Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue Comes to the Buffalo Bills

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Today is Thursday, November 13th. The show is Saturday. If nothing else happens, I will at least have the opportunity to rekindle a friendship with T-Bone Burnett, a 6'3", incredibly lean Los Angelized Texas songwriter who is one of two lead guitarists with Guam, the backup band.

But no matter. The package is nearly irresistible – Dylan, Baez, Roger McGuinn, Bobby Neuwirth, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and now – flash! – Joni Mitchell. It sounds like it might be a fucking circus – golden protest on wheels, so to speak. Reliving the fury of the Sixties – Dylan, Baez, even Ginsberg. An album to follow? How long can so many fragile artistic temperaments cohabitate? And another thing – who makes out? The numbers don't make any sense. Multiply small halls by moderately prieed tickets, subtract high-priced talent and the bottom line shows up a flat minus. Provocative.

Photos: Bob Dylan Captured at Home and on the Scene

Saturday, November 15th. Niagara Falls. We missed the first 20 minutes of the 4 p.m. show. It didn't snow. However, O.J. was waylaid by his persistent public, first at Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips, then at the convention center itself.

"Juice," Halvor smiled, "remind me not to go anywhere with you again."

"I know," O.J. said. "I've got to stay away from large crowds. Trouble is, I love it."

The show was superb. Dylan himself, sartorially funky and supercharged, was all over the stage, advancing to the microphone to sing, then off to hear the lead break, then back for another verse, his eyes darting like pinballs beneath the brim of his hat. A scarf hurled from the audience momentarily startled Dylan. He examined the rag, found it wanting and tossed it back into the crowd.

The sound, according to these untrained ears, was excellent. Nary a microsecond of feedback or distortion. The energy bled directly to the audience. The stage was set for a rousing finale. When Dylan appeared for the final time, the audience was feverish and primed. He gave them precisely what they wanted: "Just like a Woman." "Like a Rolling Stone," "Simple Twist of Fate" and "Hurricane," the story of Rubin Carter. "That song is great," Juice said. "I'm gonna tape that bitch."

As we made our way backstage. I wondered out loud if anyone had thought about what we would say to Dylan if perchance we met him. Juice allowed as how he had blown the last situation he was in that required an inspired response. O.J. and Bob Chandler had journeyed out to Attica Prison to visit with some of the hardcore who reside there. "Some of these guys have been in stir for ten years," Simpson told Chandler. "Whatever happens, don't let me walk in there and say, 'What's happenin'?'"

They arrived at the prison and strolled into the cellblock. O.J. was introduced to an inmate. "What's happenin'?" O.J. asked. "Jesus Christ," Chandler sighed.

We went in to meet Dylan cold.

The dressing room was dominated by a long buffet table laden with assorted fruits and cheeses. There were garbage cans packed with ice, beer and soft drinks. Dylan turned as we walked in. For the second time that afternoon. he seemed startled – probably at the sheer physical size of our contingent. He shook hands all around; we congratulated him on an excellent performance. For a moment, there was an embarrassing wash of silence. But then T-Bone sauntered in with a bottle of tequila and we finally struck some common ground. A sound and camera crew materialized and found O.J. and Joan Baez chatting amicably in a corner. For posterity, Joan asked O.J. if ballplayers spent the evening before games fucking. "You know," she said, "to get loose." O.J., for the first time ever, was speechless.

Photos: Bob Dylan Hanging With Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and More

Dylan had disappeared. Joni Mitchell said something about "a certain warp."

Dinner followed in a nearby pub. Dylan sat off to one side with Sara. On his way out, he stopped at our table. "Neuwirth tells me," he said, "that you're going to see Dolly Parton. Do you think she'd come up and pick? For the show or later at the hotel?" We didn't know. He said bye and was off for the 9 p.m. show.

"My God," Halvor said to Neuwirth, "you're going through the whole show again?"

"We've got to have petrol for the bus," Neuwirth chuckled.

"Besides that," T-Bone added, "we're having one hell of a time."

So did we.

This story is from the January 1st, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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