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.
Born in Brooklyn in 1931, Jack ran away 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. 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.
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." His album South Coast won a Grammy Award in 1995, and his 2009 album, A Stranger Here, won the the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. He continues to tour actively.