Ramblin’ Jack Elliott turns 91 today. Though that is not typically a landmark birthday to celebrate, Ramblin’ Jack is not a typical man. The protégé of Woody Guthrie is known for rambling as much down the road as he is known for rambling through the tales of his travels. Indeed, Jack Elliott is one of the great lesser-sung heroes of American folk music—and one of the few from his generation who are still performing.
So, to honor the great troubadour, we here at Folk Alley thought it worthwhile to consider some of his best songs.
“San Francisco Bay Blues”
Here, Elliott joins fellow folkie Pete Seeger on Seeger’s television show, Rainbow Quest, to deliver a rendition of one of his most classic tunes.
“This Train Is Bound for Glory”
Ramblin’ Jack is one of Woody Guthrie’s most dedicated protégés. He delivered this version of Guthrie’s famous tune at a concert paying tribute to the late Phil Ochs.
Few still-living folksingers can boast of the travels that Ramblin’ Jack has known, so his cover of this Guthrie tune—about the trials and travails of traveling—is well worth a listen.
“If I Were a Carpenter”
From Seeger to Guthrie to Phil Ochs, and now to Johnny Cash—Ramblin’ Jack Elliott has either worked with or inspired generations of folk and roots artists.
“Riding Down Canyon”
This song by Gene Autry and Smiley Burnette captures the pride of the Hollywood cowboy. It’s a fitting tune for Elliott, as there’s always been something cinematic about Ramblin’ Jack’s remarkable life.