Americana Music

The Time Vinny Met Ramblin' Jack Elliott

Almost all of North Texas picked up at least 2 inches of snow with this event. Between 4-6 inches were reported south of the Red River and north of a line through Eastland, Hillsboro, Fairfield, and Tyler.

I was traveling back from NYC headed home to Austin TX on this day 1/30/77, my trusty 1967 Epiphone Texan on board with me. Those of you that are Texans do realize that even though snow does fall this type of event was rare in the 70’s. Of course, now with climate change the weather as we know it is upside down.  

Anyway, the snow is falling, over four inches at the airport and it is icing and the DFW airport shuts down. I was lucky enough to land but we weren’t going anywhere as the pickup trucks, yes pickup trucks, were plowing the tarmac. Good God how long was this going to take? Turns out it was almost two days before I could get a flight to Austin.

I had a small ranch in Smithville Texas about 40 miles east of Austin and if I could have rented a car, being a New Yorker I would have driven home. Me and other passengers did talk about that but the rental companies were not renting cars due to the ice all over the roads.   

I settled in, bought some supplies, found myself a corner, put on my patience and got ready for what turned out to be a very long wait. A book, a couple of newspapers, the newest Rolling Stone and Billboard, snacks, water and a few veggie tacos.

As back then I WAS a musician, singer in a band or two, I busted out my Git and tuned her up and decided to play and sing. It was good for my soul and from experience good for others as well.

I had a nice crowd, people were singing along with some of the cover tunes and I had a chance to try out some new self-penned ones as well.

As I had just finished up a tune and guy in a cowboy hat sat next to me, I looked up, did a double take and low and behold it was Ramblin Jack Elliott. He had just played the Armadillo World Headquarters show the night before in Austin.

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Wow one of the American Folk Heroes, Woody Guthrie’s travel mate, an icon, I was amazed when he extended his hand and started to introduce himself and there as no need for that. He told me he liked my voice and asked if he could play a song or two. I wasn’t sure if the crowd even knew who was sitting next to me but, as it turned out some of them did. The crowd just got bigger and bigger and I got the chance to sing with Jack.

Now this is where the fun began. Jack and I hung out for over 24 hours, talking up a storm, he was from Brooklyn and my family was from the Bronx and I had seen Jack play on Bleecker street a few times. Jack being the world traveler that he always has been decided he was coming with me and heading back to Austin.

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Jack and I became attached at the hip and he spent over three weeks with us. Music, cooking, sharing stories, we had a grand time together. He fit right into my family of friends.

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No matter where we went, whether a Willie, Kinky Friedman, Jerry Jeff, the backstage doors were always open. Jack and I worked together for nine months and we booked shows and had a grand time. After that first month Jack hit the road but came back often, he stills does shows and his amazing life stories are always a treasure.

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In case you don’t know who Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is, check out his website to read up on his incredible history: http://www.ramblinjack.com/

By: Vinny Rich