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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Sunday, November 28, 2010


A New York Times report ( about the 50th anniversary of Arhoolie Records, mentions in passing a surprising (at least to me) but rather pleasing aspect of Dylan's interaction with the blues:

"To commemorate its 50th anniversary, Arhoolie is about to release a four-CD collection of songs, ranging in style from the blues of Jesse Fuller to the free jazz of Sonny Simmons, that Mr. Strachwitz recorded between 1954 and 1970 in the San Francisco Bay area. Called “Hear Me Howling: Blues, Ballads & Beyond,” the package also includes a 136-page book that tells the history of the label; the set will be available for purchase at the company’s Web site,, beginning next week and from music stores early in 2011... For a generation of folk- and blues-inspired performers, from Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones to Bonnie Raitt and T-Bone Burnett, Arhoolie has been a lodestone. In his autobiographical “Chronicles Vol. I,” Mr. Dylan, a member of the advisory board of the nonprofit Arhoolie Foundation, [my emphasis] credits the label as being the place 'where I first heard Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, Charlie Patton and Tommy Johnson.' "


Anonymous Wee Tommy said...

I’m a bit baffled by the quote from Chronicles. Arhoolie have never issued anything by the singers mentioned, either on the main label, or on any of their imprints. Had a very quick flick through my copy and couldn’t spot it, but either whoever wrote the NYT article has quoted out of context altogether, or Dylan was just talking nonsense. Arhoolie did release some of the finest blues (and other American music) albums of the last half century, though, and I’d guess that a lot of their output means a lot to Dylan, but if the quote is correct, he’s got his wires badly crossed.

The committee membership maybe isn’t that surprising – these things are often entirely honorary, a good thing for the Foundation to have on a letterhead.

6:19 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

The quote is there (it's on p.239, as a quick referral to the Index I constructed - and which is still for sale from me, as detailed in a separate Comment below). Dylan is talking about records played to him by Spider John Koerner and says:

"Koerner has a few other records - some blues compilations on the Arhoolie label where I first heard Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Blake, Charlie Patton and Tommy Johnson."

So he says he heard these people on compilation LPs, not whole LPs by these artists individually. Does that make more sense or is he still misremembering?

7:04 pm  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Yes, my Index to Chronicles Volume One is still available to anyone interested. Just send a Comment giving your e-mail address; this won't be published, but it will used to invoice you for the £6 price; when this is paid, your copy of the Index will be sent as a PDF file. It runs to 31 pages, and contains 1,384 entries: in total 6,517 words and page-numbers. It applies to all US and UK editions, and presumably to any other English-language editions.

7:10 pm  
Anonymous Wee Tommy said...

Arhoolie never released a single track by any of those, so 'misremembering' seems about right. They didn't release anything until 1960 (hence the 50th anniversary) so when Dylan was in Minneapolis, there would only have been an album or two at most (Mance Lipscomb and Big Joe Williams were the first two - wondrous records).

And, thanks for the reminder, I must definitely order my copy of the index.

7:44 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bob is listed on their website's "About Us" as an Advisory Board member:

8:18 am  

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