Memoir By Bob Dylan’s Closest Confidant in the Works
Few people outside of his immediate family have ever been closer to Bob Dylan than Victor Maymudes. He entered Dylan’s inner circle in 1961 and served (without any official title) as his road manager and all-purpose best friend/sidekick through the entire decade, and he returned in 1988 for a 12-year run as his road manager on the Never Ending Tour.
A personal spat around 2000 drove Maymudes off the road, and he soon began a book about his time with Dylan. He signed a $100,000 deal with St. Martin’s Press and recorded 24 hours of his recollections on tape, but died of a sudden brain aneurysm in 2001 just as he started the book.
His son, Jake Maymudes, has held onto the tapes for the past 12 years, and he’s now completing the project. He hopes to self-publish the book and he’s raising the money on Kickstarter, though as of now he’s extremely far from his fundraising goal. “I think that Kickstarter is a game-changer for publishing,” he says. “It lets me retain a lot more creative control than I’d have if I signed with a big publishing house.”
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The book will trace Victor’s entire history with Dylan. “My father met Dylan in New York at the [West Village] Gaslight club in early 1961,” says Jake. “He was managing Wavy Gravy and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott at the time. He was a concert promoter and entrepreneur. He was six years older than Bob and way into the counterculture scene. One of the reasons they got along so well is because my old man had a little bit of insight into this new world that Bob was kind of jumping into.”
Dylan had just arrived in New York when they met, a complete unknown – a 19-year-old singer on the coffee house scene. “Bob was literally just sitting in the back of the club typing on a typewriter,” says Jake. “The few people there knew he was something special. Since my dad was a manager, he went out of his way to potentially manage him.” Albert Grossman landed that job, but Victor stuck close by.
When Dylan began playing tiny gigs outside New York City, he brought Victor along with him. “My old man drove him around to coffee shops since nobody else had a car,” says Jake. “There wasn’t an official role, other than buddy.”
The trips grew longer as Dylan’s popularity grew, and in February of 1964 they drove from New York to California together along with singer Paul Clayton and writer Pete Karman, stopping along the way in Kentucky, Mississippi and New Orleans. Along the way Dylan wrote “Chimes of Freedom” and “Ballad in Plain D.” Realizing it would be hard to score drugs in the middle of the country, they planned ahead and sent packs of weed to post offices along their route.
“Victor had penetrating dark eyes, turbulent hair, and an uncanny ability to keep his mouth shut,” wrote Robert Shelton in his Dylan biography No Direction Home. “Wanting to be an actor or work in films, he often seethed in personal frustration but rarely criticized Dylan, even when his duties were often those of a flunky.”
One of his primary duties was keeping fans away from Dylan, often serving as a human shield as he escorted Dylan from a venue to an awaiting car. “Their ideology was very similar and their demand for secrecy was the same,” says Jake. “They loved playing chess together. They were just buddies. My old man never wanted to write a book, and the reason nobody ever heard of him is because he stayed out of the limelight.”
When Dylan went to meet the Beatles at New York’s Delmonico hotel in August of 1964, it was Victor’s job to sneak in the weed. “We just get inside the lobby and I feel a hand on the back of my jacket,” Victor wrote in an unpublished chapter of his book. “Head first on my back I go through the regular door over the first barricade and THROWN into the crowd! Before I could blink I was back outside in the middle of the crowd. It happened in an instant. I’m thinking: Oh fuck! I’m going to get arrested, I’m holding all the pot!”
He barely made it back through the gigantic crowd of screaming Beatles fans outside the building. Dylan escorted him into a room with the Beatles. “Bob immediately grabs a drink and I immediately start rolling joints,” he wrote. “I pass it to Ringo and he doesn’t pass it on. I’m not going to tell him to pass it because we just met, so I just keep rolling joints till everyone has got their own except Bob. He just has alcohol, maybe a few hits here and there . . . within an hour, Bob passes out on the floor. By this time, Paul is laughing so hard that tears are in his eyes, we’ve all smoked a joint or two, and now Bob is out for hours – this very first encounter and he’s passed out.”
With Dylan passed out on the floor, the Beatles turned their attention towards Victor. “They wanted to know about everyone,” he wrote. “Who was in our scene, what it was like in New York. I couldn’t believe how sensitive and aware of everybody they were. How concerned they were, whether I was okay. I was never made to feel inferior to them. Because of this I don’t think I was EVER around gentle people before, that’s how high they set the bar for being gentle and aware.”
Victor was by Dylan’s side at the legendary Newport Folk Festival set in 1965, and the next year he accompanied him to Europe with the Hawks (later renamed the Band) on Dylan’s first electric tour. Dylan retreated to Woodstock, New York with his family that summer, and Victor moved to New Mexico to start his own family not long after.
The two friends did remain in touch, though.”When Bob was having trouble with his wife Sarah [in 1974], he drove down to visit my dad in New Mexico,” says Jake. “He had a rough recording of Blood on the Tracks and he wanted to play him the tapes, but we didn’t have a tape player. So Bob was like, ‘Oh, dammit . . . All right, well, give me your guitar.’ So he plays all the songs from Blood on the Tracks and just emotionally destroys my dad. They brought tears to his eyes.”
About 14 years later, Victor lost a ton of money on real estate deals in New Mexico. “He was in financial ruin,” says Jake. “So he called up Bob and said, ‘I need a job.’ He was like, ‘Great. Can’t wait to have you back. I’ll give you a job on the road. We’re going to Europe. All the roles have already been filled and we already have a tour manager. I don’t know what you’re going to do, but just come on the road and I’ll pay you.”
Victor stayed on the road with Dylan for the next dozen years, quickly earning the title of tour manager. “He never missed a show or a flight,” says Jake. “There were times I’d go on tour and slept on Bob’s bus. My father told me I was the only outsider to ever do that. That’s how tight the level of security was. I’d walk around the venue with my backstage pass on and people would freak out. A woman once took a diamond earring out of her ear and said, ‘Give this to Bob as a present and tell him how much I appreciate him.’ It was insane.”
Once again, one of Victor’s jobs was to ensure that nobody bothered Dylan. “If he thought there was an issue on any level he would drive a van onto the stage, 10 feet from where Bob’s playing,” says Jake. “The second he finished, he got Bob in the van and on the road. Sometimes just walking from the stage to the tour bus was too much for Bob. If my old man thought there was some weirdness or too many people outside flipping out, they wouldn’t even do an encore. My dad would say, ‘Bob, no encore tonight. We’re just gonna hit the road.’ Bam, that’s what would happen.”
While obsessive Dylan fans stood outside luxury hotels hoping to catch a glimpse of Dylan, Victor would book the icon at La Quinta Inns and other such places where nobody would think to look for him. “Everything my old man ran was in secret,” says Jake. “Then they’d switch it up when they needed to. They didn’t want any pressure on Dylan and they wanted everything under control.”
In the late Eighties, Dylan began giving Victor money to invest in real estate. “He bought property in Baha Mexico and other places in Santa Fe, New Mexico,” says Jake. “He remodeled Bob’s daughter’s apartment . . . It was all Bob’s money. He’d say, ‘My checkbook’s open. Make it happen.’ The reason Dylan lives in Point Dume, California is my father’s suggestion. Bob asked if he could live anywhere in the world, where would that be, and my father said Point Dume. Bob lives there to this day.”
An investment Victor made in a Santa Monica coffee shop ultimately ended their relationship. “My sister ran the place,” says Jake. “They didn’t invest money in advertising. They thought people would just find out about the place through the ether. A year went by and nobody showed up. It lost $100,000, and Bob’s accountants flipped out at my dad, and then at Bob. So Bob then flipped out at my sister and was incredibly rude to her. I’m not going to get into detail, but he fired her in a way that would not be cool for anyone to be fired. That pissed my dad off to no end. He was fucking pissed, and he stormed out and basically quit. They got into a huge fight and stopped talking to each other.”
Victor started writing his book in mid-2000 (not longer after the falling out with Dylan), but Jake believes had his father not died of an aneurysm in January of 2001 they would have reconciled. “Over the years they had several big fights, and they always got back together,” he says. “My dad’s abrasive. Bob’s abrasive. They’re two grumpy old men. They fucking flip out, and then get over it. At one point they could only talk to each other in a room full of lawyers, but my father wanted to rectify the situation before he died. He couldn’t believe that he and his buddy were acting like such idiots.”
The idea of finishing his father’s book was too painful for Jake to contemplate for many years, but after a fire destroyed his childhood home and he lost all his father’s photographs and other personal items he realized that the tapes (which were stored in a separate location) were all he had left.
Victor only completed about 20 pages before he died, but the tapes tell the rest of the story. “He could tell stories until your ear fell off,” says Jake. “I have 24 hours of him telling the most mind-boggling stories.”
Jake figures he has at least five more months until he finishes the project. The Kickstarter campaign finishes up on June 12th, and so far it’s only raised $5,581 of the $45,000 it needs in order to succeed. “I haven’t really seen the numbers I need for this to happen,” he says. “Not enough people know about it. I am open to working with a publishing house if the deal makes sense.”
With the possible exception of Suze Rotolo, nobody as close to Dylan as Victor has ever written a book. Dylan fiercely guards his privacy, and members of his immediate family and his ex-wives rarely say anything about him in public. “If this does upset Bob, it’ll be for the wrong reasons,” says Jake. “My father didn’t write it with any malicious intent. My father loved him and calls him a genius constantly on the tapes. He also never wanted to write a book in the first place. He was running out of cash and needed the money. Besides, my dad and Bob had a deal that whoever died first could write the book, and in the book they could say whatever they wanted to say. After my dad died, Bob wrote Chronicles, so I feel like the agreement they had is gone, and now it doesn’t matter who writes a book.”