Jim is a writer, of songs and stories. And, he has a lot of stories to tell.
A Fly on the Wall with a Backstage Pass
Start the projector.
You are respectfully instructed to:
This chapter is going to be called "A Fly on the Wall with a Backstage Pass", and it'll be about this last week of surreal reality with Ramblin' Jack Elliott. He has such a love affair with 'the theatre of the now' that he can say this kind of thing (as he has over and over in the past, I'm sure) and really believe it, but he told me 5 times that he was enjoying "one of the best tours of his life". If you let the seasons be the guide, Jack is 82, but don't try to convince him of that. Two years ago, after a 'happy birthday' sung by Pete Seeger, he looked at his cake with the big Eight Zero and told himself he just wasn't going there. So he made a slow and deliberate double-clutching motion with his left foot, let her cling-cling-cling gently into reverse, and since he'd just spent an entire year being 79, slipped effortlessly into 78 and slowly let out the clutch. Having too much love for machinery, Jack does not drive recklessly, whether it's a sailing boat, a Kenworth rigged for logging, or my GMC van which is just broken in at 200,000 miles. Later on in our week together we floated up Cottonwood Pass with Jack at the wheel at a perfect easy pace. He drives his life just a bit harder.
Having just returned from one of the most delightful trips of my life, I feel some notes are in order; a reminder and keepsake for me when this all fades into a dream. Driving the highways and backroads of Colorado with Ramblin' Jack is just too special an experience not to be celebrated in a memoir. Besides, it would give me the opportunity to go on long, rambling self-indulgent semi-related anecdotal tangents of my own.
For those who aren't acquainted with the iconic American folksinger who was more famous in Greenwich Village in 1961 than Bob Dylan, let me introduce you to Ramblin' Jack Elliott. He was one of Dylan's most significant role models as Bob, a young Robert Zimmerman, was putting together his own early career persona. Dylan idolized Woody Guthrie, and Jack traveled and sang with Woody for 3 years in the early fifties. Hence, Dylan learned much of his 'Woody' directly from Jack. He also borrowed liberally from the vast reservoir of what was truly 'authentic' Ramblin' Jack Elliott. Bob Dylan said it. "It was true. Jack was the King of the Folksingers".
Dylan first heard Woody Guthrie records in Minnesota around 1959, and immediately devoured Woody's autobiography, "Bound For Glory". Soon he was living, breathing, and singing nothing but Woody's songs. In his "Chronicles Volume 1" Dylan writes that a folk music purist in Minneapolis named Jon Pankake took him aside and said, "You're trying hard, but you'll never turn into Woody Guthrie. You better think of something else. You're doin' it for nothing. Jack Elliott's already been where you are and gone". After hearing records by Ramblin' Jack, Dylan felt lost, like he had nowhere to go. Also from "Chronicles": "It would be hard not to be influenced by the guy I just heard. I'd have to block it out of my mind, though, forget this thing, tell myself I hadn't heard him and he didn't exist. He was overseas in Europe, anyway, in a self-imposed exile. The US hadn't been ready for him. Good. I was hoping he'd stay gone, and I kept hunting for Guthrie songs".
Jack had called to see if he could stay a few days with Salli and me around the time he was to play Swallow Hill Music Hall. Seems he had almost an entire week between Ridgeway and Denver. His opening act was Nell Robinson and Jim Nunally, a fine country duo sometimes joined by road-manager Logan Ledger. The kids had mid-week obligations, but Jack was free as a bird without an interest in flying (Jack respects airplanes as fine efficient machines, but hates to fly and can't stand airports - "Why do you think they call 'em terminals, Jack?"). During our phone conversation my mind hatched a perfectly realized master plan. I told Jack that I desperately needed a pre-65th birthday celebratory V-8 powered Rocky Mountain drive-about and would really enjoy his company as a copilot. Jack signed on immediately.
So this is a truthful tall tale of my most recent encounter with The King of Folksingers.
A week ago Sunday I met up with Jack in Ridgeway, Colorado, which is literally at the portal of our state's most dramatic mountain ranges, the San Juans. We had a week to meander our way back over the Rockies to the eastern slope, with a gig waiting for Jack when we arrived in Denver. By last Thursday we were only fifty miles on the wrong side of a bee-line course. At that rate we'd make Denver by, uh... well, you do the math.
Day One, Off to Ridgeway, Colorado.
The show was a spirited mix of all the components that make up a Ramblin' Jack show. The stories and the songs complimented and encouraged each other, and the respectful and enthusiastic crowd inspired him to do a particularly cohesive performance. There were transitional threads running through his narratives all night long. Ridgeway was happy to be graced with his presence.
Not ready to interject myself fully into his scene, I slipped away quietly and drove high up in the national forest to spend the night in my van. All the comforts of home except for mail delivery. What greeted me in the morning light was worth the drive, and I mean the drive all the way from Denver. The Sneffles range has given calendars all over the world a 'reason to be', besides their obvious organizational merits.
Day Two, Monday in Ridgeway
John's a delight, and yet another in a long line of folks whose lives will never be quite the same after 4 days of Ramblin' Jack Elliott. I suggested to him that the magic does not wear off quickly and some of the glow is indelible. Jack just has his unusual share of mystical smiles and magical stories, and a bottomless reservoir of kindness he dispenses freely.
(Shameless Self-Promotional Grammy-Anecdote Alert!) So I asked, "John. Dennis Weaver lived in this valley for years. Surely Dennis owned a Grammy." John replied that though Weaver never got a Grammy, that he brought in another of his awards for a cleaning. He said it was a Wrangler, a 17 pound bronze statue of a cowboy on a horse, that he won from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. With no little pride I informed John that I had, just 4 months ago, won "one of them Wranglers myself!" I'd produced the Best Traditional Western Recording of 2013 for my singing cowpoke friend Bill Barwick, 'voice of the Western Channel on cable TV'.
Concerning the winning of that Wrangler, I'm reminded of what will be one of my favorite stories for the rest of my life. My Dad and I, along with younger sister Vicki, attended the award ceremonies in Oklahoma City. At 98 years of age, he was easily a dozen years older than anyone else at the Western Heritage Museum that weekend. My Dad is a soft spoken, thoughtful story teller, a history scholar and elder of the church, winner of Kansas State University Ag Department's 'Master Farmer of the Year Award' in 2004, had his first US Patent approved last year at 97, and loves the stories, legends and raw facts of the Great American West. Besides Wrangler winners Waddie Mitchell, Wes Studie, the late Robert Mitchum and many others, also receiving the award was a man of unusual achievement, Dayton Duncan. He had written and co-produced "The Dust Bowl", with Ken Burns, the recent PBS miniseries. Dad and I attended Dayton's noon presentation and were astounded at his passion and grace. He also wrote Ken Burn's "The National Parks - America's Best Idea", "The Civil War", "Baseball" and "Jazz" for PBS. There were 70 or 80 in attendance to hear Dayton tell the story of making of "The Dust Bowl"; the historical setting, the astronomical chore of editing, and the very fabric of those who chose to stay and tough it out in the face of what has been called by some America's hardest of hard times. After Dayton's closing remarks, the presentation's narrator, on a tip from one of the museum's staff, said that in the audience was a man who not only toughed out the dust bowl, but with his father managed to grow some of the only green fields for miles in Kearney County of southwestern Kansas. The family quarter section was expanded to, at one time, an astounding 3,000 acres of rented ground, as adjacent landowners saw the success Edmond and Loyd were having with their own 160 acres. They were, during those depression years, also farming the family's central Kansas land, driving their one tractor, truck, implements and combine the 180 miles back and forth. Since just before the stock market crash of '29, all of the family's holdings were under high interest mortgage, so there was the real and ever-present possibility of foreclosure. Dad graduated high school in 1932 and set about the task of helping to save the family farm. In 1939, just before the war began, the mortgage was paid off. An American success story.
Since we're still under 'Grammy alert', this anecdote concerns Ramblin' Jack's "South Coast" release, which he won in 1995. The punch line of this story took me by complete surprise. A few years ago Jack asked me to pick him up in Boulder so he could spend a few days with us at home in Englewood. Jack had just done the E-Town Radio Show with Ralph Stanley. Jack introduced me to Ralph, a super-charged highlight for me and unmemorable for Ralph, I'm sure. I couldn't resist mentioning that my "Howlin' At the Moon" by Sam Bush and his recording of "Pretty Polly" had co-existed on the Bluegrass Chart in December of 1998 as #3 and #2. Once again, rather thrilling at least for me. I was honored to be in his presence and it was the first thing I could think of to say. (Being in the presence of significant fame can make you weak in the knees, though no one filled me with such intimidating fear as Grace Slick.)
Day Three. Ridgeway, Owl Creek Pass and back, Ouray, Hastings Mesa and Telluride
Tuesday was a big day of sightseeing, since Owl Creek Pass just east of Ridgeway is not only gorgeous but littered with True Grit location shots, including the monolithic Chimney Rock. We're talking the original '69 "True Grit" and not the remake by the Coen Brothers starring Jeff Bridges. We topped the pass and dropped down into the Cimerron Valley for a reconnaissance, then flipped it around to retrace our route back to Ridgeway. Just ten miles south of Ridgeway is one of Colorado's great surprises. A little burg called Ouray. You hardly feel you're climbing at all for those 10 miles, but suddenly, as you pull into town, you're deep in the Swiss Alps. Possibly the world's most dramatic city park is just south of town, called Box Canyon Falls Park. Walk into a massive meandering slot canyon to see thousands of gallons of water spouting out of what appears to be the ceiling of a great cave. Unbelievable, and four bucks a person. Jack 82 or 76 (you choose) is free, and since I'm right on top of my 65th, I get a buck discount. Three dollars total, meaning a dollar and a half apiece. Jack and I remark about getting the best waterfall deal on earth. Just 3 miles up the road to Red Mountain Pass is yet another breathtaking falls, dropping hundreds of feet from a bridge on the road. Mother Nature put on some fireworks with water for us two not-so-weary travelers.
Heading back through Ridgeway, up Dallas Divide, and a left on Last Dollar road, put us on Hastings Mesa, home to the opening shots of "True Grit". On the mesa Jack and I stopped by to see my friend Allan Bradbury who owns possibly the most dramatic house in the northern hemisphere, with a waterfall and a world class recording studio. Alan smiled so beautifully all the while we were there. No need for a party favor if you're bringing Ramblin' Jack for a visit. And as a bonus, Allen got to jam with Ramblin' Jack.
Since this was my Great 65th Birthday Celebration Adventure, Telluride was a high priority objective for me. Jack's enthusiasm was not as fever-pitched as mine, but he was happy to let me lead the way. (Side Trip Alert)
Then, in 1984, Fred Shellman took the band Salli and I had formed under his wing and bestowed upon us the Festival's opening spot for Saturday morning. Runaway Express had the 10:30 am show at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival through 1990 when Fred died. We lost our place on the show and our backstage passes.
Didn't really make it back to Telluride until 1999. Sam Bush had made some big national noise with my tune. Too late for tickets, my buddy Dr. Stewart Greisman and I enjoyed Sam's festival set from a lofty perch. Jim Lincoln's Elizabethan third floor balcony high above the park provided us with perfect sound and direct view of a tiny distant stage. When he introduced my song the canyon was filled with howling. Many of the attending 10,000 participated.
Meanwhile, after Ibby and I did the duo thing for a couple of years ('79-'82), Chuck Morris agreed to manage the Dirt Band on two conditions. One, that they return to the name Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and that Jimmy Ibbotson be re-instated. An immediate string of country hits ensued with Ibbotson on lead vocal. There was "Dance Little Jean", "Long Hard Road", "High Horse" and "Fishin' In The Dark" to name a few, and 1989 handed them a Country Music Album of the Year for "Circle Two". In that year Ibby and I resumed our playing together, teaming up with Jimmie Salestrom, who'd had a decade of playing with Dolly Parton, and we launched The Wild Jimbos.
So you see, although Telluride is no longer on my list of regular yearly destinations, I've made a showing in the valley, by proxy, each year since 1995 when Sam started to sing "Howlin' At The Moon" in his shows.
Where were we? Oh, yeah. Jack and I were up on Hastings Mesa and, in writing about it I fell victim to neophyte journalist syndrome. It's just one by-product of this tangent-prone narrative style of mine. I can't drive into Telluride without a flash-flood of memories and I needed to explain the significance the town has for me as it has woven itself into the fabric of my last 40 years. Believe me, as we were cruising the roads of the mesa Jack was the one doin' the talking. I can hear my stories anytime.
So Jack and I dropped down off Hastings Mesa into Sawpit, and followed the San Miguel River upstream into Telluride. Our host and hostess on this trip into the valley were Scott and Randye Doser, providing, on short notice, perfect accommodations with grand sweeping views of Sunshine Peak and Mount Wilson. Both of them were thrilled to have an audience with Ramblin' Jack. They fed us like royalty and treated us as such. That's when we heard about the movie. They alerted us to the fact that the Telluride Film Festival would begin on Thursday and that a highlight of the festival would be the debut of the new Coen Brothers film, "Inside Llewyn Davis", a film taking a romp in Jack's old stomping grounds - early '60s Greenwich Village.
I got to thinking about the first time Sal and I met Jack some 15 years ago. At an Emmylou Harris concert Harry Tuft had to leave early and asked if we'd entertain Mr. Elliott. (Harry, Denver's father of folk music, followed in the honored tradition of New York's Izzy Young, and established the Denver Folklore Center in the 1960s.) We volunteered enthusiastically and took Jack to our home for a few days. We learned what many already knew; that Jack had an unusual gift of poetry. Not so much in the contained space of a poem, but more in his ability to create poetic constructs into a narrative of beautifully interwoven reminiscings, rich with specifics about cowboy techniques and sailing boat designs and hat making and proper knot tying and Kenworths and Stetsons and Charlie Russell and Guy Clark and Will James and Peterbuilts and Peter La Farge and Dylan and Seeger and McGuinn and Springsteen and Jerry Jeff, Kris, and Cash and Willie and Baez and Hondo and Arlo and always Woody. The touchstone. Always Woody Guthrie.
"I don't write poetry, Jim", he said.
Jack says that he's not so much of a music lover. He really likes trucks and horses and sailboats, but he's found that it's better to pay his bills with a guitar instead of robbin' banks. Less bloodshed, he says.
During those first few days with Jack as our houseguest, we were treated to many of his 'ramblings'. Odetta's mother gave Jack the "Ramblin'" handle, and not so much 'cause he travelled. "That's the ramblin'est guy I've ever seen", she said. At some point Jack brought up Steve Martin's name, and I mentioned that my band Colours had done some shows with Steve in the early '70s. That was before his cataclysmic rise to fame in '75, initiated by his co-hosting the Tonight Show and appearing on Saturday Night Live. Jack had a question that I couldn't answer, since I didn't really know Steve back then. He was, and continues to be reserved, quiet, and almost shy offstage. Jack's question concerned whether Steve Martin was making fun of him when he did his famous 'ramblin' guy' routine. "I'M RA-uh-AM-uh-Am-uh-AaaaMmmm.....(long pause).....BLIN'!!!".
(Salli and Greg did yet another Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers album design in 2011 called "Rare Bird Alert", featuring the Dixie Chicks and Sir Paul McCartney. Yours truly got a design assistant credit in the booklet, probably because I was sleeping with one of the graphic artists.)
Day Five, Thursday - Movie Day
"Inside Llewyn Davis"- Folk Film Noir. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll buy Phil Oches Records on Vinyl!
Dave Van Ronk tells the story of attending Ramblin' Jack's New York debut, having just returned from Europe. Dave was sitting at the table with Bob Dylan and Jack's parents, Dr. and Mrs. Adnopoz. While Jack was tuning the audience was completely quiet, uncharacteristic of the room. Jack's mother, said Dave, "was just staring at her son, raptly, and she lets out a stage whisper, 'Look at those fingers - such a surgeon he could have been!'"
The movie is very loosely based on a book by Dave Van Ronk and Elijah Ward called "The Mayor of MacDougal Street". In the book, Dave relates the story of hitchhiking to Chicago to audition for Albert Grossman at his club "The Gate of Horn". The movie recreates this journey where Llewyn does indeed sing for "Bud" Grossman. My favorite line of the movie is delivered by a perfectly cast Grossman character. Llewan finishes his song, and a thoughtful but distant voice says, "I don't see a lot of money here".
One more statement to put the real Dave Van Ronk into perspective. Dylan said in his "Chronicles" that Dave "towered over the street like a mountain but would never break into the big time. It just wasn't where he pictured himself. No puppet strings on him ever. He was big, sky high, and I looked up to him. He came from the land of giants".
A Bob Dylan-like image appears for a few seconds late in the movie, unnamed as a hazy apparition singing an open mic session at the Gaslight to strangers who very possibly are aware that something volcanic is about to happen to their intimate, exclusive world of folk music. It's almost an incidental reference to the guy who would completely dominate the genre in just a few months. The Coen Brothers wanted to pay tribute to the Greenwich Village scene before Dylan stepped in and turned it completely on its head.
Ain't no money in poetry
Hugh Romney would later change his name to Wavy Gravy and completely encapsulate the pure, spiritual essence of the sixties subculture as he announced at Woodstock, "What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for four hundred thousand!". He's led his life as a holy man clown with a self-deprecating wit. He adopted the regalia of a clown when he realized that he was less likely to be beat-up by the police as he was demonstrating for the cause of peace, love and the American way. A lover of life, people, animals and children. A perfect human composed of kindness and grace.
Though it was the Cafe Bizarre in 1957 that first featured folk music in Greenwich Village, it was Hugh (Wavy Gravy) Romney who convinced John Mitchell to bring folk into The Gaslight. Dave Van Ronk settled in and became honorary Mayor, Dylan was on deck preparing to hit one out of the park, Joan Baez was the Queen of Folksingers and Ramblin' Jack was the King.
If you want a posed shot to resemble the iconic photo of Dylan and Suze on "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", here's my best guess: Leave your subjects on Jones Street and walk in the direction of traffic (it's a one-way going kinda east) and stand just across West 4th Street (Bob was living at 161 a half block the southeast). Photograph your models from 40-50 feet away using a long lens. I haven't tried it but it might work.
On a personal note, I must admit that were I asked to label the musical style I've chosen for the bulk of my life's work, with some hesitation I'd be forced to say 'folk-rock'. Both words of that appellation incorporate the many diverse styles I love and that have influenced me. Most notably country, bluegrass, calypso and the blues. Folk-rock's about as tight a description as I can summon. So, let's discuss the most pivotal song that opened the doors wide for the folk-rock explosion. Few would disagree that it was "Mr. Tambourine Man" by the Byrds. How did our ol' buddy Ramblin' Jack have a hand in the birth of folk-rock, you ask? Well, you see, it had to do with a tape Jim Dixon handed to the Byrds when they were making their first album. The tape was an outtake from Dylan's 2nd record, "Another Side of Bob Dylan", and was a duet he'd sung with Jack Elliott. The Byrds, after finally agreeing the song should be recorded, (with much opposition, mainly because Crosby didn't get Dylan at all!) were having some trouble with figuring out the harmonies, since David's signature modern modal harmony wasn't working so well and they were fighting about it. So, Dean Webb, mandolin player for the Dillards... (I must break in here. I love the Dillards! Traditional bluegrass with a contemporary flair. Perfect. Doug Dillard was McEuen's initial banjo inspiration. Rodney's vocal delivered the goods as well as anyone could. Upright bass player Mitch Jane was wiser, more charming, and funnier than anyone this side of The Limeliters' Lou Gottlieb, and the band featured my favorite harmony singer in this known universe, Herb Pederson. While I'm firmly located in this distraction during the 'tambourine story', please let me say that The Dillards were kind enough to record two tunes of mine, and my song "Ozark Night" was featured on their Grammy-nominated "Let It Fly" release of 1993. But I digress, so let's get back to our exciting, cliff-hanging mr. tambourine man story).... uh, where was I? Darn tangents!
For those of us in the 'music biddness', there is much reason to be excited about the subject matter of the new Coen Brothers film. Since I was 13 I've hoped for, with great nostalgia, yet another urban folk revival that would follow exactly the same course as this early '60 phenomenon. One I would be old enough to really participate in. Another scene where a truly passionate delivery was greeted with respect, overcoming the liabilities of a poor sound system and the volume limitations of a single voice and acoustic guitar. I always wanted it to happen, and very slowly realized throughout my life that it continues to exist in reality and spirit all the time, all over the globe. It's called Folk Music. You go out and find it! So I welcome the Coen Brothers new effort with great enthusiasm. Teenagers of the 21st century who don't even know what a 'nineteen sixty one' is, will see a harsh but extremely romantic episode of Americana that played no little part in creating today's popular music. Joel and Ethan had, after all, literally changed the face of traditional folk and bluegrass 12 years ago with their movie, "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?". Everyone in my line of work acknowledged that 'Oh, Brother...' opened the ears of millions of people who would have otherwise not been aware of this type of music. So now, their microscope is aimed at what some have called the 'great urban folk scare of the early 1960s', and Jack Elliott, having just returned from 3 years of touring Europe, was of the crowned royalty of that scene.
My own most graphic initiation into folk music was hearing the banjo and three part harmony singing of "Tom Dooley" by the Kingston Trio. Though the early '50s songs of the Weavers were anthems of unknown origin to me, I just liked "On Top of Old Smokey" and "Irene, Goodnight", not really knowing where they came from. The Kingston Trio came from the Radio!, and provided mainstream access to a timeless art-form. Their popularity and success caused some folk purists to discredit their true merit, since success seems to bypass the 'folk process', and who wants to share a treasured secret that everyone knows about? But the Kingston Trio, because of the depth of their popularity and the accessibility of their songs, inspired an entire generation to get guitars and learn those few chords. And the list of famous musicians whose formative years were directly inspired by the Kingston Trio - forget about it!.
I just talked to Bobbie Shane, the perfectly lovely queen-of-the-hop wife of Bob Shane, the perfectly lovely voice of "Scotch and Soda" and only living original member of the Kingston Trio. He's the guy who owns the name. Salli and I have been good friends with Bob since we first met in Atlantic City in 1987. She and I, with our group Runaway Express, were backing John McEuen at The Sands Casino in a quiet showroom isolated from the greedy clanging of slot machines. Just a short stroll down the boardwalk was the only other acoustic music in Atlantic City, The Kingston Trio. We repeatedly crashed each other's sets, and Salli and I spent some late night hours with Bob. His confidence and good-natured charm could fill a room, and she and I were deep in the spell of his stories and his kindness. At one point Shane asked me to write him a hit (yikes!) song. He wanted a tune that was the story of the Kingston Trio and he provided me with 6 words (counting the contraction as one) to get the process started: "Hey, Mon, it's been too cool!" Bob considers himself to be a lucky guy, as do I for getting such a cool assignment.
After the debut screening of "Inside Llewan Davis", there was a brief interview with the Coen Brothers and T- Bone Burnette. T-Bone asked Jack to stand and take a bow, and Joel Coen said "We gave Adam Driver your hat, Jack." So Jack stood and waved his authentic 'Ramblin' Jack-type hat' to the crowd. No stunt-double Stetson for him.
After the showing, things got rather cinematic for me. On the four block walk down to main street, Telluride, I was interviewed twice by hungry reporters wanting a little insight into how Jack had just stumbled into town with no knowledge of the filmfest or the movie. The next few hours of hanging around Jack should be a documentary, and would be if only the technology were available for me to hot-wire and record the video and audio my eyes and ears were experiencing. A town full of movie buffs, all staying up late and discussing the subtle ramifications of movie making and the emotional power of 'film', could not have eclipsed the discussions we had back at Scott and Randye's house. Anecdotes of Greenwich Village, songs, stories and opinions about the movie took us until 4:30am.
Day Six, Friday Cumberland Pass, South Park, and a John McEuen Concert
Friday morning came early as we had some semi-hard travelin' to do.
We'd spent two days more than expected in Telluride because of that darned brilliant movie, so many of our byway options just couldn't be realized. I'd considered a sidetrip to The Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a tour of Lake City, over Slumgullion and North passes down into the San Luis Valley with an overnight at Joyful Journey Hot Springs for the night, which would have yielded us views of Colorado's massive jewel, The Great Sand Dunes rising 700 feet out of the valley floor. But as wonderful as that side trip would have been, I wouldn't have traded one second of our time in Telluride, and Jack and I both were sorry to have to pull up stakes so soon.
Salli called to say that she and I were invited to a John McEuen show in Colorado Springs that night, and I realized the the Springs was rather 'on our way home'. But I was determined to see Cumberland Pass for a 2nd time, and it was the long-cut option to Monarch Pass on Hwy 50. We made the astounding summit of Cumberland Pass on gravel, and had a communion with nature at the top, but the clock said that we would be late for the show. After Jack drove up Cottonwood Pass, he slept in the back as I drove us past the Collegiate Peaks and through the sweeping panoramas of South Park.
As Jack slept, I drove, and I got to thinking more about last night's movie and the Greenwich Village scene in general. Follow the time-line back just a couple of years and the Village was hosting yet another artistic phenomenon that helped set the stage for the folk-craze. The complacent materialism of the '50s had given rise to the Beat Generation, and that group of 'drop-out beatniks' has been so reviled, over-characterized and ridiculed that many of their foundational artistic motives have been forgotten. Want to know about the Beats? Ask David Amram. He was there in the Village back then, and he's still with us today passionately encouraging any form of artistic human expression and in performance at 82, plays the role of God's Perfect Matinee Idol.
So a hundred thousand different sources led to the Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers and Robert Johnson and Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhart and Bing Crosby and Benny Goodman and Hank Williams and Les Paul and Pete Seeger and Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlingetti and Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack Elliott, which led to an an endless list of imaginative and creative artists inspired by them, following their own muse and creating their own personalized art and 'the beat goes on'!
Here's Peter Rowan:
Back on the road, Jack and I roll into Colorado Springs late but welcome. We pull into the parking lot of O'Malley and Associates, and spend some great time with Scott O'Malley (agent and manager of Don Edwards, Norman Blake and others) and his sons. I'd heard about "Inside Llewyn Davis" from Scott two months ago as Salli and I, along with life-long Texas pal Pete Schroeder, were on our way to Red River for Michael Martin Murphey's 40 year anniversary celebration of the "Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir" album. (Scott has two amazing Mike Murphey solo projects on his label, Western Jubilee.) Scott mentioned that Nancy, Norman Blake's wife, had a small part in this upcoming Coen Brothers movie. That was early July and the first I'd heard about "Inside Llewan Davis".
We walked in quite late for John McEuen's show at the Stargazers Club, but got a hearty dose of his string wizardry and showmanship.
(It reminds me of 1975 when Jimmy Ibbotson ((interchangeable with Ibby when this email turns into a book)) and my band Colours took David Allen Jones on the road with us. David, aka The Kid, was the lightning quick guitarslinging son of one of Mama Maybelle's daughters, Helen Carter (((would you boys care to see a few Carter Family scrapbooks?)))) and The Kid added so much teenage electricity to Colours that we could hardly keep the wheels on the pavement and those Klipsch LaScala speakers from jumping off the stage. Ibby was in my group because John Cable was taking Ibbotson's recently vacated position in the Dirt Band ((((they dropped the first part of the name after he left. When we began our two year tour as Ibbotson and Ratts I felt that I was playing with the real 'nitty gritty'. But then I digress, and I'm using way too many parenthesis)))))))))))
After the Colorado Springs show, John McEuen couldn't hang with us because of the siren call of the road and an early morning flight in some other Colorado county. It's cool, John, 'cause we'll always see you down the road that friends travel. If my memory serves me well, it was at a McEuen and Runaway Express radio show performance in 1988 when Salli and I first saw Ramblin' Jack Elliott. I don't think we met. I'd seen him as a teenager on The Johnny Cash Show, but that was on TV. McEuen got us on the radio together.
Day Seven Denver and Swallow Hill Music Hall
It was my responsibility to get Ramblin' Jack to the Denver show in one piece and still standing on Saturday night, and by golly, I did just that!
Sunday, Day Eight We Rested (and listened to the recording of the previous night's show.)
Day Nine So Long, It's Been Good to Be Entertained By Ya...
So Jack heads off to a performance in Winnemucca, Nevada (Jack just called a bit ago to say that Winnemucca may know a lot about horseshoes and saddles, they don't know much about stage monitors) and back home to the Tamales Bay and Marshall, California, the only town in the world where the elevation plus the speed limit is equal to the population.
post script - Dateline, Saturday, September 7, 2013. Yesterday evening I said to Salli, "I believe this is the best birthday I can remember," and she asked if I could remember any other birthdays. "Funny," I said. "Help me to remember that so I can write it down in my memoirs."
It's kinda like what Guy Clark said. "I can't remember the first time I actually heard Jack Elliott, but I'll never forget it."
So that's my story and I'm stickin' to it (until the next re-write).