Inside Bob Dylan’s Lost Interviews and Unseen Letters

As Bob Dylan’s career blossomed, he kept in close touch with his friend Tony Glover. The pair’s conversations and letters — published here for the first time — show a Dylan that few people knew

On March 18th, 1971, Bob Dylan sat down in his Manhattan office, put his feet up on a table, strummed a guitar, and opened up like he rarely, if ever, had before. He was talking to his old friend Tony Glover, the first of four interviews they conducted that year. At various moments Dylan reacts to being booed at Newport in 1965 (“It was a strange night”), recalls writing “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (“story of a mad kid”), remarks on his craft (“My work is a moving thing”), and dismisses his honorary doctorate from Princeton (“a strange type of degree — you can’t really use it for anything”). Feeling unfairly dissected by dimwitted critics who milked his lyrics for autobiographical information, he fired back. “Do you think Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno?” he asked. “Or that Paul Simon would throw himself down over a troubled Hudson River and let somebody use him as a bridge?” The interviews totaled three and a half hours, and never saw the light of day — until now.

Speaking with Glover, Dylan’s jangled nervous energy of the previous decade had vanished: He was untroubled and erudite, willing to shed light on things he’d never fully explained before. Dylan felt comfortable with Glover, a blues harmonica player and musicologist from Dylan’s home state of Minnesota. Glover was one of the few people with whom Dylan regularly kept in touch once he left Minneapolis for New York. In the Newport Folk Festival program of 1963, Dylan wrote that Glover was “a friend to everything I am … who feels and thinks and walks and talks just like I do.”

In entrepreneurial mode, Glover hoped to use the interview transcripts — extensively annotated and revised in Dylan’s handwriting — for an article in Esquire. Nothing ever came of the project because Dylan eventually lost interest in it. The fiercely loyal Glover, who died in 2019, safeguarded the tapes and transcripts along with four letters and a treasure trove of other memorabilia he amassed from Dylan over the years. Beside the main interviews, there are six additional recordings of telephone calls between Dylan and Glover from 1969 to 1971.

On November 19th, RR Auction in Boston will sell this historic collection of Dylaniana on behalf of Glover’s widow, Cynthia. It makes for an extraordinary time machine, bringing readers inside the mind of Dylan in the wake of the counterculture Sixties, an era that, from the safe perch of 1971, Glover deemed “a very destructive, mind-, body-, and soul-destroying time.”

The Dylan-Glover friendship began around 1960, roughly the same time Dylan stopped attending classes at the University of Minnesota to play folk and blues music in Minneapolis clubs with Spider John Koerner, Dave Ray, and Glover. All three had consequential careers as musicians in the Twin Cities and beyond. Glover played blues harmonica with a complexity all his own, becoming an inspiration to Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and the Doors. “As far as harp playing went, I tended to keep it simple,” Dylan recalled in Chronicles about his days in Minneapolis’ Dinkytown. “I couldn’t play like Glover or anything, and didn’t try to. I played mostly like Woody Guthrie, and that was about it. Glover’s playing was known and talked about around town, but nobody commented on mine.”

Dylan was living in New York when Glover suggested the series of in-depth interviews. Only to Glover would he admit that listening to his mid-Sixties album masterpieces like Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited “spooked” him out. “You didn’t sing songs like that and live a normal life,” Dylan said. “In order to be that strong on one level, you have to be very weak in other ways.” Their resulting conversations — published here for the first time — are always upbeat and friendly. For the most part, Glover tried to maintain a chronological approach, starting with Dylan’s departure from Minneapolis in January 1961 to meet his idol Woody Guthrie in Greystone Park Hospital, in Morris Plains, New Jersey, and ending with the release of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II in 1971.

Glover knew the meeting with Guthrie was especially important to Dylan. In the first interview, Glover wondered if Dylan met other musicians in the hospital wanting to hang with Woody. “I didn’t see any musicians, I saw a lot of other men just sitting around,” Dylan recalled. “That’s the only place we could meet, in the lounge. There’d be, like, 50 or 60 guys sitting around in pajamas. There’d be like little card tables all over the place. … I can remember the smell at the place more than anything else.”

Imagining the scene, Glover suggested it must have been difficult talking one-on-one in the crowded hospital. “There really wasn’t much to say,” Dylan responded. “He wanted to hear his songs, and I would play ’em. I knew ’em all at that time. I must’ve known at least 75 of his songs. So there I was, any day I’d go out there, I’d never exhaust the repertoire, ever.” At one point, Guthrie suggested Dylan should visit his wife Marjorie in Howard Beach, Queens, to listen to some of his unrecorded songs. “I took the subway out to the end of the line — this was really out there,” Dylan recalled. “And after I got off the subway I walked through the swamp. This was in February, I think. Eventually I got up to the door — that was one long trip. I remember that more than I remember actually going to see Woody himself — because it was actually easy to get to see him. It wasn’t easy if you lived in California or the Midwest — but if you were right there, just anybody could walk in and meet him at the Morristown hospital. Between 2:30 and 5:00 any visitor could come. … Well, I came to New York to see him … I was dead set to meet him. And that’s what I did. Must’ve been three days in the city and I was out there. I was high on that feeling for a long time.”

Included in the Dylan memorabilia that Glover’s widow, Cynthia Nadler, is putting to auction November 19th are the tapes and transcripts — with Dylan’s handwritten revisions — of the four interviews conducted in 1971, as well as Dylan’s letters, including one from 1964 in which he wrote, “john lennon groovy also ringo.”

Nikki Brickett/RR Auction

Glover was curious how Dylan made it to New York on his first trip. “Hitchhiked out of St. Paul and wound up in Madison, Wisconsin,” Dylan responded. “Destiny just brought me there, I had no idea. It was just some stroke of luck. I got out of the car … and ran into some guitar players. After staying around there for a few days … I can’t recall. Think we got a ride from Madison all the way from two young New Yorkers.” As for fleeing Minnesota, Dylan felt it was the only sensible option. “I mean, I had to leave. The only other choice was to sell shirts, or work in the mines, or maybe to learn to fly an airplane. … I don’t think I wanted to be James Dean — but there was a period of time when I blocked out everybody else. No one else really meant anything as much as [Guthrie] did.”

There was a sense of tranquility and camaraderie in Dylan’s answers to Glover. It was as if he had gone down Niagara Falls in a barrel and was now in a safe harbor enjoying the sunshine. When the conversation moved toward musical figures like Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, and Ernie Freeman, Dylan glistened. Less so when the conversation turned to his own work. “I could never listen to my albums up to, oh, about 1969 — never could stand them. Hated them. I guess there’s good and bad in all that, you know? In feeling that way.”

Glover was a critic for Little Sandy Review, Sing Out!, Hullabaloo/Circus, and Rolling Stone, and Dylan enjoyed getting the scoop about what was going on in the music industry. His curiosity may have been due to his self-imposed remove. For example, he told Glover that he’d rather read the Police Gazette than Rolling Stone, which had trashed his double album Self Portrait and published a “non-interview” (presumably referring to a 1969 cover story in the magazine).

Dylan was still livid at Newsweek for publishing a nasty exposé piece in 1963, which challenged the authenticity of his hard-travelin’ stories. And he was outraged that Time had recently made his friend John Lennon “look, like, ridiculous” and “like a punk” in a snotty article. “They just really had it in for him, man,” he said with disgust. “They just cut him right down.” When Glover raised the question of why Lennon had said he didn’t believe in Zimmerman on the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band song “God,” Dylan giggled. “That’s his problem, not mine.” Later, he offered, “Well, Lennon is into that shit, taking his pants off, you know? That’s where he’s at. His record is about the same kind of things as that — who gives a fuck, you know?”

A mischievous Glover recounted how foolish Lennon and Yoko Ono came off on The Dick Cavett Show, acting like they possessed LSD recipes for world peace. “I saw that too, man. I couldn’t believe it,” Dylan said, laughing. “I just felt like throwing something at the set when it was over, you know? I just went to bed and was pissed off.”

By contrast, when George Harrison came up, Dylan gushed with unadulterated praise. Not only had the ex-Beatle organized the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden on August 1st, 1971 — with Dylan doing elegant versions of “Just Like a Woman” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” — but he also exuded tremendous integrity of purpose. “Oh, man, [George] was fantastic,” Dylan said. “I mean, just the fact that he did it — incredible.” Likewise the triple-disc Bangladesh LP, filled with original Harrison material from the concert, left Dylan flabbergasted. “He gets the sound,” he elaborated. “You put the record on, you’re just almost transformed. I mean, you’re just there. You just can’t get out of it once you put the needle down. … Really in his own right. He just pulled it together in some kind of cohesive sense, and he rides it, right on top of it, and he’s right there, all the time. Really, he was the only guy who did any talking — I didn’t say shit. He put on a suit, got up there, and said, ‘Quiet now, here’s Ravi and pay attention.’ … Lennon couldn’t have done it.”

Couching his questions with courtesies, Glover gingerly asked Dylan why he changed his last name from Zimmerman to Dylan, a touchy subject for any other interviewer. Perhaps, Glover intimated, he was worried that anti-Semitism would hinder his musical career. “Well, there is Jewish discrimination,” Dylan agreed. “A lot of people are under the impression that Jews are just bankers and merchants and watch salesmen. A lot of people think Jews have tails, or they’re gonna eat your daughters and that kind of thing. A lot of people think those things — and they’ll just have to be taught different.” The bottom line was that the “Dylan” moniker was chosen as a way to establish a dynamic showbiz identity. “It allowed me to step into the Guthrie role, with more character,”Dylan delineated. “And I wouldn’t have to be kept reminded of things I didn’t want to be reminded of at that time. I had to be free enough to learn the music, to be free enough to learn technique.”

Not quite satisfied, Glover asked the origins of the folk figure named Dylan. “The character which had to become named Dylan,” he responded, a bit annoyed. “I mean, it wouldn’t have worked if I’d changed the name to Bob Levy or Bob Johnston or Bob Doughnut. I mean, it wouldn’t have worked. There had to be something about it to carry it to that extra dimension.”

BOB AND THE BEATLE:<br>Harrison and Dylan at the Concert for Bangladesh<br>in 1971. In one of his interviews with Glover, Dylan gushed about the ex-Beatle: “He just pulled [the Bangladesh project] together in some kind of cohesive sense. . . . Lennon couldn’t have done that.”

Bill Ray/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Dylan noted that while his 1962 debut didn’t sell very well, he received fan mail from, as he recalled, “very odd places,” like “little towns in Idaho, or Michigan, Ohio, Louisiana, Florida — little places that you hadn’t ever heard of.” That positive feedback spurred him onward. Glover and Dylan both agreed it was the recording of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, with its hit “Blowin’ in the Wind,” that turned Dylan into the newest darling of the folk revival. Glover asked how he composed his signature song. “Every day I’d be writing songs — some I’d remember, some I wouldn’t,” Dylan recalled. “The general scene at that time was to consistently write as much as you could — almost to the point where if you were performing, you’d have a new song to perform that night. You were just writing all the time. Everyone around at that time was doing that. It was like machinery the way you turned out songs in those days. ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ just happened to be the lucky one, the one that stuck. But I probably wrote a song the night before that, and I probably wrote one or two the next day which haven’t been heard, which were probably in the same vein. To me it was just another song. It got singled out because a lot of performers were singing it.”

As if offering a tutorial, Dylan explained that the many-versed, surrealistic “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” was written to “exist on paper” with or without a tune. “That one was a breakthrough — it was a breakthrough because of the form,” Dylan said, insisting the doomsday lyric had nothing to do with the Cuban Missile Crisis. “That song really existed because of the new form — new to me at the time. That ‘da-da-da, da-da-da, da-da-da,’ on and on — that was like hypnotizing me. I could just hypnotize myself singing the thing. It just sort of freed me from having to sing all that rhyming stuff where I’d have to remember the rhymes, I had to remember the story, plus the intricate detail. That’s OK when you’re really doing it, but you get beyond it, to something else — I had a hard time remembering all that stuff. See, I did it to write it — the enjoyment for me was writing it — that’s what kept me going.”

Concerned for his own safety, Dylan told Glover a harrowing account of A.J. Weberman, a fake-journalist stalker, threatening his family and rifling through his trash to write sleazy articles about him. To Dylan, this was corroboration of how rotten some reporters were. “I know what was in the garbage, like, you can’t believe what the cat must have had to go through,” Dylan said. “Like, we got two kids still in Pampers, baby Pampers. Like the garbage is really filled up with that stuff, man, and it was really funky.” Dylan related that his bohemian friend David Blue — a Village folk musician and Elektra recording artist — warned him about nutjobs congregating all over Southern California, endlessly harassing rock musicians in confrontational ways. “There’s a big Jesus kick . … a lot of people on a tremendous Jesus kick, and they’ll just grab you in the streets,” Dylan warned Glover. “People like Joni Mitchell and Neil Young are really getting hit on a lot, and they just don’t know what to do about it. [Blue] told me about some guy that reached out for Neil. Neil wrote a song with the words ‘silver fiddle’ in it, and the guy showed up and he was the Silver Fiddle — and they couldn’t get rid of him. But, I mean, I can understand that shit, ’cause this happened to us for years. Up at Woodstock — that kind of nonsense.”

Dylan, known for bouts of prickly concealment, was willing to shed a light on the process of writing songs and, to a lesser degree, the impetus behind his lyrics. “The songs of John Wesley Harding were all written down as poems, and the tunes were found later,” Dylan explained. “On Nashville Skyline, just the opposite. The tunes existed first — so that would change things, ultimately. … If you were to isolate the words [of Nashville Skyline] for a minute, and just think of the sound of the voice, the sound of the music and the vocal — suppose you couldn’t understand English at all and you just heard the sound of it — the sound of it would be pretty much what the words are. You know, a lot of dreamy kind of stuff, nice, pleasant, soothing type of music, I’d imagine.”

Glover was curious as to just who weaponized Dylan’s rage when he wrote “Like a Rolling Stone.” Was it “chicks” or the establishment? “It’s just … you know, who are you mad at when you go into a store and ask for a screwdriver and you don’t get waited on for an hour, man,” he said, laughing. “Then you go to get something to eat and you look in your pudding and you see a puddle of shit. You go to a movie house, man, you walk down to your seat and step in some slime, then you sit in some slime. You walk outta that and go for a ride in your car, and it breaks down — who are you mad at? It’s not any kind of one person.”

These never-released chronicles, along with recorded phone conversations, exhibit a loose and candid Dylan touching on topics such as visiting Woody Guthrie, being booed at the Newport Folk Festival, songwriting, and the moon landing.

Nikki Brickett/RR Auction

Five months before the first interview with Glover, Dylan had released the album New Morning, which included the brilliant song “Sign on the Window,” which he explained was about the town of Le Sueur, on the Minnesota River, where migrant workers came to pick peas and corn for the Green Giant company. He went on to discuss other tidbits about his songwriting inspirations. “Lay Lady Lay” wasn’t written for the movie Midnight Cowboy, as was widely reported, but as a tune for Barbra Streisand. When Glover spun a theory that “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” was about the demise of capitalism, Dylan nixed it. “Would you believe it if I told you that the song was written for David Blue?” At the inference that “Mr. Tambourine Man” had something to do with drugs, Dylan snapped “[that’s] nonsense and bullshit.” Was “Gates of Eden” about the Berlin Wall? “It was Eden in the mind, that’s what it was,” Dylan explained. When asked which of his songs he would put on a greatest-hits record, Dylan threw out “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” and “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” both from Blonde on Blonde. “That’s a great album, Blonde on Blonde,” Dylan said. “I hear that album every once in a while, and I know it just can’t be topped.”

When Glover asked Dylan if he thought Jack Kerouac was a “great writer,” Dylan corrected: “He was an entertaining writer; I don’t know if I’d call him great. He really didn’t keep you in any suspense. He didn’t really tell you a great story — he didn’t give you anything you would carry around with you for weeks — he didn’t change you. I remember reading On the Road years ago, and I re-read it recently — I don’t recall any great change. I read this story called The Slave, by Isaac Singer — I must have thought about that for months afterwards.”

As for Dylan’s novel Tarantula, which was released in 1971, Dylan thought it wasn’t “a well-written book at all, but it’s got a hell of a lot of energy.” While he admired Norman Mailer’s writing about the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier heavyweight championship fight, he couldn’t stomach reading his coverage of Apollo 11 for Life. “I couldn’t get through the moon thing — it just didn’t ring a bell — but I love Mailer’s writing.” This led to a back-and-forth about space exploration.

“Does it mean anything to you that man has walked on the moon?” Glover asked.
“No, it really doesn’t,” Dylan answered. “All it means is that man can walk on the moon.”
“Nothing beyond that?” Glover pressed.
“What else could it mean?”
“Well, it’s supposed to be a stepping stone to Mars and Pluto—”
“So they can walk on Mars, so they can walk on Pluto?”
“Does it bother you that there’ll be hot dog stands on the moon?”
“It bothers me that they’re spending all that money on it.”

Glover, with carte blanche to get personal, asked Dylan about his notorious 1965 performance at the Newport Folk Festival, in which he was backed by an electric band — to the boos from a great many folk purists. Rumor had circulated that the disheartened Dylan cried backstage. “No, I wasn’t crying,” he said. “Pete Seeger was crying.” The sight of Seeger sulking in a car, in fact, with the windows rolled up, was seared in Dylan’s mind. “[People were] pounding on the windows — ‘Come out, Pete, come out, Pete!’ — he was just bawling. So I went back on solo and sang ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ and ‘Baby Blue’ because that’s what they wanted to hear. They were just like little babies. They wanted to hear that, and that’s all they wanted to hear — so I went and sang it for them. At that time I just knew they were a bunch of fucks, and I just thought, ‘Oh, forget it!’ if that’s all they want you to do is sing ’em to sleep.”

Glover wondered whether that experience contributed to a newfound vitriol in the lyrics of Highway 61 Revisited, recorded during the same period. “The Newport thing — I don’t know, I’ve never really been what you’d call a professional entertainer,” Dylan offered. “For someone like Steve Lawrence or Robert Goulet, to go up in front of a large audience at Newport and get booed — that would be a considerable jolt to their career. But to me, it was just one of those things. My life was like that — booing didn’t matter, you know: up and down.”

Rock & roll memories flow through their conversations. On October 4th, 1971, Dylan took his wife Sara to see David Crosby and Graham Nash perform in Carnegie Hall. He was underwhelmed: Too much nostalgia, kitschy sap, and drugs for his taste. “The whole house was like the Fillmore. Carnegie Hall, people snorting coke in the aisles, everybody passing joints around … it was incredible.” The two-part harmony was too cute for his liking, and the appearance of Stephen Stills and Neil Young didn’t help. “They just sang this one song called ‘Helpless.’ And they just repeated this word over and over,” he said, laughing. “ ‘Helpless. Helpless. Helpless.’ And it really got to be a drag after a while, just hearing this word ‘Helpless.’ You just wanted to stand up and say, ‘What the fuck, man?’”

After the concert, Bob and Sara wandered out of Carnegie Hall and suffered the indignity of street-side vendors selling bootleg versions of his unreleased songs and live concerts. “Last night we were walking down Seventh Avenue, and on the corner was this cat hawking bootleg records, just ‘Bootleg records, bootleg records, get ’em here.’ Just hawking ’em right on the street,” Dylan fumed. “I saw one. There was one he had of mine called ‘Zimmerman.’ And I caught it just out of the corner of my eye going by, and uhhh … I was with my wife, and we went back and said, ‘Gimme that record.’ She grabbed the record from him and said, ‘Punk!’ — and we just took it, man, and split, just walked away with it.”

TKTK caption

Nikki Brickett/RR Auction

Just as intriguing as the taped interviews up for sale are four letters Dylan wrote to Glover between 1962 and 1964, with frank discussion of his early career and musical influences. In letters from 1962, he raves about seeing John Lee Hooker perform at Gerde’s Folk City (the site of Dylan’s first professional gig in 1961), and discusses writing a “new song called ‘The John Birch Paranoyd Blues.’” Letters to Glover from 1963 and 1964 document Dylan’s transformation from a Midwestern Woody Guthrie devotee to the composer of “Desolation Row,” offering vital information about early recording sessions, songwriting, guitar tunings, his relationship with Joan Baez, and the historic meeting with the Beatles. Two handwritten notes are also enclosed in one-quarter-inch-tape cases containing early mixes of 1971 recordings (including “I Shall Be Released” and “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”), which Dylan sent his old friend for feedback. The Glover archive is rounded out by one of Dylan’s copies of The Basement Tapes, on one-quarter-inch tape.

On January 20th, 1962, Dylan wrote to Glover after playing successful gigs in Greenwich Village. Full of pride, Dylan enthuses about learning his craft from blues icons John Lee Hooker and the Rev. Gary Davis. Comically, he notes that their mutual Minneapolis musician friend Dave Ray — the guitarist in the Koerner, Ray, and Glover trio, whose 1963 Blues, Rags, and Hollers album with Elektra was critically embraced — should move to the Village to study with these Delta blues masters:

Hey hey hey it’s me writing you a letter. Back now in that city and thinking of all that whistling harmonica music you are making back there in that dungeon hole gets me thinking and talking to my good girlfriend about the harp player I knowed — I looked high and wide and uptown and downtown for that book you wanted and I feel so bad, I can’t find it — will send it tho as soon as I get it. Seen ol Dave Ray and sorta introduced him around. We went one time to see John Lee Hooker paying his dues to the blues at Folky City. Ol Dave is doing & singing & playing better & better every day — Sometime I get the feeling that if it wasn’t for New York, I’d move here. … I was up in Schenectady last week playing and singing — I spent so much money that I went in the hole and had to play an extra nite just to get back to New York. Hope sometime to get an apartment so if you’re ever out this way drop by and my house is yours — it’s getting colder here now and the wind blows right thru to your bones — you’d think you were [in] a swamp land when you walk down the street or something. I’m a gonna take Dave Ray to see Gary Davis sometime soon — Dave then would automatically be 10 times better.

Dylan ends his letter by telling Glover to “say hello to that Mississippi River for me” and quotes Guthrie: “This world is yours, take it easy, but take it.” And he adds: “My girlfriend says that you don’t sign your full name to friends, so — Me, Bob.”

On February 16th, 1962, Dylan wrote Glover in “Minneapolice” on an envelope from the Normandie Hotel, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He was jazzed about his new satirical, protest talking-blues song “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” which was written from the point of view of a right-winger convinced that communists were infiltrating the United States.

A part of the long letter reads:

Work out a new tuning on the guitar you gotta hear it to believe it — Big Joe Williams start at Folk City next Tuesday for two weeks. So the Minor Flea or Bee or key or something like that somewhere huh? oh well what d’you want? — That’s U of M’land [University of Minnesota] out there and you can’t expect too much you know

There ain’t much work around here now I aint workin, I’m writing a lot and bummin’ around — This here place we got a couch in one room — I’d sure like to know when you’re a comin’

I’d sure like to know why that Mississippi didn’t say nothing — maybe cause she’s mad at them people for kickin’ [David] Whittaker outta that there keg place — Times aren’t too awful good anywhere right now — Rote a new song called ‘The John Birch Paranoyd Blues’

Dave Ray’s still working down the Gaslight hole — times aint too good down there neither

That’s all for now man, hurry write back and say when you’re a coming here — (Bring a piles load of money with you — fill yer trunk up — we can use for wood to burn when you get — wood’s expensive as hell nowadays — Blow inside out & upside down till then.

Dylan once again signs off with a Woody Guthrie quote (“Sometimes I feel like a piece of dirt walkin”).

With Glover and Mimi Fariña in 1964. Dylan and Glover met in Minnesota circa 1960 and remained close friends for decades.

John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images

Shortly before he released Freewheelin’, Dylan was set to perform “Talkin’ John Birch” on The Ed Sullivan Show, a decision initially OK’d by all involved. But on the day of the show, CBS lawyers demanded he abandon the song, in fear it would incite a defamation suit from the John Birch Society. Dylan refused to be censored and walked out.

A few weeks later, in May 1962, Dylan handed Glover an unpublished lyric he wrote to honor the gritty and flamboyant Delta bluesman Big Joe Williams, his new hero and mentor. Dylan and Glover had just visited Guthrie together at Brooklyn State Hospital. Williams was the self-proclaimed “King of the Nine-String Guitar,” who popularized the blues standards “Baby Please Don’t Go” and “Crawlin’ King Snake.” Dylan had recently played blues harmonica and sang on an album with Williams, recorded in Brooklyn. The lyrics, given to Glover, read:

“My eyes are cracked I think I been framed/I can’t seem to remember the sound of my name/What did he teach you I heard someone shout/Did he teach you to wheel & wind yourself out/Did he teach you to reveal, respect, and repent the blues/No Jack he taught me how to sleep in my shoes.”

The lid of creativity blew off Dylan’s hinges in a letter dated December 6th, 1963, two weeks after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Channeling French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud and leading Dada figure Tristan Tzara, Dylan’s words soared in first-thought best-thought freedom, literary abstractions, and playful and down-home Midwest charm:

hey man that surprised me yes/I am rum runnin an ease droppin my route/an tryin not t get surprised an shook up when/the door slams. big door. out of Edgar allen poe sometimes …/yeah I guess I could say I needed a harp player/but I’d be lyin/an misguidin I wish I did …/I honestly wish I did … but I dont play blues on my guitar/I don’t play southern mt stuff either now/My guitar strings have escaped my eyesight …/they remain with me now as a friend/a flashin dashin friend who stands in front a me/makin me look better …/an its getting so now that I’m growin not t need/it … an soon I expect I will shout my words/with out it. for it’s colors are wearin off on/me an soon I myself will vanish into the sound/hole … an all that will be going down will be/stark naked undressed obscene flesh colored/songs … yes maybe lunatic … ha/you ask about harps/I cant even understand how my own harp fits into/me … it has the fuckin job of tryin t meet me/hard hard … oh pity my own poor harp/I am a writer of words I am honest/I do not mean t harm nothin an nobody save that/that runs against the boards of nature/its a big nature … sometimes a circus nature/an other times a courtroom nature/but above all it is my nature/an I own stock in it/as much as anybody/an I will defend my clown courthouse/with the eyes of a lawyer/dont got enuff bread this month/last month gave too much money t scc or as you’d say/sncc … or as winny churchhill snick …/find myself owin the government/money I dont have/gotta pay it nex month/I don’t know whn I can get that kind of bread/but for christs sake I should be able t shouldn’t I?/Maybe February …/goin up t woodstock t finish my book/at last look my man was lookin over new york/from the empire state … seein strange fish in the hudson river an thinkin of england …/he’s got some ways t go yet yes. ha/sue says I should get a new warmer coat/I shake my head an bring her spare ribs …/she gets discusted an walks away in a flurry silent flurry …/but me?/shit man I run an grab her/an promise t get a warmer coat …/sue laughs an I laugh/an nite falls …/take it easy man/dick farina’s mimi got out a the hospital/richard’s hip/he dont pay nothin/‘look man i’m ppor i aint payin’/he dont even think about it/‘I want an investigation a them doctors/I dont remember that one there that charged/me this price here’/an nite fallsthere too a brown pacific nite an we ride in the mornin …

Dylan spent much of August 1964 at manager Albert Grossman’s Woodstock retreat with Joan Baez, and guests like Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. “Most of the month or so we were there, Bob stood at the typewriter in the corner, drinking red wine and smoking and tapping away relentlessly for hours,” Baez recalled. “In the dead of night, he’d wake up, grunt, grab a cigarette, and stumble over to the typewriter again.”

At the end of the month, Dylan left for Manhattan, where he met the Beatles at the Delmonico Hotel. “john lennon groovy also ringo,” he wrote Glover not long after. This was the legendary encounter where Dylan introduced the Beatles to marijuana. “I don’t remember much what we talked about,” Lennon recalled of their first encounter. “We were smoking dope, drinking wine, and generally being rock ‘n’ rollers and having a laugh, you know, and surrealism. It was party time.”

Soon after, Dylan wrote Glover a fast-paced and lyrical letter that mirrored his songwriting process. The clang of typewriter keys is all but audible as one reads Dylan’s warmhearted callouts to Marvin Gaye, Manfred Mann, Dionne Warwick, Ichabod Crane, Greta Garbo, and others, which runneth over with colorful word riddles and poetic jive. As was Dylan’s way, he chopped off the ends of words, as his girlfriend Suze Rotolo put in A Freewheelin’ Time, “like a hiker hacking a path through the woods, machete in hand.”

received letter bearsville post market/walk up road read you write better now — should be snow here soon. me i ramble concert high ho cold face always an always return there — everythings fine/am writing green songs an tieing play words togeter … I am outside an somewhat free/long for nothing. john lennon groovy also ringo. holy household here something out of fictitious gandi novel/fire very warm we are out in woods. nobody seems t think they have any enemys neither/me victor too, David. — i dont think you’ve met david we play pool in kingston/lots of strange towns round here very ancient/old stone buildings — rip van winkle icabod crane demon horseback people/abandoned hotels within twenty mountain mile radius like out of last year at marianbad/greta garbo hangouts Grand hotel you know what i mean? boarding house air. vagabondcanadian hitchhike boy wonder poetsperhaps can imagine many different sorts living hiden away winding up an down nameless mountains all very devely … mystic country no smell of any city anyway i bum around up here. live here not but alway come back t groovy silent house. I write by candlelight. hardly never during day/bob dylan he plays makes bread facing kind fond people menace in their bathtubs/they call him names an pay outrageously just t see what he looks like … bob dylan he laughs/it is all a joke see me in sky. the sky is on fire. gotta listen hard t hear the giggles. once done tho it is thee only way/dig marvin gaye. gas station dudes. deonne warwick. drive in movies. cold cream ads. dig eye patched forest ranger wear short pants he talks too? see texas bronc buster break mexican vergin. worse then that i pet semantha the cat wonder how come i used t dig woody guthrie so much oh my gawd/met manfred mann in england/have you heard a song they sing called sha la la? It is fucking beautiful. hope dave ray becomes that doctor. will have some connection at leat least in wooly yonder midwest/you got telephone? yes youre right about hipsty people … stay away from all those who talk about burning down the suberbs/they will burn you next … most of them can be detected by when they try t give little boys hot foots/also they casually drop into square hangouts an tilt pin ball machines/they court pill head colored girls quite regularly. glad t see youre taking your time now/gotta go … noose is waiting joan baez is hot an bothered. type writer turns her on. door bells ringing must be the prospectors/anyhow be brave an watch for the tambourine man/ write you later.

Prior to signing his name in bold black felt tip, Dylan typed an amusing flourish of symbols and numbers before adding “an kisses.”

Glover and Dylan remained close for decades. Journalists turned to Glover as an authority on Dylan and his years in the Twin Cities. When Dylan played the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis in September 1992, Glover performed in his touring band. In 1998, Glover was enlisted to write the liner notes for his collection Bootleg Series, Vol. 4 Bob Dylan Live 1966, “The Royal Albert Hall” Concert.

Dylan also made a confession about his 1966 motorcycle accident. The event has been shrouded in Dylanesque mystery, yet with Glover he was emphatic that the crash saved his life. “I had done stuff for so long, I was moving for so long, moving so fast for so long — that it took years to get out of my system,” Dylan explained. “It wasn’t like, ‘Man, I had been on a binge since ’62 or ’63.’ Before that even, before that. I had been on a binge my whole life, you could say. My whole life had been one big, long binge.”

A binge of what, Glover wondered, nonstop travel or drug overdose or depleted constitution? “Forgetfulness,” Dylan continued, explaining his outlook, “forgetting everything, wiping all out, man. Keeping it all over there and just going straight ahead.Don’t look back. Doing who knows what? You know what amazes me? On this whole thing? We listen to radio nowadays — and there’s so much music that was influenced by me. Most of it, you know, even the Beatles, now that they’re — hey, I’m not bragging when I say this, or nothing like that. But for a cat to actually say, ‘Well, I changed popular music’ [laughs], man, what a hell of a statement is that? I can actually say that, man, and it blows my mind.All these people are just doing, in one kind of phase, what Bob Dylan was doing back in those days, you know?”

Glover wondered if his old compadre felt a sense of pride for changing music history. “Yeah, really do, really do feel a sense of prideon one level. On another level, no, it’s nothing at all — of course not.”

Douglas Brinkley is the Katherine Tsanoff Brown Chair in Humanities and a professor of history at Rice University, a CNN historian, and the author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America.


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