Martin Jack Rosenblum and John Paul Hammond

Martin Jack Rosenblum
On The Day He Got His First Guitar


When Martin Jack was interviewed for the Peter Jennings ABC Network "Century" series, Mr. Jennings asked him what it was that attracted him to Rock and Roll and he in essence replied that it was the raw truth of the music that attracted him. (ABC ran a photograph of Martin Jack taken in the fifties when he was in the Rockabilly scene, having just gotten his first guitar that day, as a backdrop during the live interview, reproduced above.) Martin Jack moved from the Rockabilly period, during which time he was forever influenced by seeing Gene Vincent and his Blue Caps, into the early days of Rock and Roll, through the jazz of the Beatnik era, and into the Folk/Blues Revival; and one of his revered pals then and now from the Folk and Blues era is John Hammond, Jr. (John and Martin Jack are pictured together above before a Hammond gig in the seventies in Milwaukee; they were in John's hotel room, and this picture was taken as John left for his gig at the Blue River Cafe.)

During the sixties, John Hammond, Jr. began his extensive career of authentically playing the Blues. Many will know him as the composer and player of the soundtrack to the movie, "Little Big Man," but his recordings certainly go far beyond this project and by now he has well over thirty excellent available albums, and plays on Tom Waits latest "Mule Variations" CD. John discovered the group that soon became known as The Band, and introduced them to Bob Dylan who, of course, used them for his groundbreaking Folk Rock recordings and concerts in the mid-sixties.

Martin Jack rode in a taxi with Bob Dylan in 1964. Dylan was hiding behind the driver's seat before a concert he was to give at the Oriental Theater in Milwaukee, and the cab had pulled up in front of the theater just as Martin Jack was hailing it to go downtown to buy some records. (Growing up in a small Wisconsin town without good record stores made trips to Milwaukee record-buying pilgrimages, and Martin Jack wanted to get more Folk and Blues albums to take home before attending the Dylan concert.) Once in the cab, Dylan motioned to Martin Jack to please be quiet as Dylan did not want anybody to recognize him. Dylan's road manager came out of the Oriental Drugstore with coffee and the cab took off.

That ride was more of an event than the evening's concert. Dylan ultimately walked off stage because the sound system was inadequate, having been brought over by the promoter, Nick Topping, from the Avant-garde coffeehouse; after hissing and crackling, and ultimately smoking, the sound system gave out. Dylan invited everyone onto the stage and still nothing could be properly heard, so after the second song, he walked off and got back into that waiting cab. The Holy Ranger went back up to the Fox River Valley with more records for his collection, not feeling too bad about the possible concert that night, as he had seen Bob Dylan at Orchestra Hall in Chicago already in 1964. And the cab ride was more of a gig anyway.

Dave "Snaker" Ray was yet another person in the sixties with whom Martin Jack had contact, and like John Hammond, Jr., Ray is still howling the Blues. With Koerner, Ray and Glover, Dave Ray was famous for the "Blues, Rags and Hollers" album series that has now been re-issued. (Martin Jack and Ray keep in touch today; check Dave's Website at: --it's a real hoot!) Many of John Hammond Jr.'s albums have been reissued, too, and he has consistently kept recording and touring through the years, unlike so many artists of the Folk/Blues Revival period. There is no finer interpreter of the Blues than John Hammond, Jr., and his love for music is generous -- he taught Martin Jack's daughter, Sarah Terez, now an actress, then a little girl, one of her first holiday songs, "Silver Bells," while sitting at the dining room table at Holy Ranger HQ. (He also gave her one of his harmonicas after she brought him dinner at another show he did at Milwaukee's Summerfest.) The Holy Ranger also played with Lightnin' Hopkins, Sleepy John Estes, Paul Butterfield, Michael Bloomfield, Geoff Muldaur of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, and he learned some banjo licks from Mike Seeger (Pete Seeger's brother, who had a string band called The New Lost City Ramblers). It was during the sixties' Folk/Blues Revival that Dr. Rosenblum became an expert Fingerstyle and Blues guitar player, harmonica blower and banjo picker. (Go to Page 2 in The Holy Ranger Photo Album at this Website to view a photograph of the band Martin Jack had then, and you will recognize Peter and Lou Berryman, cult favorites today as a folk duo.) He stuck with traditional music only. The original compositions were not to come until the eighties.

Dr. Rosenblum gave up all the music at the end of the sixties, and went on to become an important poet and literary historian, publishing well over twenty critically acclaimed books. It was not until the late eighties that he got back into music, through the urging of people at the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Realizing that he was once a musician, Harley-Davidson's Licensing area, having published The Holy Ranger poetry book, suggested that a second part to the book be a music presentation. "The Holy Ranger's Free Hand" CD is available at Martin Jack toured with Harley Owner's Group from the mid-eighties until the early nineties while still an educator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. So the rebirth of Martin Jack's music came through the Motor Company. The real origins of it are in the original Rockabilly and Blues revival eras. Martin Jack was there. And he was there on a Harley, too, so it is fate that through the Motor Company itself his music would have been revived. Even when he does his originals, as has been the case through three CD's and four cassette albums issued since the eighties, there are the traditions of Rockabilly, authentic Rock and Roll, early Folk, and the Blues, as the primary American blank page upon which he writes new material. That original Ranger sound, which can be heard on the ("No Freedom, Honey") CD released in 2000, has echoes coming out of Rockabilly through the Blues.

The Holy Ranger recently designed and had crafted a specialized, electric 12-string guitar (called the Jack model) that he uses, and his famous EvoPoetic Weapon Guitar (that he used during his mid-eighties and early-nineties Harley Owners Group Rally concerts) is on permanent display at the Harley-Davidson of Santa Cruz Museum, along with the motorcycle he rode then and other memorabilia that was around during those years. Martin Jack has a battery of vintage Gibson acoustics and Fender electrics, and Fender tube amplifiers, and Vega, Deering and handmade banjos; he plays Hohner harmonicas, and has assembled a vintage drum kit that spreads out over his home office so that he can beat out a riff from nearly every corner of the room, and is as particular about each musical instrument as he is about his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. There are autoharps, mandolins, and ukuleles leaning against all the bookshelves and manuscript tables, so music tools are always at hand.

Dr. Martin Jack Rosenblum is the Historian Emeritus for the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, which required fulltime dedication, and yet the music and poetic legacy of his artful approach to all that riding a Harley inspires remains with those who know that the road brings many adventures, and that visions come to the brothers and sisters who are traveling upon it. Martin Jack's vision relative to the songs he creates has its roots, and these have been nurtured by many to whom he plays stylistic and spiritual tribute. John Hammond, Jr. especially has a very prominent place in the tributary process that has brought forth The Holy Ranger's unique brand of music taking poetry too far.

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