On Sunday, May 22nd folk legend Ramblin’ Jack Elliott will perform at America’s longest continuously running folk club Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, New York to celebrate their 51st anniversary.
Ramblin’ Jack, best known for his association with Woody Guthrie met the folk legend in 1950. The two became close friends and Jack would eventually move in with Guthrie’s family and travel with him, singing songs at hootenannies and in bars and workers camps from New York to California. He so styled himself after Guthrie that Woody once said, “Jack sounds more like me than I do.”
In 1961, at Guthrie’s bedside, Jack met Bob Dylan. Woody had succumbed to Huntington’s Disease, a disease which would hospitalize him, claim his mental health and eventually, in 1967, his life. During this period many young folk musicians visited and cared for Woody, bringing along guitars and singing songs for the ailing folk legend. These included musicians that would become legends in their own right: Dylan, Joan Baez, & Phil Ochs to name a few.
With Guthrie too incapacitated to play music, Ramblin’ Jack became Dylan’s mentor. Dylan had long admired Elliott and his mastery of Guthrie’s material, listening to his records when he was still a young college student and aspiring folk musician in Minneapolis. Elliott’s strained, nasally singing style was clearly emulated by Dylan in his early recordings and Jack sometimes referred to Dylan as his ‘son’ when introducing his songs live. Ramblin’ Jack would also later appear in Dylan’s “Rolling Thunder Review” concert tour in late 1975 and early 1976 and Dylan would later pay tribute to Elliott in his 2004 memoir “Chronicles, Volume One” calling him the “King of the Folksingers.”
In his long and remarkable career Ramblin’ Jack has recorded forty albums, received four Grammy nominations and one 1995 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album for his album “South Coast.” That same year, he was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Bill Clinton and in 2000 his daughter, Aiyana Elliott produced and directed the film “The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack” which won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Caffe Lena also played a pivotal role in American folk music. Inspired by the burgeoning folk movement that was beginning to emerge in the late 50s, aspiring actress Lena Spencer opened Caffe Lena in 1960 in order to provide Saratoga Springs with its own authentic American folk coffeehouse. The cafe hosted many of the prominent performers of the American folk revival including Dave Van Ronk, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James and Bob Dylan‘s first booking outside of New York City. In the 70’s, as legendary folk venues like Gerde’s and the Gas Light shut their doors, Cafe Lena inherited the esteemed status of America’s longest continuously operating folk club.
It’s appropriate that a legend like Ramblin’ Jack, who laid the foundation for the 60’s folk revival and who provided a direct link to folk music’s past (Woody Guthrie) and it’s future (Bob Dylan), shall play a legendary venue like Caffe Lena on this momentous occasion. Brown Paper Tickets is proud to ticket this event and highly encourages everyone in upstate New York and beyond to attend this once-in-a-lifetime performance.
Advanced tickets available here.