Bob Dylan turned 80 today. Happy Birthday, Bob! Here’s a list of my strange non-events featuring Bob Dylan, for your amusement and my own self-deprecation:
1. A few years ago when Bob did his excellent Theme Time Radio Hour show, I was contacted by one of the producers, Eddie Gorodetsky, who I’ve known for years. Eddie said that Bob was taping his spoken bits in hotel rooms on the road and the various sound files he would send in didn’t match in volume or timbre, so he wanted me to record some little guitar “bits” to play in the background to make Bob’s spoken bits segue better. No problem! That was a nice paycheck and a fun gig. Any little noodly guitar stuff you hear in the background on that show, that is probably me you hear.
Then Eddie asked me to come over to his house, and when I was there, he asked me a few questions with a little portable recorder, mostly hillbilly music trivia. I figured it was for “research” on the show. Then all of a sudden I started getting some real weirdos at my shows, coming up to the merch table and asking me things like, “SO… what’s BOB really like?” I didn’t know what they were talking about—then I found out that Eddie and the producers of Theme Time had spliced my answers I had recorded at Eddie’s house to sound like I was being interviewed by Bob Dylan himself! I wound up being “interviewed” by Bob Dylan five times, tying Elvis Costello as the most frequent guest on the show. I….never got to meet Bob Dylan, although everybody who listened to the show thinks I did.
The capper to the weird Bob Dylan fan stories was when we were at a restaurant in Spain a few years later, and a guy came up to our table and looked at me and started saying stuff in Spanish, very tortured, very anguished. My host translated, he said “This guy says YOU MUST give this book that he wrote to Bob Dylan.” I nodded. The guy left, and I looked at the book he had given me. “BOB DYLAN ES JESUS CRISTO!” Bob Dylan is Jesus Christ! OK, these Bob Dylan fans are *$&%in’ weirdos, I thought to myself.
I don’t think there’s anybody else who can claim so many close encounters with Bob Dylan without ever actually MEETING Bob Dylan. So, for those who come up to me at shows and ask me, “So, what’s Bob REALLY LIKE?” I can honestly say, I have no *$*&% clue. But, I did make this Vanity Fair article about Bob and Theme Time Radio Hour, tucked away in the small print behind Dylan’s head.
2. A couple of years later, I got a weird email out of the blue from Bob Dylan’s manager, saying that Bob and his band were in the studio recording and Bob kept saying this song needed “Carlisles guitar” on it, and DID I KNOW WHAT HE MEANT? I sent him an email back within the hour, saying, yes I knew what he meant (the echo-laden guitar parts that Chet Atkins had put on hillbilly records by The Carlisles, featuring Bill Carlisle, on Mercury Records In the 1950s), and not only did I know what he meant, but I had one of the rare 1950s Echosonic amplifiers that could reproduce that sound heard on the Carlisles records! I thought for sure I had bullsh**@ed my way into getting to record a guitar part on a Bob Dylan record. Then… nothing. Complete radio silence. I followed up the email a few days later. “Uhhmmm, did you get my email?” “Yes, we got your email.” That was the response. (sad trombone sound effect here)
3. Last Bob Dylan story, which I briefly mentioned last week when Al Schmitt passed away: I was renting my upright bass to Chris Scruggs when Marty Stuart and his band were recording at Capitol Studios in Hollywood. I went down there with the bass, and Marty and his band were in Studio A. Then all of Bob Dylan’s band members came down the hall, Charlie Sexton and Donnie Herron and the rest of them, and even though I hadn’t ever met them, they were all super friendly and chatty, and we hung out a bit and talked music and guitars. Bob was nowhere to be seen. I hung around as long as I could, but then I had to leave the gilded confines of Hollywood’s famed Capitol Recording Studios to go pick up my kid at school in the Valley. Well, you guessed it, as soon as I left, apparently Bob Dylan came into Studio A and hung out with the Marty Stuart guys for a long time and was real friendly and talkative. THE END.
Now, I realize that this story may come across like your typical music biz blowhard name-dropping and acting like a bigshot. That Is not my intent. Quite the opposite! The purpose for this Bob Dylan birthday post (coming in right at midnight, so it’s still his b-day here on the West Coast), is that I don’t think there’s anybody else who can claim so many close encounters with Bob Dylan without ever actually MEETING Bob Dylan. I don’t think you could miss him the way that I have managed to avoid him if you gave it a lifetime of trying! So, for those who come up to me at shows and ask me, “So, what’s Bob REALLY LIKE?” I can honestly say, I have no *$*&% clue. But, I did make this Vanity Fair article about Bob and Theme Time Radio Hour, tucked away in the small print behind Dylan’s head. Like my dad used to say, “Boy, that and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee.” Except that now it’s more like two bucks. Happy birthday, Bob.