The Supplemental Series, Vol. 3 – Folksinger’s Choice

Daniel chose Folksinger’s Choice after “Little Maggie;” it served as a catalyst to wanting to dig deeper into Dylan’s influences and what he was singing when he first came to New York.

From the indispensable Bob’s Boots:

This is a true not-to-be-missed gem. It belongs in every Bob Dylan fan’s collection. The recording was made in February 1962. The date of March 11, 1962 is listed on the back cover, though this is most likely a re-broadcast date. The original radio show broadcast could have been as early as February. History is a bit fuzzy here. This long lost radio show is in perfect quality. It is complete with wonderful live-on-the-spot renditions of the above traditional and Dylan songs, as well as fascinating conversation with a young, as yet undiscovered talent. Bob relates, hilariously, the eponymous title of his soon to be released first LP, and so much more. There is conversation in-between each song that is priceless. All in all, one of the best boots ever to emerge.

The show itself (2:40): Daniel and Kelly talk about cultural appropriation (see “Outlaw Blues”) and how it this all feels. But that gut reaction fades as the conversation between Cynthia and Bob went on as its clear that Bob openly acknowledges where he’s heard these songs, where he learned them (even if he’s embellishing like crazy). Kelly says it feels uncomfortable when Dylan sings traditional work songs because of their specific associations with American history, i.e. who is this skinny white dude from Minnesota to sing a song like this?! It’s important to note that Bob is 20 years old and this is hardly some kind of full self-portrait of the man he hasn’t even deigned to become. It’s also important to acknowledge the act of art itself and how not making art, then judging its powers, is often as slippery a slope as outright condemning all conversation and declaring that no one should create ever.

Separation of art from artists as a common motif discussed. They talk Triplicate and Theme Time Radio Hour and concede that Dylan has a love for this music, which really does inform his choices. Daniel posits two ways to approach this: the first is instructive, that there is an author and we view it all through their lens; the second is opposite, the Battlestar Galactica approach where you accept that songs are cosmic entities that, sometimes, fall into your lap when you need it most.

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What’s most important here is the songs. (Below, see the Spotify playlist of their favorite versions of these songs.) They loved “Lonesome Whistle Blues,” the inflections so different to Dylan, Cash and Hank Williams. “Fixin’ to Die” would show up on his as-of-yet unrecorded first album, Bob Dylan. “Smokestack Lightning” shows off his acoustic chops while “Hard Travelin'” just feels right. According to Daniel, not the best version of “Stealin’,” but it’ll do. (And really, no one can outdo the 1928 [!] version from the Memphis Jug Band.) “Long Time Man Feel Bad” probably fits the most with all that they discussed earlier in the show – these are complex feelings that are difficult to relate to, except that songs aren’t one-to-one events and Dylan, obsessed with death, brings something different to these words. And, of course, “Baby Please Don’t Go.” It’s one of the most played, arranged and rearranged pieces in blues history – starting with Big Joe Williams popularizing it, Muddy Waters during it electric and then AC/DC getting in on the fun. The song has been inducted into both the Blues and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame.

And beyond his covers, Dylan played a few originals as well. The one that resonated deeply with Kelly was “The Death of Emmett Till,” which Daniel digs into on the show. “Standing on the Highway” is Dylan’s re-telling of Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues,” and it works. And, naturally, the best interaction between Cynthia and Dylan is before and after “Hard Times in New York Town.” That feeling for Daniel, of listening to this bootleg and knowing he’s a Nobel laureate, is still mind-boggling.

As for the inherent charm of this project (and the first genuine bootleg our Supplemental Series has covered), it comes from Cynthia and Bob, in their flirtations with one another, in their voices, in Bob’s outlandish stories.

  1. Conversation 1
    1. “mouth harp”
    2. 20 years old
    3. She met him in Minneapolis (and he was dreaming of being a rock star) and she said he was studying (he wasn’t) / came from South Dakota, SIOUX FALLS!!!!! (he didn’t; and the Missouri runs through SD, not the Mississippi) / Gerde’s / sung at Gaslight, Wha?, played harmonica (true) / “didn’t get onto rock music” (not true) / but he was into Cash, Muddy, Guthrie, Hank Williams / writing songs (it’s true) / “healthy cigarettes” — jokes even in early ’60’s! / “I play once and a while” – “I play more than just folk music” / who is Hobart Smith? / “I copy the best songs I can find” (it’s true), he has impeccable taste
  1. Conversation 2
    1. “How much is your own?” — “I don’t know”
    2. John Lee Hooker
    3. “He’s a funny guy to sing like” says Dylan about John Lee Hooker
  1. Conversation 3
    1. “Niiiice. You started off slow but boy you ended up…”
    2. Not folk songs to Dylan, but contemporary songs
    3. “Wanna hear one?” — “Why yes Bob Dylan!”
  1. Conversation 4
    1. “One of the greatest contemporary ballads I’ve ever heard” – Gooding
    2. “No sense of being written” — “That’s fine…” — Cynthia is GUSHING
    3. Dylan, not reading the room, brings up Lee Chandler song about a bus crash in Colorado that killed 27 kids – “a fine song”
    4. Love the tuning of the guitar — and his excitement!
  1. Standing On The Highway
    1. Dylan original, though sung through Robert Johnson and “Cross Road Blues”
  1. Conversation 5
    1. He was with a carnival for 6 years (he wasn’t)
    2. He believes in palm reading (he pleads with a woman in one of my favorite songs “Spanish Harlem Incident” to read his palms). He doesn’t want to believe too much in the cards (but we see images of cards and tarot throughout his songs and Sara was into it, he saw Sara as his soothsayer, in a way).
  1. Conversation 6
    1. Ralph Lenser (?)
    2. Do you prefer “necklace” or “harmonica holder?”
  1. Conversation 7
    1. harmonica talk!!! Played with coat hanger!!!
    2. harmonica magnets? (yes, no?)
    3. Back to the carnival — he learned to sing (he didn’t). He wrote a song lady in a freak show (he didn’t); “Won’t You Buy Me a Postcard” (nope). /// But I think the empathy is strong, even this early
  1. Conversation 8
    1. “tremendous push”
  1. Conversation 9
  2. Hard Times In New York
    1. We’ve heard this one before! Episode 012!
    2. Love the end about his hat and being famous

Liar Bob Dylan (21:35) /// The songs (27:45): Kelly’s favorite was “Death of Emmitt Till” as it reminded her of “Prosers Gabriel” by Tim Barry; “Oxford Town” /// 33:50 — how accurate must a songwriter be in a song? /// 35:00 — Cynthia and Bob are SO FLIRTING // Hard Times in New York Town (014?) ///

On Freak Shows /

 

Reblog the recording from Pacifica & tweet that out!

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