A disciple of Woody Guthrie, Grammy-winning folksinger Ramblin' Jack Elliott mentored Bob Dylan and influenced Jerry Garcia and the Rolling Stones, among others. But after 13 albums and innumerable tour dates, Elliott (born Elliott Charles Adnopoz) has a new medium—film: The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack, a poignant yet laugh-provoking documentary directed by his daughter Aiyana, 31, made a splash at this year's Sundance Film Festival. "Being a musician can be a bummer," says Elliott, 69, who lives near San Francisco with fifth wife Jan, 45, a singer-songwriter. "But being a movie star is even harder."
What do you think of your daughter's film about you?
She comes very close to the truth, which is so rare. It's revealing, and I'm dealing. I was a dad who wasn't around. She's got an ax to grind. I look stupid at times, because I couldn't come up with any sensible answers to her questions.
How did a nice Jewish boy and son of a doctor from Brooklyn hit the folk scene?
I never was "nice." I just wanted to be a cowboy, and I ran away from home at 15 to join the rodeo and play guitar.
Describe your relationship with Bob Dylan.
I met Bob in 1961 when visiting Woody Guthrie in the hospital. Bob was sitting at Woody's feet trying to get advice. Bob became a student of mine. Then he shot up like a rocket. Now, he never calls me, and I never call him.
How would you like to be remembered?
As a good hand with a horse and a good guitar picker. I'm a ramblin' man, and I'm tired of traveling.