Bob Dylan is one of the most reclusive music legends in history, so it was a major surprise to fans when he appeared on a 2010 episode of the History Channel’s Pawn Stars (which kicks off a new season Monday). The full story of Dylan’s supposedly-impromptu appearance remains a mystery.
Here’s the official version: In the episode, a guy presents a vinyl copy of 1970’s Self Portrait to Rick Harrison, owner of Vegas’ Gold and Silver Pawn Shop. They haggle over the price for a while; the customer wants $150, and Harrison brings him down to $50 (But even that price is high: Self Portrait is not a collectors item, so it is surprising that Rick – who rarely expresses any interest in vinyl – would pay anything for it, or showcase it on his show. Online, mint condition versions of the album go for under $50.) Rick says he will sell it for $75.
After securing the item, Rick realizes that Dylan is in town for a show and tasks Chumlee, the show’s lovable buffoon, to approach Dylan and have him sign the album. This is no small task, but Chumlee agrees and heads out on the Vegas strip, asking random strangers if they’ve seen Dylan. Chumlee appears stumped when all of a sudden he sees Dylan, wearing a western shirt, strolling around a corner near the Mirage.
Chumlee asks Dylan if he can bother him for a signature. Dylan slows down and eyes him skeptically, putting on his sunglasses so he can look at the LP (already a weird move). “This is your album right?” Chumlee asks as Dylan laughs. “I think I see that,” says Dylan. Then Dylan appears to try to wiggle out of signing. “I don’t have a pen,” he says. Chumlee does, though, and Dylan sighs and smiles and eventually signs, making it out to Chumlee. “How did you find me here?” Dylan asks. Chumlee replies “I knew you were doing a show and figured I’d just walk around till I found you. I got lucky.”
“I guess so, yeah!” Dylan says, before giving Chumlee a fist bump and going onto the bus.
Chumlee gave his version of events to Rolling Stone’s Andy Greene after the episode aired. Chumlee insisted that the scene was spontaneous, happening after he wandered around the venue for four hours. “Eventually I noticed there were some big tour buses parked by the venue,” he said, adding that he spotted Dylan getting off a bus and then made his move with a cameraman. “I was forty or fifty feet away so I ran up to him. He was shocked, but he signed the album for me.”
Chumlee’s story is a little hard to believe. What are the chances he would run into the most elusive man in rock on first try? And what are the chances Dylan – who does not even let photographers into his concerts – would allow himself to be filmed? Chumlee said he saw Dylan getting off of a bus, but if you watch the scene, Dylan is walking toward a bus. Behind Dylan is a black parked town car, which Dylan could have walked out of if the scene was staged.
The segment ends when Chumlee presents the vinyl to Harrison, who is furious when he sees that Chumlee had Dylan personalize the signature to him. “Is this a joke?” he says. “I just wanted Bob Dylan. Nobody’s going to want to buy an album signed Chumlee.”
“Maybe another Chumlee will,” Chum replies.
The most likely scenario of this moment is that Dylan, who is a history expert, is a big fan of Pawn Stars and agreed to appear on the show. A couple years after the appearance, Chumlee and Harrison appeared in a lyric video for “Like a Rolling Stone.” Joel Patterson, a Pawn Stars producer, did an interview where he said that Dylan’s manager “communicated a while back that…he likes the show. He also told us Dylan was extremely pleased with his appearance on Pawn Stars.”