Background Info: Roving Gambler back to "Roving Gambler" Cover Page

Roving Gambler

(Background Info)

The composer credit for Dylan performances of "Roving Gambler" often used to be attributed to "B. Flick". Of course it's now common knowledge that the song is a traditional. It's my understanding that B. Flick was a member of the group, The Brothers Four. They performed in the fifties and early sixties. On their "Greatest Hits" album, The Brothers Four present "I Am A Roving Gambler". The performance is of four-part harmony vocals backed by fast-paced acoustic guitar or guitars and what I guess is a double bass. The key point here is that the arrangement is exceptionally close to that used by Bob Dylan since he returned to the song with his band in April 1997. [1]

'Roving Gambler' was on the Brothers Four lp, BMOC -- Best Music On/Off Campus. On the back cover is this: "from CASH BOX June 4, 1960 'One of the biggest success stories of 1960'". The album was widely available and on the Columbia label. The lp label is a Columbia six-eye. It hit the Billboard album charts on February 13, 1961. [2,3]

All sang.

Bob didn't necessarily have to have heard this from the Brothers Four. A lot of singers performed this song including Ramblin' Jack Elliot, Everly Brothers (on 'Songs Our Daddy Taught Us' which **came out in 1958**), Tennessee Ernie Ford, Spider John Koerner, Peter Rowan, and lots more. [2]

Tennessee Ernie Ford hit the lower portions of the charts with "The Roving Gambler" in 1956. It pre-dates the Brothers Four version and therefore might conceivably be their source. [3]

The Everly Brothers' version (1958) from _Songs Our Daddy Taught Us_ is fairly close to the Brothers Four version, though with at least one extra verse and some changes in verse order. [4]

The liner notes tell the following tale:

"The first known recording of Roving Gambler was made by the great cowboy singer, Carson Robinson [actually Robison]. However, the arrangement we hear in this album is changed somewhat from the original lyrics. The original English lyrics told of a Sixteenth Century highwayman-gamboler. Carl Sandburg writes of Roving Gambler as being a "song of English origin that the Southern and Western minstrels took as their own and provided their own lyrics." Mr. Sandburg notes that "while gamblers may gambol and gambolers may gamble, the English version carries no deck of cards." [4]

There was a nightly folk music show in the New York area during the '60s called the Jerry White show. One time in early '65, Judy Collins was a guest and talking about how great a song "Mr. Tambourine Man" was. The only version on record at the time was by the Brothers Four. While Collins protested, White reluctantly played it. At the conclusion Collins went on at length about how it was really a much better song than that if sung right and commented "that version is really lame." [5]

Also performed by Ramblin' Jack Elliott on his Vanguard album Jack Elliott. The same version is also available on The Essential Jack Elliott, also on Vanguard. [5]

Roving Gambler entry from Ballad Index:

The singer freely admits his addiction to gambling and a roving life. But he also has an eye for the ladies. In one town he meets with a "pretty little girl" who takes him home and then decides to follow him wherever he goes
gambling courting rambling
US (Ap,MW,Ro,So)
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Laws H4, "The Roving Gambler (The Gambling Man)"
Randolph 835, "The Guerilla Man" (3 texts, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 150-151, "The Roving Gambler" (1 text, 1 tune)
cf. "True-Born Irish Man (With My Swag All on My Shoulder; The True-Born Native Man)" (plot)
cf. "Hang Me, Oh Hang Me (Been All Around This World)" (floating lyrics)
cf. "Almost Done" (floating lyrics)

[1] contributed by Ben Taylor
[2] contributed by Richard Batey
[3] contributed by Jack323234
[4] contributed by Shiphour
[5] contributed by Peter Stone Brown
[6] most from: Keefer, Jane. Roving Gambler entry, from Folk Index