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Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan Tape TV Number in Nashville

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While they were setting up to run it through again, T. Tommy Catrer came out to say that Dylan "just really doesn't believe who he is." It's true: Dylan was incredibly reserved. He only flashed an occasional smile during the entire performance. But it was a strange audience, though not at all unenthusiastic. As a matter of fact, it was outrightly reverent. Not one word was heard from the crowd despite the fact there was no explanation about the lack of amplification on the first run through. Everybody just leaned forward. Those who knew were glad to have him back.

The amplified set was low-keyed, perhaps a bit cautious, but when Dylan ran through "Girl From the North Country" again with Cash, he seemed considerably looser, if the occasional flash grins he gave are any indication. He ran through the new single a third time after this set and left to hot applause.

(Earlier, Dylan had whispered something in Cash's ear, who then turned to the crowd upstairs and said, "Bob says you're a great audience.")

Cash did his portion of the show next and he played some of his best numbers. He was exuberant about the affair, and it was a very fine performance. He did a medley of "Folsom Prison," "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "Egg-Sucking Dog," and "It Ain't Me, Babe" as a duet with June Carter. He also did "Orange Blossom Special" in his three-harmonica version.

Later, Cash, Dylan and June Carter went down to the Black Poodle down in Printers' Alley to see Doug Kershaw, the Cajun fiddler who also played on the Cash show. To what must have been Dylan's delight, the attention was primarily on Cash. Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash were there, too. Kershaw really ripped loose on the first set and passed the mike around at the table when he did "Orange Blossom Special."

A little later, Cash and his wife took to the stage with Kershaw backing them on his fiddle. I have never heard happier music. Dylan sat quiet and smiling through the set. The people who happened to be in the club when this began were stunned.

The Nashville Banner ran an "interview" by Red O'Donnell on its front page. It was casual to say the least, but it showed sympathy for Dylan's move to Nashville. The Tennessean ran a feature way back inside with a shot of all the longhairs sitting on the sidewalk outside the Opry House. Its caption ran "Subjects Wait to See Their King." The headline for the story said: Now Monarch At Opry Tabernacle. The writer quoted "one mustached young man from Cincinnati" on his reaction to the show:

"'Hey, he walks like an ordinary person. I came 300 miles to see an ordinary person!' And he laughed."

Another "reaction" was: "He just sounds like a not-so-good hillbilly to me. What's he got?"

The fact is that the current sound he plays is more country & Dylan than country & Western, and Dylan is wise in not attempting to kick his way into the Grand Ole Opry. The one thing that was a constant source of conversation here, probably to too great a degree, was the shyness that he showed among his company.

After the concert, a photographer said to him: "You seemed to be a little nervous tonight, Bob."

"I was scared to death," he said with a smile.

Certainly he seemed a bit strained — not an unusual situation for a man who had given only one public performance in three years. But in my encounters with him, he seemed more reserved than afraid, and it was obvious that this reserve is getting him a good deal of respect in Nashville. They were there first and they know it. So does he.

The day after the concert Dylan came back to his hotel from a recording session with his producer, Bob Johnston. Word had it that he was planning to record an Everly Brothers tune, and sure enough, he had a copy of one of their singles in hand and the sheet music for a song called "Take a Message to Mary." He said that one of the Nashville papers was going to "get a list of ten things I like."

"You mean ten songs?"

"No. Ten things."

Then he want off to a table to read the papers.

This is a story from the May 31, 1969 issue of Rolling Stone.

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

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