This 2000 bio-documentary movie of Ramblin' Jack Elliot provides a valuable view of this minor legend and important link in the folk music food chain. It should be considered necessary viewing for anyone with an interest in American folk music, Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan or even fans of A Mighty Wind.
He was Woody Guthrie's main actual disciple and traveling companion during his last active years. Along with that, he became the main depository of Guthrie's musical knowledge, and the main teacher handing it down.
By the time Dylan was coming up in the sixties, Guthrie was pretty well on his deathbed. It was from hanging with Ramblin' Jack that Dylan picked up most of his Guthrie knowledge.
Indeed, Elliott had codified the basic sound and style of Guthrie into his own similar but distinctive style. Watching the vintage 50s and early 60s Ramblin' Jack videos would be a revelation for Dylan fans. Stylistically, the early folk Dylan looks directly imitative of Jack.
Dylan soon surpassed his real mentor artistically and commercially, in significant part because as Ramblin' Jack himself says he lacked the focus and ambition of Dylan. Then Dylan promptly dropped any association with him when he became a superstar. This seems like a particularly callous and ungracious move from Dylan. Ah, well.
Some of Elliott's prime popularity was in England during the 50's, which besides cooler guys like the Stones had a more obvious influence on their idea of a folk boom which was the skiffle movement. It's particularly funny watching his disdainful comments on skiffle. He's trying to hold back, but can't quite avoid expressing his contempt.
Ramblin' Jack Elliott was born Elliot Charles Adnopoz in 1931, the son of a Jewish doctor in Brooklyn. He apparently had a rather severe mother of whom he doesn't speak. There was an interesting minute of footage in which even HER OWN SISTER is trying to explain discretely that NO ONE liked her.