with Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Arlo & Nora Guthrie, Dave Van Ronk, Odetta, Pete Seeger and more.
Told by his daughter, filmmaker Aiyana Elliott, The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack seeks to set the record straight about her father’s oft-forgotten role in musical history, but in the process becomes less musical biography and more a daughter’s search to find connection and understanding of her legendary absentee father.
Don’t miss the chance to see this pioneering work of cultural and personal history, presented in person by director Aiyana Elliott and producer Dan Partland, along with the legendary- 91-year-old- Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
About Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
One of the last authentic links to the great folk traditions of this country, with over 40 albums under his belt, two-time GRAMMY-winner Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is considered one of the country’s legendary foundations of folk music. Long before every kid in America wanted to play guitar — before Elvis, Dylan, the Beatles, or Led Zeppelin — Ramblin’ Jack had picked it up and was passing it along. From Johnny Cash to Tom Waits, Beck to Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder to Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead to The Rolling Stones, all pay homage to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.
In the tradition of roving troubadours, Jack has carried the seeds and pollens of story and song for decades from one place to another, from one generation to the next. They are timeless songs that outlast whatever current musical fashion strikes today’s fancy. His tone of voice is sharp, focused, and piercing; he plays the guitar effortlessly in a fluid, flat-picking, perfected style. A brilliant entertainer among fellow folk musicians waiting for you to come to them, Jack came out and grabbed you. Bob Dylan called him, “The King of the Folksingers”.
There are no degrees of separation between Jack and the real thing. He is the guy who ran away from his Brooklyn home at age 14 to join the rodeo and learned his guitar from a cowboy. In 1950, he met Woody Guthrie, moved in with the Guthrie family, traveling with Woody to California and Florida. Jack became so enthralled with the life and composer of This Land Is Your Land, The Dust Bowl Ballads, and the wealth of children’s songs that he completely absorbed the inflections and mannerisms, leading Guthrie to remark, “Jack sounds more like me than I do.”
In 1954 with folk singing pals Frank Robinson and Guy Carawan, Jack journeyed south through Appalachia, Nashville, and New Orleans to hear authentic American country music, later making this the basis for his talking song, 912 Greens. In 1955 Jack married and traveled to Europe, bringing his genuine American folk, cowboy, and blues repertoire, along with his guitar virtuosity, inspiring a new generation of budding British rockers, from Mick Jagger to Eric Clapton. When he returned to America in 1961, he met another young folksinger, Bob Dylan, at Woody Guthrie’s bedside and mentored Bob. Jack has continued as an inspiration for every roots-inspired performer since.
Along his journey, Jack learned the blues first-hand from Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, the Reverend Gary Davis, Big Bill Broonzy, Brownie Mcghee and Sonny Terry, Jesse Fuller, and Champion Jack Dupree. He has recorded forty albums, wrote one of the first trucking songs, Cup of Coffee-recorded by Johnny Cash-and championed the works of singer-songwriters Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson, Tim Hardin, and more. Jack became a founding member of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue and continued the life of the traveling troubadour, influencing Jerry Jeff Walker, Guy Clark, Tom Russell, The Grateful Dead, and countless others.
Among four GRAMMY nominations, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott won his first GRAMMY Award in 1996 for South Coast in the Best Traditional Folk Album category. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Jack the National Medal of the Arts, proclaiming, “In giving new life to our most valuable musical traditions, Ramblin’ Jack has himself become an American treasure. In 2000, Jack’s daughter, filmmaker Aiyana Elliott produced and directed The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack, her take on Jack’s life and their fragile relationship, winning a Special Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival.
2010 to present has been a prolific period for the original troubadour’s career, including his second GRAMMY Award, winning with A Stranger Here in the Best Traditional Blues Album category. Appearances included opening tour performances for beloved artist and friend John Prine, and select dates on the road as a featured guest of Todd Snider. Nora Guthrie honored Ramblin’ Jack in 2015 with a permanent enshrined seat at the Guthrie Museum, and in 2016 he performed at The Ryman in Nashville alongside American musical icons Rodney Crowell, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, and others in a memorial tribute to honor the life and songs of Guy Clark. Jack has returned for performances at The Newport Folk Festival, Western Folklife’s National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and regularly headlines throughout the United States beyond his California coastal territory, frequenting the Eastern and Southern states, as well as Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, and more. Filmmakers Dee Brown and Bruce Bryant debuted the documentary “A Texas Rambler” in 2019, intimately showcasing earlier periods of the Artists’ life and work.
Martin Scorsese’s film release in 2019, The Rolling Thunder Revue: A Dylan Story, features coverage of Ramblin’ Jack’s place as a vital founding member of the 1975 concert tour. Ramblin’ Jack joined on Matt Rollings’ album Mosaic (2020), covering songs “That Lucky Old Sun” with Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett and “If I Had a Boat” for the renowned Producer and Pianist’s project. In 2021 he was invited to attend and present alongside Anita Thompson (wife of the late Hunter S. Thompson), Presidential Historian and Author Douglas Brinkley, and other American luminaries for an exclusive event hosted by Jim Irsay in honor of Jack Kerouac’s 100th birthday; the author with whom Jack had a friendship. Top media outlets featuring Ramblin’ Jack include CBS Sunday Morning, PBS, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, and Uncut (UK).
Though widely esteemed and recognized by many as a great American celebrity figure of Folk music, Jack resists becoming a commercial commodity. Ramblin’ Jack’s life of travels, performances, and recordings is a testament to the America of lore, a giant land of struggle, hard luck, and sometimes even of good fortune. The man Bob Weir calls a “hand-built, self-architectured American icon” takes us to places that spur the romance and passion of life in the tunes and voices of real people.
Turning 90 years young in 2021, Ramblin’ Jack’s ever-curious spirit finds him frequenting the road, seeking people, places, songs, and hand-crafted stories, wreaking of wood and canvas, cowhide, and forged metal. You’ll find him in the sleek lines of long-haul semi-truck, in the rigging of an old sailing ship, in the smell of a fine leather saddle, and performing LIVE into the seventh decade of his career.