Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

In the land of opportunity, young Americans look for a model. A parent, a sibling, a cousin, or a best friend may serve, but one’s world often pivots on an unanticipated choice.

Bob Dylan borrowed a friend’s copy of Woody Guthrie’s autobiographical Bound for Glory.  In it Dylan found inspiration in the portrait Guthrie painted of himself in the book. Guthrie and folk music became a star to follow.

Later, Dylan would say, “The thing about rock’n’roll is that for me anyway it wasn’t enough… There were great catch-phrases and driving pulse rhythms… but the songs weren’t serious or didn’t reflect life in a realistic way. I knew that when I got into folk music, it was more of a serious type of thing. The songs are filled with more despair, more sadness, more triumph, more faith in the supernatural, much deeper feelings.”  (from liner notes by Cameron Crowe to Dylan’s Biograph 5-record set)

Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

29 January 1961

Bob Dylan visits Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie in hospital with Huntington’s disease with wife Majorie and son Arlo

Dylan had arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961 (see Talkin’ New York) and on January 29 met Guthrie. Guthrie was in his fourth year at the Greystone Park Psychiatric hospital in New Jersey, suffering from Huntingdon’s disease, which finally led to his death in 1967. Guthrie apparently gave Dylan a card after their first meeting saying: “I ain’t dead yet.”

Dylan had written a song simply called “Song to Woody.”

Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

Song to Woody

I’m out here a thousand miles from my home
   Walkin’ a road other men have gone down
   I’m seein’ your world of people and things
   Your paupers and peasants and princes and kings
Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
  ’Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a-comin’ along
  Seems sick an’ it’s hungry, it’s tired an’ it’s torn
  It looks like it’s a-dyin’ an’ it’s hardly been born
Hey, Woody Guthrie, but I know that you know
  All the things that I’m a-sayin’ an’ a-many times more
  I’m a-singin’ you the song, but I can’t sing enough
  ’Cause there’s not many men that done the things that you’ve done
Here’s to Cisco an’ Sonny an’ Leadbelly too
  An’ to all the good people that traveled with you
  Here’s to the hearts and the hands of the men
  That come with the dust and are gone with the wind
I’m a-leavin’ tomorrow, but I could leave today
   Somewhere down the road someday
   The very last thing that I’d want to do
   Is to say I’ve been hittin’ some hard travelin’ too
(Complete lyrics Song to Woody)
Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

Town Hall

Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

On  April 12 1963, Bob Dylan played the Town Hall in New York City. To close the performance, he recited  another Guthrie-related piece he’d written called “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.”  It’s a long poem so I won’t put the lyrics right here, but will provide the link below the video if you would like to listen and follow along. Listening to Dylan recite reminds me of the Beat style of poetry, but that’s another blog for another day.

“If you can roll along with this here…”

Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie lyrics

Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

Guthrie dies

Woody Guthrie died on October 3, 1967 while at Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, New York. His ashes were sprinkled into the waters off of Coney Island’s shore.

A month later, on Thanksgiving 1967, Woody’s son Arlo Guthrie released his first commercial recording of “Alice’s Restaurant.

Dylan Visits Woody Guthrie

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records
cover of Morton Subotnick’s Silver Apples of the Moon

I have already done piece on Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records.

In it, I briefly referred to the part the Nonesuch label played in relation to Holzman’s Elektra label.

In today’s post I will concentrate on Nonesuch Records.

Paquito D’Rivera recorded this piece with his group for the album Funk-Tango on 2006, featuring Fernando Otero on piano. The album won the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Also David Harrington, from the Kronos Quartet , showed interest for this piece.Fernando wrote the String Quartet named *The Cherry Tree* for Kronos, which was premiere at Carnegie Hall on February 22nd, 2008.

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Paperback records

The quick history of Nonesuch is that Holzman founded the label n 1964  to produce “fine records at the same price as a trade paperback” (Holzman in Gavan Daws’s Follow the Music (1998).

At first the label concentrated on chamber and baroque music. In 1970, Holzman sold Elektra and Nonesuch to Kinney National Company, which became Warner Communications and later part of Time Warner’s Warner Music Group.

Teresa Sterne was the director of Nonesuch from 1965 – 1979 and expanded the labels musical horizons. According to a NYT article, “…she brought attention to areas of music neglected by the major labels, particularly contemporary music and American vernacular music. She championed American composers like George Crumb, Elliott Carter, Morton Subotnick, Charles Wuorinen and Donald Martino, not just recording their works but commissioning them, an unusual move for the leader of a record company. She also issued important recordings of lesser-known works by Schoenberg, Busoni, Stravinsky and other major figures. 

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Warner Bros actions

When Warner terminated Stern’s contract in 1979, twenty-two artists signed a letter sent to the New York Times expressing their sadness of her forced departure and also stated that they felt she had “had the courage and foresight to build a catelogue of unparalleled interest, importance and beauty.” 

Jac’s brother Keith Holzman operated the label from Los Angeles until 1984 when Bob Hurwitz became the Nonesuch President. In 2014, the Well-Tempered Ear blog interviewed Bob Hurwitz, the president of Nonesuch Records. and David Bither, its senior Vice-President. 

Within the first two years under Hurwitz’s leadership, Nonesuch released albums by such “new music” pioneers as Steve Reich (The Desert Music, 1985), John Adams (Harmonielehre, 1986), Philip Glass (Mishima, 1985), John Zorn (The Big Gundown, 1985), and Kronos Quartet (Kronos Quartet, 1986).

For a great introduction to the broad range of Nonesuch music today, see their radio station at its site.

Jac Holzman Nonesuch Records

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Dick Summer re Alison Steele
Dick Summer (photo from: http://grubstreet.ca/articles/index/495/radio-dick-summer)

Yesterday’s post on WNEW-FM DJ Alison Steele got a great response. Ex WNEW DJ Dick Summer contacted me about his thoughts on Alison.

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Dick Summer

To give you an idea about Dick Summer, let me quote from the Grubstreet magazine: Summer fit well among giants. His warmth, sensitivity and style matched “Wolfman Jack.” He balanced the raucous “Cousin Brucie.” His intelligence complimented Carl de Suze. His subtle mischievousness laid way for the lampooning Don Imus. He and Alison Steele, the Nightbird, were late-night poets, who set listeners free and aloft.

The sum all others and more, Dick Summer stands tallest. He’s as smooth as Larry “Superjock” Lujack or Sonny Fox. He’s as off-the-wall as Dale Dorman or Soupy Sales. As cerebral as Steve Allen, Dick Summer is cleverer. He offered Shrewsbury crumbs or a scoop of peanut butter to contest winners.

Dick Summer re Alison Steele

Summers’ words

And what did he have to say about Alison Steele? 

Allison Steele called herself The Night Bird. Allison did overnights when I did mornings on WNEW-FM. She looked just like she sounded: smoky, smooth, and sexy…. She had a wicked, slow smile and a big, soft, gentle heart….  (the quote is also from Dick Summer’s great read called Staying Happy, Healthy, and Hot)

The forward to the book reads: A late August night, and you’re sitting alone on the stoop in tee shirt and jeans. A bottle of Nedick’s orange sweats at your side, and the Philco radio in the windowsill plays Sarah Vaughan so softly it stirs a warm breeze as the prettiest girl in the world turns the corner. Neighborhood kids in black sneakers run past her along the sidewalk chasing fireflies, while the guy across the street sprays a hose along the fins on his ’57 Chevy. He turns, as you do, to watch the prettiest girl in the world walk slowly through the night air, her summer dress swishing against bare legs, her hair flowing like the waves at Coney Island.

While that might not exactly describe each of our teenage lives (I sat on a Jersey stoop and could hear Palisades Amusement Park’s Cyclone), it has enough components to keep us reading. I suggest you do, too.

Thanks again to Dick Summer.

To find out more about Dick Summer today, check out his siteDick

Dick Summer re Alison Steele