One of the last true links to the great folk traditions of this country, with over 40 albums under his belt, 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, and the Grateful Dead to the Rolling Stones, they all pay homage to Ramblin' Jack Elliott.
One of the great American musical treasures, Ramblin' Jack has had a rich and storied life. He traveled extensively with Woody Guthrie and learned the blues firsthand from Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, the Reverend Gary Davis, Big Bill Broonzy, and more. He wrote one of the first trucking songs, "Cup of Coffee," recorded by Johnny Cash; championed the works of new singer-songwriters, from Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson to Tim Hardin; and became a founding member of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue. He has earned multiple Grammy nominations and a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for South Coast (1995). President Bill Clinton awarded Jack the National Medal of Arts in 1998, proclaiming, "In giving new life to our most valuable musical traditions, Ramblin' Jack has himself become an American treasure." He continues to release landmark albums, including his latest release, 2009's A Stranger Here.
Through it all – though agents, managers, wives, and recording companies have tried – Ramblin' Jack has resisted being molded into a commercial commodity. He plays his shows without a written set list and doesn't include any songs that don't resonate with his gut feeling of what matters to him. At 80 years old, he is still on the road, still seeking those people, places, songs, and stories that are hand-crafted, wreaking of wood and canvas, cowhide and forged metal. You'll find him in the sleek lines of a long-haul semi truck, in the rigging of an old sailing ship, and in the smell of a fine leather saddle. Better yet, you'll find him at Highline Ballroom tonight.