Exhuming Bob XVIII:
My Son, The Corporation
R.E. Prindle
Goodman, Fred: The Mansion On The Hill, 1997
Russo, Gus: The Outfit, 2001
Russo, Gus:  Supermob, 2006

Electrified Dylan

Andrew Krueger from Duluth unearthed an interesting article from the archives of the Duluth News-Tribune dated October 20, 1963.  ( http://www.areavoices.com/attic/?blog-35238 )  The article is entitled ‘My Son, The Folknik’  by one Walter Eldot.
Mr. Eldot was apparently a longtime reporter for the newspaper.  He as well as the Zimmermans was Jewish.  For whatever reason he writes derisively of Dylan even belittling to some extent his parents.   Robert Shelton notes and quotes Eldot in his own No Direction Home as one who habitually wrote sarcastically of Dylan.
This may have been because he perceived Dylan as a ‘folknik’ or Bohemian, both derogatory terms in his lexicon.  Especially in 1963 Beatniks, Folkniks and oddities in general were well outside the pale of  ‘polite’ society.  People like Eldot would have had no use for them.  Maynard G. Krebs of Dobie Gillis would be a good example of what they saw.
Quoted by Shelton in No Direction Home Eldot says that the Iron Range had produced some strange characters over the years including Bob Dylan and Gus Hall.  Hall was the leader of the Communist Party.
Eldot in his short article does answer a few questions while raising a few more.  His tone is prejudicial so that one has to take his opinions with a grain of salt.  Still, I think they reflect generally accurately the impression Dylan made at the time of this outrageous oddball who had somehow, against all expectations, made it big.
…Bobby stems from a middle class background in which much emphasis is placed on education and conformity and plans for a respectable career.
Bobby didn’t quite fit into that framework and preferred a more bohemian type of life.  His parents say he frowns on being called a beatnik, and they don’t like that designation for him either.  But he was in fact adopting some of the manners associated with beatniks- or folkniks- in an area where that makes a person stand out as a strange character.
That may explain some of the apparent hostility between Dylan and his hometowners.  The town geek had become more successful than they.  Hibbing would have been no place for him.  Most people of his temperament, like myself, have found it preferable to move to the coasts.
Once in New York Dylan invented his persona attempting to assume it completely.  Eldot obviously thinks this is living a lie.

Zimmerman as Dylan

People who knew him before he set out to become a folknik chuckle at his back country twang and attire and at the imaginative biographies they’ve been reading about him.  They remember him as a fairly ordinary youth from a respectable family, perhaps a bit peculiar in his ways, but bearing little resemblance to the sham show business character he is today.
Obviously Eldot expected Dylan to present himself as a well scrubbed, middle class lad the Range could be proud of instead he essentially disowned Hibbing claiming a fanciful pedigree that bore no relation to Hibbing or the facts as they knew them.  There is no reason Dylan shouldn’t have adopted a show biz name and perhaps a stage persona.  After all short punchy names work better than the polysyllabic ones that may confuse the audience.  Even Ethel Merman changed her name from Ethel Zimmerman and to good effect.
Dylan took it a step further.  He tried to hide the fact that he was Jewish.  He didn’t just invent a stage persona for himself but he tried to invent a whole new persona for himself based on false information that could be seen as actual deceit that he tried to pass off as true.  (Abe said it was all an act.)  Dylan went so far as to deceive his girl friend, Suze Rotolo, who only found out the truth when Dylan came home stumbling drunk and the  secret fell out of his pocket.
That seems a bit extreme and perhaps psychotic.  Indeed the psychological stresses were so great that Dylan’s personality seemed to split.  He began to live two different lives.  While apparently on the closest terms with his parents, in constant contact, he let on that he was an orphan and his parents dead.
In itself the latter is fairly common.  Jim Morrison of the doors let on his parents were dead but then he had nothing to do with them.  He rejected them completely.  Dylan being at the same time dependent and estranged makes him a special case.
Abram Zimmerman is quoted by Eldot:
“He wanted to have a free rein.” says Zimmerman.  “He wanted to be a folk singer, an entertainer.  We couldn’t see it, but we felt he was entitled to the choice.  It’s his life, after all, and we didn’t want to stand in the way.  So we made an agreement that he could have one year to do as he pleased, and if at the end of that year we were not satisfied with his progress he’d go back to school.”
That’s sort of possessive.  Obviously there were heated discussions between son and parents.  Dylan obviously didn’t want to make a clean break or he, perhaps, wanted financial support and could only get it that way.  I mean, at eighteen you’re on your own.  At any rate while claiming his parents were dead Dylan was in close phone contact all the while.  Now, this is a betrayal of who we were led to believe he was at the time.
“It was eight months after that, says (Abe)  Zimmerman, that Bobby received a glowing ‘two column’ review in the New York Times.  So we figured that anybody who can get his picture and two columns in the New York Times is doing pretty good.  Anyway it was a start.”
So Robert Shelton’s article had the effect of buying Dylan’s parents off.  Indeed, who wouldn’t be impressed?
The question is why Eldot chose this moment to write about the Folknik.  I think that can be explained by “his Carnegie Hall debut next Saturday.”
In the Midwest, at least, we were raised to reverence both New York and Carnegie Hall.  We were led to believe that only the greatest of the great and then only as a reward for lifetime achievement were granted the privilege of playing SRO at Carnegie Hall.  Our teachers were adamant about this.
I was shocked when relative nobodies began playing Carnegie.  It required a major adjustment in my attitude.  Eldot is apparently stunned that Dylan, not only from small town Hibbing on the Iron Range but a Folknik to boot, I mean, you know, a Bohemian, a mere boho, was playing the Hall.  One can also understand better the effect on Abe and Beattie Zimmerman sitting in the audience in Carnegie Hall, the proud parents of the Star.
Eldot also says:
His rise in barely three years has been almost as impressive as the fortune he has already amassed…
As Dylan had done very little in the way of touring and had few record sales as of 1963, while he hadn’t received any royalties from PPM recordings yet, the mention of a considerable fortune raises eyebrows as does this quote from Father Abe:
My son is a corporation and his public image is strictly an act…

Hard to follow this act.

Yeah.  He’s more middle class and respectable than he looks.  Well, the public image wasn’t strictly an act but I found the information that Dylan had incorporated himself very interesting.  That means he was two separate legal entities while being an employee of his corporation and therefore on salary.  That brings to mind the movie ‘Who Is Harry Kellerman And Why Is He Saying Terrible Things About Me.’  The movie was loosely based on Dylan.  It opens in the penthouse of the skyscraper that hero, Georgie Solloway, owns.
Dylan was obviously getting advice from his manager, Albert Grossman.  Let’s think about Grossman for a minute.  There hasn’t been a lot written about Grossman.  Here are the bare facts as recorded by wikipedia:
Albert Grossman was born in Chicago on May 21, 1926, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who worked as tailors.  He attended Lane Technical School and graduated from Roosevelt University, Chicago with a degree in economics.
After university he worked for the Chicago Housing Authority, leaving in the late 1950s to go into the club business.  Seeing folk star Bob Gibson perform at the Off Beat Room in 1956 prompted Grossman’s idea of a ‘listening room’ to showcase Gibson and other talent, as the folk movement grew.  The result was The Gate Of Horn in the basement of the Rice Hotel, where Jim (Roger) McGuinn began his career as a 12 string guitarist.  Grossman moved into managing some of the acts who appeared at his club and in 1959, he joined forces with George Wein, who founded the Newport Jazz Festival, to start up the Newport Folk Festival.  At the first Newport Folk Festival, Grossman told New York Times critic, Robert Shelton:  “The American public is like Sleeping Beauty, waiting to be kissed awake by the Prince of Folk Music.
Grossman obviously considered himself that Prince while being unaware of the obvious fact that the Kingston Trio had already kissed the American public awake and were the Princes of Folk Music.  Now let us flesh out the facts with what must have been.
Grossman was a Chicago native born and bred.  Chicago is a tumultuous  city; the criminal ethic rules both the underground and the overground.  They are joined at the hip.  The underground is known as The Outfit being ruled by Sicilians in conjunction with Jews who act as semi-legit facilitators.  Grossman was Jewish.  The location in Chicago where he was born isn’t available to me but I would guess the Jewish areas of Maxwell Street or Lawndale.
Born in 1926 Grossman was able to evade World War II, although Robert Shelton born in the same year did serve, while Grossman was also the too old for the Korean War.  Missed both.  A fortunate child.
He graduated College possibly in 1949 or ’50 taking a job in the public sector at the Chicago Housing Authority.  Whether he used his degree in economics isn’t clear but in 1956 at the age of thirty he saw Bob Gibson perform and realized that he could cash in on Folk Music while pursuing social and political objectives.  He immediately opened what became the premier Folk club in the US,  The Gate Of Horn.  Legendary.  I always regret never having been able to attend.
Contrary to what seems to be the prevailing opinion today Folk music throve throughout the fifties from beginning to end.  Grossman could open a club because there was a thriving Folk scene.  The Gateway Singers, Bud and Travis, Gibson, Odetta, Josh White and many, many others  Black and White toured and performed.  So when the Kingston Trio scored on the pop scene in 1958 they didn’t come out of the blue but Folk music began to explode.  The Brothers Four appeared at about the same time.
When Grossman went into the club business he must have inevitably been drawn into contact with the Chicago Outfit as the Chicago version of the Mafia is known.  All the suppliers and unions he had to deal with were mobbed up.  As a Jew he would have had an entree to what Gus Russo calls the Supermob.  The Jewish lawyers and politicians who acted as facilitators.  Thus Grossman must have established connections.  Not because he necessarily wished to but because it was necessary to survive, let alone prosper.
As lawyers and politicians the Jews always played by their own rules bending and distorting the rules everyone else was taught to play by.  Grossman would learn his lessons well changing the rules dramatically when he hit New York.
It would seem likely that Grossman would have learned the attitude from these very monied, devious and powerful men.  The word scrupulous had a very different meaning for them.  Chutzpah was more useful.  It would be interesting to know exactly who Grossman came into contact with.
As Wikipedia notes he managed ‘socially conscious’ performers like Odetta but none of the people he handled were capable of breaking out of or changing the folk format into pop stardom.  Where the money and influence was.  The money and the influence to move society in the directed he wanted it to go.
Taking his lesson from the more pop oriented groups like Belafonte, the Kingstons and Chad Mitchell Trios, The Brothers Four and The Highwaymen, in 1961 Grossman assembled a folk trio of two men and a woman.  A slight variation on the proven formula.  Grossman was no innovator.  But he had his social and political agenda.  He called the group Peter Paul And Mary giving it a subliminal Judaeo-Christian religious tinge.
His key member was Peter Yarrow, a Jew with a degree in psychology.  Apparently both he and Grossman were simpatico.  The other male was another Jew named Noel Stookey who performed as Paul.  The female was a shiksa named Mary Travers.
The group as well as Grossman was political and subversive from the start.  As the PPM website says: ( http://peterpaulandmary.com/history/bio/htm )
In the decades prior to the 60s, through the work of such avatars as Woody Guthrie, the Weavers and Pete Seeger, folk music had become identified with sociopolitical commentary, but the notion had been forced underground in the Senator Joe McCarthy witch-hunting era… Peter Paul and Mary came together to juxtapose these cross currents and thus to reclaim folk’s potency as a social, cultural and political force.
In other words Grossman and PPM would renew and reinvigorate the Communist offensive providing a foundation and incentive to the Boys of ’64.  Of course the Communists were the witches McCarthy was hunting.
‘If I Had A Hammer’ and all that Communist junk was alright for one time around but when Dylan made the scene with a fresh departure on traditional political folk Grossman saw the future.  PPM’s third LP in 1963 had three songs by Dylan.
Dylan’s career was effectively launched by Robert Shelton’s astonishing writeup of Dylan in 1961.  As Wikipedia notes Grossman had known Robert Shelton since at least the ’59 Newport Folk Festival.  It is possible that Grossman knew Shelton from Chicago in ’57 or ’58.  Robert Shelton himself, was from Chicago, graduated from the Northwestern School of Journalism.  He left Chicago for NYC in 1958 to become the music critic of the paper of record, the New York Times.  How lucky can you get.  Of course, the Times itself was and is owned by Jews.  As he was a folk critic in New York, practically living in the folk clubs, there seems little reason to doubt he was a habitue of the Gate Of Horn in Chicago.  As a  journalist it would be probable that he introduced himself to its owner, Albert Grossman.  There may be articles filed by him in Chicago.  So when Shelton interviewed Grossman in 1959 it is likely that he already knew him.
Why Shelton gave Dylan the incredible boost isn’t clear.  The entire folk community was astonished.  It may be that Grossman had already fixed on Dylan and he may have begun a buildup before he even signed him.  Shelton’s review of Dylan in the New York Times seems to be too incredible to be true, not that things like that don’t happen, but they don’t happen often and seldom without cause.
Still I find it difficult to believe those people thought Dylan was that talented a performer.  After all every folk label in the Village rejected Dylan from Vanguard and Elektra to Folkways.  They didn’t hear it, and those labels had some pretty lousy singers on them.
Perhaps the review in the Times was a signal to John Hammond at Columbia.  Imagine being refused by Folkways and being signed by Columbia.  Think about it.  One has to suspect the reason Hammond signed Dylan.  I don’t have tin ears and I can’t see why the LPs, Bob Dylan and Freewheelin’  are anything to shout about.  I can sure see why they didn’t sell.
Dylan began to really demonstrate his song writing prowess in early ’62 when Blowin’ In The Wind was first performed.  The song caught on quickly while Grossman who had been watching him decided to make his move.  He became Dylan’s manager in August of ’62.  Possibly he had asked his Chicago pal Shelton to write Dylan up earlier.  At any rate sometime between August ’62 and September ’63 Dylan incorporated himself most likely on his manager’s advice.
PPM had been a hit out of the box.  Both their first two albums without Dylan songs were mega hits as was their third with Blowin’ In The Wind  and two other Dylan songs.  In November ’63 all three albums were in the Top Ten so that Grossman’s two money machines were working in synch.
If Dylan hadn’t amassed the fortune Eldot mentions he soon would.  Eldot published his Duluth article on October 20, 1963.  It is difficult to believe Eldot’s statement that Dylan ‘had amassed a considerable fortune’ at that time.  Perhaps Papa Abe was gilding the lily to justify his son being a corporation.
I have never seen the fact mentioned before.  If Dylan did incorporate himself there should be a public record.  This is all the more remarkable as Dylan is universally portrayed as having been naive to the point of simplicity in business matters.  Can’t be quite true.
As the corporation has never been subsequently mentioned to my knowledge one wonders for how long it existed or if it still exists.  One wonders what the assets were and if dissolved in what manner the assets were distributed.  One thinks of Georgie Solloway of  Who Is Harry Kellerman.
Dylan’s father died in 1968 ending that influence on his life.  But Dylan had already been granted his own head by his parents.  Abe is quoted by Eldot:
“We have absolutely no part in his affairs.  Those are his own operation.  He’s a corporation and he has a manager.”
Being a corporation and having a manager…what more is there to life?

The Burden Of Being Cowboy Bob Dylan

The Ballad Of Bobby And Albert


R.E. Prindle

     For some reason the notion has grown that Folk music erupted in 1958 with the Kingston Trio’s version of Tom Dooley.  I don’t understand this.  We sang Folk and Old Timey all the way through grade school. Grade school ended for me in 1950.  Folk music was always a conscious part of my life.  I grew so tired of singing Go Tell Aunt Rhody and She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain that I shouted for joy upon hearing The Weaver’s sing On Top Of Old Smokey and Goodnight Irene.

     That was in the days of ‘Your Hit Parade’.  That show was a key program before TV wiped programmed radio off the Networks.  They thought radio was dead.  Didn’t think anyone would listen to music twenty-four hours a day.  We not only did that but we listened to the same four songs over and over in fifteen minute segments.  They called it Top Forty but I remember it more like the Top Four.  When one song wore out they plugged in another one and kept going.  Of course that was only temporary; things evolved fast.

     Folk and Folk related music was a strong stream all through the fifties.  Burl Ives was the rage for a while but you can only get so far on Jimmie Crack Corn And I Don’t Care and The Blue Tail Fly. Tennessee Ernie Ford and his Sixteen Tons was as close as you could get to Folk without actually stepping over the line.  Harry Belafonte occupied the mid-fifties as a Folksinger, academic quality, with his stupid Mark Twain.  In a more pop vein Mitch Miller churned out stuff like She Wore A Yellow Ribbon and The Bowery Grenadiers.  I didn’t care for it at the time but his sing along stuff is pretty good.

     Who can forget the greatest of them all with his fabulous hit tune The Rock Island Line in 1955.  The Great

The Great Lonnie Donegan

The Great Lonnie Donegan

Lonnie Donegan.  The song was played once every fifteen minutes around the clock on every station for a couple of weeks.  I once artfully shifted stations so that I got to hear the song seven times in a row.  Lonnie Donegan could sing circles around the entire Greenwich Village crowd including any number of Dylans.  He was very successful in combining a listenable approach to a trad style.  All the trad stuff done trad style was OK for the enthusiasts but had no commercial potential.  None of the Greenwich Village crowd had a future except Dylan.  Even the best of them, Fred Neil, fell flat.

     Fred Hellerman of the Weavers was musical advisor to the Kingstons who merely continued the Weavers’ tradition.  The music that Bob Dylan tuned into in 1959 had been an established fact for ten years or better.  His future manager Albert Grossman had established the premier folk venue, The Gate Of Horn in Chicago the year before while helping to establish the Newport Folk Festival in 1959 

     The trad folk types were running the Village by the time Dylan got there.  Some people liked the traditional style, they usually smoked pipes.  I can handle it but I don’t like those precious antiquarian stylists; I much prefer the pop styles of the Kingstons and the Chad Mitchell Trio.  Did you ever listen to Terry Gilkyson and the Easy Riders?  Pozo Seco Singers?

     It didn’t take Dylan long to understand that the way to success was through the pop style rather than the trad.  Thus Dylan as a folk act can be classed with the Kingstons, the Mitchell Trio and The New Christy Minstrels.

     His muse, however, spoke with a purer voice; the muse belonged to him, he said, or at least she shacked with him for a couple years before moving on.  As talented as Dylan was in those years he did not make it alone.  As he said, he wanted to sing to people on his own wavelength.  That was a small audience.

     While he was shifting the dial to the high numbers at the right hand side of the band he passed through the broad band.  In order to get to his own audience he had to appeal to a broader cross section; so he wrote stuff like Blowin’ In The Wind.

     As someone who was there at the time I had to roll my eyes at the song’s obviousness while Bob’s vocals drove me up the wall.  The sales figures for the first three or four albums bear me out.

     So how did Bob get from there to superstar?  Two words- Albert Grossman.  This article might be subtitled:  The Genius And The Promoter.  For that brief one or two year period Bob turned out generalized songs that caught the spirit of the g-g-generation.  It is questionable how far the songs would have gone had not the promotional genius of Albert Grossman seized the main chance.

     Grossman would be as fascinating a study as Bobby.  While Dylan has gotten all the credit his early career was in fact a fifty-fifty partnership with Albert.

     Bob had no business sense, still doesn’t; nor should any artist be expected to.  Everyone would have

The Manager

The Manager

stolen him blind.  It’s the music business.  The performers about him either professed to reject financial success because they couldn’t find the handle or may have been so purist that they actually despised the money.  Sorta hard to believe but that’s the way they talked.

     Now, Albert not only saw the financial potential of the caterwauling Dylan but more importantly he foresaw that phonographs records would be the medium of expression for the entire generation.  Records were how the generation would communicate.  Rather than looking back at what the recording industry had been he looked foward to what it would be.

     Noting the song writing potential of the 1962-63 Dylan he determined to make Bob the keystone of his grab for the golden ring.  He succeeded in capturing Bob.  He had his keystone but he lacked the supports.  He’d already thought that out working at it from the time he founded the Gate of Horn.  Having gotten himself a fecund folk style songwriter he now needed a sweet singing Top 40 folk style group a la the Kingston Trio.  The latter was perhaps the easiest part of the equation.

     Secure in his source of material Albert organized the commercial sounding folk group called Peter, Paul and Mary, three former purists who opted for the cash.  Packaging a sound for his group was relatively easy.  Taking the songs of his keystone he had them set to pretty three part harmonies.  Presto!  Albert had dumped the harsh cacophony of Dylan and the songs shone.

     Parts one and two of his plan were complete.  He had partnered himself with Dylan and he owned Peter, Paul and Mary.  The rest fell into place.  The public was entranced by the songs of Bob Dylan; now they wanted to know who the writer was.  Essentially the singer-songwriter was called into existence by demand.  Albert put his publicity act in motion.  It is doubtful that he knew how Dylan would respond but Dylan’s mysterioso act was perfect for the times while being executed to perfection.  Albert’s keystone captured the imagination of the world.

     As a genius promoter Albert understood his contribution to the equation.  Albert engineered Bobby’s success while with an artist’s ego Dylan totally underestimated Albert’s contribution.  Nevertheless Albert Grossman wanted his fair share which he calculated as much higher than the established ten percent for perfunctuory management while probably going over the line of fair which a promoter’s ego will.

     The structure of the contemporary music business was in its formative stages.  Albert was a presage of the future.  He formed groups with an identity in which he took only fifty percent, but the groups were his creation he was entitled to it.  Later the artists would simply be put on salary.  By the end of the century when the music industry had evolved, his successors concceived a group concept from start to finish providing concept and songs while merely hiring some musical working stiffs, probably not all that musical, just stiffs.  The performers were interchangeable like members of a sports team.  Heck they didn’t even play or sing they just danced to records.  It didn’t matter whether one or more or the whole group was replaced.  The performers had no talent merely acrobatic skills.  Promotion had evolved since Albert.

Bob and Albert Out On Highway 61

Bob and Albert Out On Highway 61

     Albert understood the artistic ego but too well.  Two colossal ambitions came into collision.

     One of the first things Albert did when he captured Bobby was to buy back the publishing from M. Witmark.  He then set up a new publishing company, Dwarf Music, in which he gave himself a fifty percent interest.  At first glance fifty percent looks like he really took advantage of Bobby.

     Certainly he was underhanded.  Remember, this is only the record business and Albert was relatively honest.  He never explained himself to Bobby.  He did go to lengths to conceal the fifty-fifty split from Dylan.  Albert Grossman was after all a promoter.  The record industry itself will never get high marks for probity.  The equation for theft is when one group controls the money and the other group provides the product.

     The question here is not whether Albert stole from Bobby in the sense of juggling the accounting, you can be sure Albert took advantage of his position, but whether he cheated Bobby by taking a fifty percent interest in Dwarf is open to qestion.

     I don’t think so.

     It is hard to believe that Bob Dylan would have amounted to much if Albert Grossman hadn’t been a promotional genius who recognized the potential which no one else, in fact, could see.

     Of course, today, long after the fact, Dylan’s genius seems to have ensured success.  At the time that genius wasn’t quite so obvious, indeed, I’m not so sure it ever existed.

     I wasn’t Johnny on the Spot when it came to recognizing Dylan’s talent.  I didn’t hear of him until 1964 when my brother-in-law played the first couple records for me.  All I could hear was a guy thwacking away noisily on guitar punctuating his horrid screeching with cacophonous bursts on an harmonica.  It might as well have been an air raid.

     I was thoroughly repelled.  I wouldn’t have listened to Dylan again but my brother-in-law who had a curious ability to scent out the next big thing insisted I listen to what he was saying.  ‘The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.’  To be sure.  Well, I’m from the midwest too.  I recognized the catch phrases; Dylan uses a lot of midwest catch phrases.  I still wasn’t impressed.

     To me Dylan sounded illiterate.  I ask you, what does ‘How many times can a man look up until he sees the sky?’  mean?  What does ‘How many seas must a white duck cross before it can sleep in the sand?’ mean?  Is there such a thing as a migrating white duck and do they ever sleep in the sand?  Am I supposed to let my heart bleed for white ducks who can’t sleep in the sand tonight?  The anwer to those questions, my friend, aren’t blowing in the wind.

     The guy just said whatever came into his head.  After his mind broke in 1966 and his muse left him he came up with ‘Shut the light, Shut the shade, you don’t have to be afraid.’  I mean, shade and fraid do rhyme.  I had problems understanding where the talent was.

     Protest singer?  What’s that to me?  I never did march anyway.

     If you listen to the 1963 Newport Folk Festival album Dylan’s singing of Blowin’ In The Wind is sandwiched between Joan Baez and the Freedom Singers.  Both back Bobby with a religious fervor the song doesn’t bear before launching into an even more religious shouting of We Shall Overcome…Someday.

     Masters of War?   You’ve got to be kidding?  This is a really puerile song.  Dylan just said what no one else wanted to put into words, although once said all those Sing Out types seemed to love it.  But, does anyone really believe that wars are promoted by a bunch of professional warriors sitting in a room trying to come up with ideas?  Before Bush I mean.  Is that a valid explanation of how politics work?  What happened to Bobby’s notions of ‘fixtures and forces.’

     I really couldn’t go with stuff like this.

     Impressed more by my brother-in-law’s unerring ability to spot the next big thing than Bobby I went out and bought the records but I didn’t listen to them although I was increasingly impressed by the number of cover versions that were appearing.  Albert Grossman was doing that work, not Bobby.

      And then Bringing It All Back Home with its vicious sounding title tuned into my wavelength down around 1600.  I was one of those confused, accused, misused, abused, strung out ones and worse.  I placed myself in the accused, abused and misused categories; A.J. Weberman obviously placed himself with the strung out ones and worse sorting through garbage cans.  But, here we have the spectrum of Bobby’s wavelength.

     It just keeps right on a hurtin’.

     By the time of Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde  Bobby was like strong drink to me.  I became a bobaholic as he backed deeper and deeper into the inner recesses of his mind where a different logic prevailed in an attempt to narrow his audience as much as possible.  Strangely the more he found his own audience the greater his reputation grew.

     Even though I became absorbed in Bob Dylan’s ‘genius’ I always remembered those lovely cover versions of his early songs.  Don’t you think those Byrds’ covers are too beautiful?  I asked myself would I have stuck with Bobby if it hadn’t been for those.  I can’t say, but they homogenized Bobby’s quirky personality into a palatable product.  When you couldn’t handle Bobby’s Mr. Tambourine Man you could switch to that of the Byrds.

     Those cover versions Albert obtained are what made Bob Dylan successful.

     Bob wrote them but he had nothing to do with either their placement or production.  Bobby’s self appointed ‘partner’ Albert did.

     First he created Peter, Paul and Mary.  Grossman’s group was the key to Bob’s success.  It must be credited

Albert Grossman's Group

Albert Grossman's Group

to Grossman that he seized the moment.  This was his one chance for success and he caught the Golden Ring as it came around.  The rest of Grossman’s career was trying to replicate this golden moment and that he could not do although he did have a ‘critical’ success in establishing Bearsville Records.  The label turned out some nice stuff including the very lovely catalog of Jesse Winchester.

     However Grossman’s success was based on PP&M.   Albert cleverly recognized the quasi-religious spirt of the times.  While the catchword at the time was ‘God Is Dead’ Albert chose to name his group after three Christian saints.  This was mildly off-putting to those of us of the time.  Grossman, himself a Jew, had his private joke as these three ‘Christian’ saints were all Jews.

     His group started out singing stupid quasi-religious songs like If I Had A Hammer and This Land Is Your Land.  Guthrie Stuff.  Grossman was actually mired in the tastes of the fifties.  This material in itself was off-putting, even though popular, as being too overtly political.  PP&M really caught fire when Bobby, Albert’s ace in the hole, came up with Blowin’ In The Wind.  The song was still quasi-religious in tone but cleaner and more modern sounding while being, from my point of view, completely apolitical.


Jesse At The Time

Jesse At The Time

   After a couple successful covers by PP&M the Byrds came in with really stunning contemporary versions of Bobby’s songs.  Within a year or two of that whole albums were issued trying to cash in on Bobby as a songwriter.  Barry McGuire ex of the New Christy Minstrels for Chrissakes.  Even that embarrassing Sinatra clone, Trini Lopez.

     So Albert had turned Bobby’s catalog gold.  Not a trick to be despised.

     Bobby’s star rose as his reputation as a songwriter rose.

He's On His Way

He's On His Way

     Albert pushed the envelope to secure as large a portion of the revenues for himself and Bobby as he could.  Columbia had conned Dylan into a disadvantageous  contract so Albert forced a change.  He secured twenty-five percent of the revenues from Bobby’s records for himself which was far in advance of practice.  However Albert had been right.  Pop album sales which had been miniscule in 1960 burgeoned into a mult-billion dollar segment by the end of the decade.  Albert had positioned Bobby to benefit from this huge market.

     Albert had bullied Columbia Records, Bobby’s label, into giving him producers who would make the most of his talents.  His unusual terroristic tactics threw the fear of god into Columbia’s executives.  If Bobby hadn’t signed a new contract, a fairly generous contract, behind Albert’s back Albert probably would have secured an even richer contract.  Remember Albert had the incentive of twenty-five percent of Dylan’s record revenues.

     One must accept the fact that Albert Grossman managed Bob Dylan’s career to perfection.  One must accept the fact tht Dylan would have been worth much less financially, perhaps, worthless without the aid and support of Albert Grossman.

     But then, Bob discovered that Albert had, and this is improtant, given himself fifty percent of Dwarf Music not only without telling Bobby but actively preventing his knowing.

     Bobby saw only his own genius while ignoring Albert’s.  Without thinking it out he chose to feel betrayed.  Albert traded on Bobby’s trust but I do not believe Albert betrayed him.  I think Albert was the best friend Bobby ever had.

     I believe that Albert was entitled to fifty percent of Bobby’s earnings in perpetuity.  I’d have to say that Bobby played the churl in not recognizing Albert’s contribution to his success.

     Still, Bobby is the artist, Bob Dylan, while Albert is only the promoter, Albert Grossman.  Which is the tail and which is the dog?  Did you ever see a dog run round and round chasing its tail?    


I Ate The Whole Thing

I Ate The Whole Thing


                                                                            The End.