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Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories, Half-time Sousaphone & (113) ARTSY Brief Encounters–Dylan

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories, Half-time Sousaphone & (113) ARTSY Brief Encounters–Dylan

I am walking towards the practice field, I’ve got my jacket over my neck, sweatin’.  I’m carrying my sousaphone at rest—you carry it on your other shoulder when it’s at rest.  I’m draggin’ off towards the field and I see the band sort of half-assembled about three or four minutes before rehearsal time.  It’s Thursday.  We’ve got a big show we’re going to do Friday night.  I know everything!  It’s ridiculous.  I know the whole thing—we’ve been rehearsing this stuff every night for a week, I know every last step.  I’m tired.  I had a bum day.  I half-sprained my ankle in swimming class.  I was kind of bugged.  You know how you have those days.  What the heck.

I see Schwartz ahead of me lugging his sousaphone, and behind me is Snuffy Smith, who isn’t much of a marcher, but one of the best sousaphone players I ever heard.  The three of us are truckin’ out to that field.  What makes me do it, I don’t know, but I turn around and go back to the band room.  That feeling of goofing off—what the hell!  I slide my sousaphone into the big wooden rack in the band room.  I cut across the hall, out the side door, and five minutes later I’m sitting in the Red Rooster knockin’ down a cheeseburger and a Black Cow.

Sitting with me is Pete, who plays in the baritone section, who is also knockin’ down a Black Cow and a cheeseburger.  And off in the distance we can hear faintly, oh so faintly—we can hear the band, faintly, so faintly, just drifting in as they’re playing away.  Here are two top-flight aces from the band knockin’ down a cheeseburger with a little piccalilli and a little chili sauce, french fries, and a Black Cow, and the rest of the guys are knocking themselves out in the hot sun.

I’m cool, on top of it, see.  Little realizing I am laying the groundwork for one of the most embarrassing moments I ever lived through.  And I don’t know whether I ever did live through it.  There are people who say that terrible things that have happened to us in our lives never truly leave us.  Quite possibly, had this not happened to me, I could have gone on to become god-knows-what?  Johnny Carson, Soupy Sales, who knows what great man in this world.

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BOB DYLAN

I went to the Joan Baez concert at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium on August 17, 1963. Half-way through it she introduced a slouchy, unkempt kid I never heard of (though at least one of his songs I’d heard, sung by popular entertainers). He sang a song that sounded like an extended one-note melody with, at the end of each long phrase, a little one-note musical up-tick. Every line sounded like that. I can’t say I liked it. It was weird. But it caught my attention. His name was Bob Dylan.

The next day I rushed to a record store and bought the only two albums of his so far released. The song he had sung that night that captured my attention was “Blowin’ in the Wind.” I became a Dylan fan.

One day about a year or so later he had already made it big and I was one of a couple of people in a small theater lobby waiting for an avant garde film to start. About ten feet away, by himself, was Dylan. We looked each other in the eye, I wanting to go up to him, he probably hoping I wouldn’t. I didn’t. Now knowing that he probably would have bruskly shrugged me off, I still wish I’d been bold enough to try, but I was not yet artsy fartsy.

Over the years I’ve seen him in concert several times. He does not have a “good” voice. But, in a strange, aggressively modernist style, never the same, he artistically expresses meaning or gives the song a new, jazzy feeling. He uses his voice perfectly attuned to the genius of his music. Doing his own songs, few people but Joan Baez, who, with her gentle elegance, so unlike his unpredictable, rough and ragged, shaggy, magic voice, achieves some parity.

For me: “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, is very good; “Mr. Tambourine Man” (a great Dylan song) as done by The Byrds, has not even a touch of feeling–it is a soulless travesty; “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Peter, Paul, and Mary is an equally saccharine void.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Bettylou Steadman says:

    Just wanted to let you know how much I thoroughly enjoy your stories.  Thanks for sending them.Bettylou Steadman

  2. Bud says:

    A wonderful entry per usual, Gene. Thank you! I am wondering if you find favor with any of the numerous Bob Dylan covers that the late Richie Havens recorded? Richie, besides his own, original cuts, made a bit of a specialty out of offering his interpretation of many a Dylan and Beatles composition.

    • ebbergmann says:

      Bud, thank you. Here I must admit that despite my enthusiasms for many rock musicians, I’m woefully ignorant of many, many others–even many big-name ones. Responding to your mentioning Richie Havens, I had to go to youtube and listen to his renditions of The Times They are a Changin’ and Maggie’s Farm. I much appreciate his thoughtful and artistic interpretations. I did find his Times They are a Changin’ too slow for my taste–I’m so used to Dylan doing it. Regarding Dylan in his constantly re-interpreting his own material–I do like much of this–yet, I understand how it could be hard to take for many people. Recently I’ve been listening to his album (re-interpreting his old favorites), HARD RAIN, and I like it a lot. On a desert island with only one choice, though, I’d take Dylan’s original recordings of most of his “big hits.”

      • Bud says:

        Thank you so much for your reply, Gene. Thank you, too, for taking the time to listen to some of Richie Havens’ Dylan covers. Your reply, as with all of your writings, was thoroughly thought-out and reasoned and beautifully and clearly expressed.

      • ebbergmann says:

        As always, thank you very much.

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