Ramblin’ Jack Elliott:
A Texas Ramble

A film by Dee Brown and Bruce Bryant

Directors’ statement

Dee Brown and I met Ramblin’ Jack Elliott in 1975 when he first performed at our club in downtown Houston, Your Ever Lovin’ Sweetheart of Texas Concert Hall and Saloon. We’ve been his friends ever since. We even went flying in a hot air balloon one time and landed in the middle of a herd of cattle…but that’s another story.

It was all Dee’s fault; he had the idea. In the early 80's Jack was working in Galveston helping restore the tall ship, Elissa. Dee thought we should try to film him doing his thing high in the rigging and maybe make a film about that and some of his other adventures. We were not aware that over the years other folks had been asking Jack to do that same kind of film. For one reason or another he had never gone for it. Our timing must have been good in 1982 because Jack liked the idea. I wonder what he would have said if he had known it would take us thirty-seven years to complete this film? We traveled with Jack around Texas - shooting on board the Elissa in Galveston, riding champion cutting horses in Round Rock, visiting his old buddy, Jerry Jeff Walker and performing in a legendary Texas music venue, Anderson Fair in Houston. We rode shotgun and heard his firsthand stories about folks like Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston. And then life got in the way. We were on hiatus for a decade or two, then started up again in 2006 and finally finished shooting in 2019. I don’t think you ever really finish a film; at some point you just have to stop.

Why did we want to make a film about Jack Elliott?

We both realized early on that Jack is a national treasure. Lyle Lovett says when you talk to Ramblin’ Jack Elliott you get the sense that he appreciates and savors every aspect of his journey…it’s not about a career objective, it’s about living his life…and his career is just a vehicle for him to be able to pursue his interests and his interest in things western, rodeo, riding cutting horses, sailing, driving a semi-truck…all of those really were a vehicle for him to be able to connect with people. We thought if we could capture even a little of Jack’s magical spirit, we would have something important.

Although we started shooting in 1982, we have actually been working on the film since 1961…we just didn’t know it at the time. Now you might be asking why did it take so long to complete the film? Some things…like some people…well, they just can’t be rushed.

Bruce Bryant and Dee Brown

Bruce Bryant

While working as technical director for the CBS/World Television pool in a makeshift control room at NASA, Bruce Bryant punched the button that showed the world the first pictures from the moon….yes, he’s that old!

In 1971, he directed a nationally syndicated, weekly music program, The Larry Kane Show. He created The Little Ol’ Show in 1975 which featured Houston musicians like Townes Van Zandt and Lucinda Williams. In 2010 he directed For The Sake Of The Song which premiered at SXSW and featured Texas Musicians including Lyle Lovett and Guy Clark.

In addition to directing numerous specials for ESPN and Eurosport, Bryant has captured fifty different opera productions for The Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Santa Fe Opera, Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera, and The Chicago Opera Theater. He has had the honor of working with Placido Domingo at the Kennedy Center and of directing the television simulcast of Rene Fleming’s first performance of La Traviata. Bryant (along with Dee Brown) directed the Texas footage used in The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack by Aiyana Elliott. He also contributed archival footage to Margaret Brown’s documentary on Townes Van Zandt.

He has directed several television specials and segments with The Houston Symphony, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Paris Opera Ballet, The Martha Graham Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet, The Juilliard School, Jimmy Reed, Big Mama Thornton, Taj Mahal, Nanci Griffith, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Bob Hope, Barbara Jordan, and Sir Elton John. For the past three summers he has captured operas at Bard College in the Hudson Valley during their annual SummerScape Festival.

Dee Brown

Dee Brown has been in film and broadcast since his first summer job at KTBC-TV in Austin, where he majored in Radio/TV at the University of Texas. His graduate work in Sociology took him closer to his real passion for American roots music and photography — and a break from the career that would call him back years later.

Dee was the agency producer for two Houston advertising agencies before he formed his own production company. His credits include documentary films, television commercials, public service and industrial films. Known mostly for his work with American General Corporation, Friendswood Development Company, Barton Creek Properties, Shell and Pennzoil, Dee’s most important works were the documentary pieces commissioned by Texas lawyers in their pivotal and huge settlement against the tobacco industry in the late 1990s.

Dee’s portfolio of landscape and human interest photography accompanies his role as family patriarch, archivist and storyteller. He currently lives in Houston with his wife, and has five children and three grandchildren.