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Ramblin' Jack Elliott: A Texas Ramble

Jack Elliot with Don Carleton
Jack Elliot with Briscoe Center Executive Director Dr. Don Carleton.

The Briscoe Center has acquired the film archives of Ramblin' Jack Elliott: A Texas Ramble. Directed by Dee Brown and Bruce Bryant, the film documents the life, travels, and stories of folk music legend Jack Elliot, who was mentored by Woody Guthrie and in turn mentored Bob Dylan. A Texas Ramble documents “the king of the folksingers” (in Dylan’s words) on the road around Texas, performing songs, telling stories, visiting friends like Jerry Jeff Walker and living dangerously. Based on hundreds of hours of footage that Brown and Bryant began shooting in 1982, the film also includes more recent interviews with Elliot, Arlo Guthrie, Guy Clark, and Lyle Lovett.

A Texas Ramble documents one of American folk music’s lynchpins. Ramblin’ Jack is a vital link in the chain that stretches back all the way to the protest music of the Great Depression,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “I’m grateful to Dee and Bruce for donating this substantial archive of footage that greatly compliments the center’s existing music collections.” 

Elliot was born into a Jewish family from Brooklyn, New York, in 1931. His parents named him Elliot Charles Adnopoz. From an early age, he felt drawn to American folkways and western culture. As a teenager he left New York to join the rodeo. Along the way he became “Jack Elliot” and later “Ramblin’ Jack” after a friend’s mother quipped about his tendency to tell long stories. In 1951, Elliot met Woody Guthrie, who became his mentor and lifelong friend. A decade later he met Bob Dylan and sought to guide the young musician as Guthrie had guided him. Today, Elliot has made over forty albums, won two Grammys, and been awarded the National Medal of Arts. He still actively tours.

A Texas Ramble features extensive coverage of Brown and Bryant traveling across the state with Elliot in the early 1980s. In addition to touring, visiting with fellow musicians, and long hours on the road recounting tales of Guthrie and Dylan, the filmmakers capture Elliot working onboard his 1877 ship Elissa in Galveston Bay and learning how to ride champion cutting horses in Round Rock. 

“We started in 1982 and finished in 2019: some things can’t be rushed,” said Bryant. “The finished film is only half the ramble. The archive includes hundreds of hours of footage and interviews so if people want to listen to a full ramble—if they think they can handle it—then they’ll be able to. We wanted that to be saved for history.”

Bryant is also the director of For the Sake of the Song, which tells the story of Houston music venue Anderson Fair. In 2012, Bryant donated the film’s archives to the center.

 

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