This gruff, hobo folker – whom Mama Cass once declared the sexiest man alive – has one hell of a story. He left home at 14 to join the rodeo, where he learnt to play guitar from a clown; he stayed with Woody Guthrie for two years in the early ’50s; hung out with Alan Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in Greenwich Village, before stealing their girlfriends; and used to open for The Grateful Dead. Oh, and there’s the small matter of meeting Bob Dylan at Guthrie’s deathbed and taking the youngster under his wing.
No less important, he also had a big impact in the UK. He landed here in 1955 with wife June (an ex-girlfriend of James Dean) and took full advantage of the UK folk and blues revival. His link to Guthrie and olde America made him an instant hero and the likes of Davey Graham and Bert Jansch would listen to Elliott tell stories about Guthrie and play his songs.
Still ramblin’ at 75, he’s enjoying a reappraisal and returns to plug his forthcoming album, ‘I Stand Alone’. It features his trademark flat-picking blues licks, weathered yet cheeky vocals and a poignant tale of his last road trip with Guthrie, ‘Woody’s Last Ride’. With Lucinda Williams, Flea and Sleater-Kinney’s Corin Tucker all guesting on the record and an appearance at All Tomorrow’s Parties at the behest of Devendra Banhart, he’s now been discovered by a new generation. He might not have Dylan’s fortune but I bet Bob’s old pal is having a lot more fun.
Chris Parkin, Mon May 15