Category Archives: Bob Dylan

Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Remembering Bruce with great fondness and appreciation
11 May 1938 – 14 April 2017

Bruce Langhorne Mr Tambourine Man

    Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Mr Tambourine Man

I first became familiar with Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man” when the Byrds sang it in 1965. Nothing wrong with that or their classic recording of it.

Dylan wrote the song early in 1964. Like most of life, even for the famous, there were no amanuensis following Dylan’s every move and recording for posterity what happened, why, and when. Some say he finished writing “Mr Tambourine Man” at their house; others say “No, it was mine.”

Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Horseshoes and hand grenades

And who was this Mr Tambourine Man? However trivial, it is of interest because Bruce Langhorne was much more than a tambourine player. His All music credit list reads like a Who’s Who of Greenwich Village’s Golden Age of Music: The Clancy Brothers, Dylan, Richard and Mimi Farina, Odetta, Joan Baez, Buffy St Marie, Richie Havens, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Hugh Masekela, Tom Rush, Tommy Flanders, Eric Andersen, John Sebastian, David Ackles, Mike Bloomfield, Gordon Lightfoot, and a “few” others!

I first heard the name Bruce Langhorne in 1969 while listening to my college radio station. The song was Tom Rush’s “Urge for Going” and the DJ pointed out the rapid triplets of notes heard throughout the song. He said the guy who did that was Bruce Langhorne. Click the link below to hear those distinctive triplets.

Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Mr Tambourine Man


Despite Bruce Langhorne’s prodigious talent and lengthy credentials, he never became a household name. Perhaps with the recent revelations regarding the Wrecking Crew and Muscle Shoals’ Swampers, someone will highlight those players, who like Langhorne provided so much of the music we love.

His website reveals three recommendations that any CV would die to have:

 “If you had Bruce playing with you, that’s all you would need to do just about anything.” Bob Dylan [“Chronicles”]

If he were to walk in right now and you didn’t see Bruce, you would feel his presence. He just emanates love and kindness, in addition to being a virtuoso on like 50 string instruments.” Peter Fonda

Just occasionally you come across these geniuses. Bruce Langhorne was one; he responds instinctually to the visual image. Bruce has done some of the most beautiful scoring I have ever been involved with, or ever known.” Jonathan Demme

    Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Brother Bru-Bru Hot sauce

And all this string virtuosity for someone who, “When Bruce Langhorne was a 12-year old violin prodigy living in Harlem in the fifties, he accidentally blew several of his fingers off with a cherry bomb that he held onto for too long. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Bruce looked up at his distraught mom and said, ‘At least I don’t have to play violin anymore.’ “

For health reasons, Bruce had to figure out a way to curtail his love for hot sauce or figure out a way of finding a low-sodium hot sauce. He did the latter by creating Brother Bru-Bru Hot Sauce. 

I’ve tried it. It’s pretty good! This is a “dot-info” site and I don’t sell anything nor do I receive anything to support it, so my mentioning Bruce’s product is simply that. I’ve tried it. I like it.  [Bru Bru site]

Having said that, I like Bruce’s triplets even more!

Bruce Langhorne Mr Tambourine Man

    Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Soundtracks

One of Langhorne’s most important projects was doing the soundtrack for Peter Fonda’s movie, The Hired Hand in 1971.Though The Brooklyn Rail  described the movie as “…an often frustratingly abstract film,” it also said that Langhorne’s soundtrack was a masterpiece and “a moment of clarity.”

In 2012, Dylan Golden Aycock’s Scissor Tail Records re-issued the soundtrack and now has gathered several musicians to interpret the soundtrack’s songs. 

In addition to The Hired Hand, Langhorne also did soundtracks for Idaho Transfer (1973), and Outlaw Blues (1977); Bob Rafelson’s Stay Hungry (1976); and Jonathan Demme’s Fighting Mad (1976), Melvin and Howard (1980), and Swing Shift (1984).

    Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man

Bruce’s death

The reason for the Aycock tribute was not just to raise Langhorne’s name onto the plinth it belongs on, but to raise money to assist Langhorne with medical bills related to his failing health.

Unfortunately, Langhorne died on April 14, 2017 at his home in Venice, Calif. He was 78. The New York Times noted his death in a well-deserved article.

With the continued loss of those musicians who were the foundation of Boomer “underground” music, it is a sad reality that we lost a hero. Fortunately, their music remains.

    Bruce Langhorne Tambourine Man
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Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

It was 1965. Bob Dylan had gone electric, had just brought it all back home, and he weren’t gonna’ work on Maggie’s farm no more.

The Beatles had crawled off to sleep in the bath were ready for new horizons, too. By the end of 1965 they would release the Dylan-influenced Rubber Soul, an album that would inspire more musical changes that blossomed into such things as Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds.

April 12, 1965

But on April 12, 1965 the Byrds released the single, Mr Tambourine Man. The song had appeared on Dylan’s Bringing It… album. The first cut on side two.

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man
45 of record

The Bringing It… album cover is the one with Dylan sitting in what appeared to be a someone’s living room surrounded by lots of items for fans to stare at and discuss. It also had a long-legged woman lounging red-dressed. Cigarette in hand. Sally Grossman, the wife of Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman.

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

The living room was the second home of Albert and Sally. The place in a little artsy town in Ulster County, NY called Woodstock. In four years a couple of hippies would hatch the idea for a recording studio there. That’s another story for another time.

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

Wrecking Crew

The Byrds had recorded Mr Tambourine Man on January 20, 1965 at Columbia Studios in Hollywood. Like many LA bands, the musicianship was not as strong as the session men available and Roger McGuinn was the only Byrd to actually play on that recording.  The players had the nickname of the Wrecking Crew and included including Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (bass), Jerry Cole (guitar), and Leon Russell (electric piano). Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Gene Clark sang. 

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

Folk Rock

Columbia Records released the “Mr. Tambourine Man” single on April 12, 1965 and on June 26 it became Billboard’s #1 song. McGuinn’s jangly electric 12-string Rickenbacker guitar was part of the song’s hook and formed the Byrds’ trademark sound.

Folk-rock had been born thanks to Bob Dylan and the Byrds.

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Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Happy Anniversary
Released on March 19, 1962
“You’re No Good” (Jesse Fuller) 
Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Dylan arrives

Bob Dylan had arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961 and visited his hero Woody Guthrie on the 29th.

John Hammond’s liner notes on the back of Dylan’s first album state:  “The young man from the provinces began to make friends very quickly in New York, all the while continuing, as he has since he was ten, to assimilate musical ideas from everyone he met, every record he heard.”

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Dylan plays

On April 11 Dylan played his first major gig in New York City, opening for bluesman John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City.

He played harmonica on a Harry Belafonte’s “Midnight Special” thus receiving his first money for as a recorded musician.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

More Friends, More Shows

He met Suze Rotolos. Albert Grossman became his manager.

On September 29, 1961, Robert Shelton of the New York Times wrote of Dylan that he was, “A bright new face in folk music… Although only 20 years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months.” 

He’d played Carnegie Chapter Hall.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan

And then he recorded his first album: Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album
album cover

It sold 5,000 copies in the first year.

Here is it’s track list and notice how few songs this supreme song writer and future Nobel Prize winner wrote for this album:

Side one               

  1. “You’re No Good”  (Jesse Fuller)
  2. “Talkin’ New York”
  3. “In My Time of Dyin'”  arr. Dylan
  4. “Man of Constant Sorrow”  arr. Dylan
  5. “Fixin’ to Die”  (Bukka White)
  6. “Pretty Peggy-O” arr. Dylan
  7. “Highway 51” (Curtis Jones)
Side two               

  1. “Gospel Plow”  arr. Dylan
  2. “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”  arr. Eric von Schmidt
  3. “House of the Risin’ Sun”  arr. Dave Van Ronk
  4. “Freight Train Blues”  (Roy Acuff)
  5. “Song to Woody”
  6.  “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”  (Blind Lemon Jefferson)

That number would be two: Talkin’ New York and Song to Woody.

The All Music site sums it up wellBob Dylan’s first album is a lot like the debut albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it in the genre, but similarly eclipsed by the artist’s own subsequent efforts.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album
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