Exhuming Bob VI Ramblin’ Jack Elliott And Bob Dylan

February 21, 2008

Exhuming Bob VI

Ramblin’ Jack Elliott And Bob Dylan


R.E. Prindle


     I had the privilege the other night of viewing The Ballad Of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott which was filmed by Jack’s daughter.  A little on the lengthy, repetitive side, could have used a judicious edit or two, but a very

Ramblin' Jack In Cowboy Persona


creditable and enjoyable effort.  She is to be commended.

     The movie helped to put into perspective Bob in his relation to both the New York folk scene and Elliott himself.  Both Jewish their careers have had great similarities from childhood to the present.  Currently they are running parallel with the money going into Bob’s pocket.

     Both have aspired to be cowboy or Western singers and both have succeeded.  Elliott in his Ramblin’ Jack role and Bob in his Texas Bob Dylan persona.  Both have tried to efface their Jewish heritage actually modeling their faces along cowboy lines.  In the movie the transition from the Jewish face of Jack’s youth to his current cowboy face is readily apparent.

     Elliot was born Adnopoz and Dylan was born Zimmerman.

     There appears to be some real hard feelings towards Bob by Ramblin’ Jack.  The cause is not far to seek.

     Elliott was himself a disciple of Woody Guthrie as is Dylan.  The difference is that Elliott had a ten year start on Dylan.  Thus while Dylan was still in high school Ramblin’ Jack was over there in London town recording those records on Topic that would show up in Minneapolis in 1960.  At that time the succession of Guthrie-Elliott-Dylan began, at least in Bob’s mind.  If anybody else didn’t know what difference did that make?  Already making a model of Guthrie Bob added Elliott and stole copies of the Topic records from a fellow named John Pankake and Bob was off to the races or at least New York City.  By one of those strange coincidences, genuine in this case, Bob arrived in the Big Apple from the West at the same time that Elliott’s ship from London town docked New York City from the East.  East met West so to speak.  Now Bob not only had Elliott’s records to practice from but the living model himself.  Ramblin’ Jack was living the exact life that Bob wanted to lead so Bob moved right in on him to learn everything he could.

     When Jack left America’s sunny shores he was a nobody.  He arrived in England just as the great Lonnie Donegan was introducing the Skiffle craze.  Jack snapped right in there like the interchangeable part of an automobile.  They liked him.  They liked everything about him.  Made him so comfortable he invited his friend Darrel Adams to come over and sing with him.  Darrel did.   They made one of those Topic records together that Bob stole from Pankake.

Caricature Of Bob

Caricature Of Bob

     Well, to make a long story shorter those recordings found their way from London town to New York City making Jack a celebrity in the burgeoning New York folk scene.  Jack was a hero.  Bob got close to him.  In one scene Bob is on stage telling Darrel Adams in the audience that he has a record of Darrel and Jack’s.  Thus no further proof is needed that Bob stole Pankake’s records and wouldn’t give them back.

     Over the course of a few months Bob studied Jack’s act and by the end of those months he was a Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in a Bob Dillon disguise.  I never realized how completely Bob became Jack until I saw the movie.

     At the time Jack didn’t think much of Bob’s stealing his act but over time he seems to have developed hard feelings towards Bob.  He was real resentful in the movie.  Did an interesting but bitter version of Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.  Were you listening Bob?

     The fact of the matter is both Bob and Jack knew where they were going and they were going to different places by the same route.  Bob wanted to be a star and Jack wanted to ramble.  So while this single persona in two forms was a star ramblin’ round the world the other side was an irresponsible troubador ramblin; his serendipitous way round the highways and byways of Americky.

     They both got what they wanted so there’s no reason for Jack to be bitter about the boy he called his ‘son.’  The only one with the right to be bitter is John Pankake who lost those great Topic records.  But nowadays who’s ever heard of John Pankake?

3 Responses to “Exhuming Bob VI Ramblin’ Jack Elliott And Bob Dylan”

  1. R M Says:

    The Jack Elliot film is worth searching out. Check out the old Scaduto book, and find Bob’s reaction to learning that Ramblin’ Jack was actually Jewish. The thought the poor kid was gonna have a seizure or something. He started laughing, then fell off his chair, then slid UNDER the table, literally, and kept laughing, even harder, and they didn’t know why, and he just got more out of control. He was either gonna go from laughing to crying, or have a freaking epilectic fit! Honestly. This would probably hit him pretty hard, particularly the “son” part, which for Bob is obviously a sore point.
    I have another post, where most of my posts are. Please read it! I have the address where you can mosey around Red Wing if you want. I think you’ll want that address.
    Most of my posts are at:
    And in about the last one, you’ll find the Red Wing tour. You don’t want to miss it!
    But I kept it ’till the end in the hope that you would read the rest of my post, which really matters a lot to me. The Internet matters a lot to me, and the people I have found there. And do not like the current trend of just people just popping off and insulting people (as some have insulted you because they do not agree) and not giving any kind of explanation or discussion or anything. And then you said that you were “almost offended” by what I said, and I said that if I offended you in any way, I was sorry, because I am not here to offend; I am here to discuss, learn, share ideas, etc. But never to offend. It’s ok to disagree. And even better to do so because our lives have been different, and so we see things differently. That’s essential to an honest, free, and non-offensive discussion. We really shouldn’t agree about everything. About some things, sure. I think we see Dylan pretty much the same. And we only came to that after wrestling with it for a while. Me, I just think of that kid in that hallway holding that ID bracelet in his hand in front of the whole school (or so it seemed). You are right, of course: in that day and time, those bracelets and rings were MAJOR things, and it is rather unthinkable for a girl to do that. It was like the whole world was just runnin’ up the score on the kid. See, I don’t see “Bob Dylan” here, necessarily, I see a kid in an old time jeans jacket whose head was filled up with “Mixed-up Confusion.” And a lot of pain. And insult added to injury. . . And all whatnot that he cannot even explain nor will he ever be able. That’s what grabs me. I don’t care what his ethnicity is: to me, kids are a social group unto themselves. And they get kicked around more than most.
    Like, I don’t understand, I guess ’cause it’s a generational thing, why you find it so implausible that Abe knocked him around. I mean, he WAS a “bad” kid. Or at least, he got in a lot of trouble for the times. But he was also a “gentle” kid, and he did not see himself as a bad kid at all. That much is clear. I mean, a 9:30 curfew for a Junior or a Senior in High School? That’s rather extreme. How was he going to see a movie and then have something to eat afterwards? No spending money? To me, it sounds like the dad was setting up situations that would or could turn violent (or maybe, in those days, it wasn’t considered “violent,” but today it is). You’re giving the kid no room at all to be a kid, and then when he does, he’s “broken the rules,” and then all hell can break loose. You see what I mean?
    Oh, and please check out that post! Some things I wanted to say. And you DO want to see the interior of Red Wing, don’t you? There it is. Ok, I’m being manipulative. But it’s not like it’s a crime, or anything. I just want to explain myself. And make sure I didn’t offend anyone, ’cause that’s not why I’m here at all. I don’t want to BE Greil: I don’t want to do that.

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  3. Jackie j Says:

    Just want to say hello to Elliot Adnopoz who I went to school with many years ago. We were in 1st grade together and you wanted to be a cowboy even then. We both have the same birthday as well. You have accomplished so much and have lived your dream…so please keep on rambling.

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