Rambling and Restlessness
This chapter picks up on Tim Cresswell’s study of The Tramp in America and draws out an extension of this type of social being into the 1960s and 1970s in the form of the Outlaw Country musician. In a sort of Barthesian mythification process, the often-demonized tramp of the late nineteenth century is transformed in the hands of some “Outlaw” musicians into an emblem of American independence and a persona of a grassroots, restless, and pragmatic patriot. How this shift occurred and its effects in cultural perception are explored, along with what motivated these artists to reimagine the role of the rambler. This analysis will also be linked to other historical rambling figures such as the ramblin’ man, the wandering artist outlaw, and the American folk outlaw. The life and wanderings of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio around Italy in the sixteenth century and the rambling banjo picker Charlie Poole will also be examined as significant influences on the modern Outlaw Country movement.