Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan: Backstory of Roots Cover

May 21st, 2010
Bob Dylan (born May 24) and John Sebastian

Bob Dylan (born May 24) and John Sebastian

In 1964 Doug Gilbert, a photojournalist on assignment for Look Magazine, came up to Woodstock, NY, to do a story on Bob Dylan. The folk singer was on the cusp of superstardom. The next two years saw Dylan release Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde. Gilbert took a slew of photos, but Look never ran the story. Years later he unearthed the photos in a shoebox.

 On the cover of the Roots book at left, Dylan is pictured exiting the Café Espresso driveway onto Woodstock’s Tinker Street. Riding shotgun on Dylan’s Triumph Motorcycle is John Sebastian.

Roots Celebrates Tim Hardin’s Birthday!

December 23rd, 2009
Tim Hardin's Woodstock Piano

Tim Hardin's Woodstock Piano; Remembering Tim on 12/23

Tim Hardin (1941-1980) moved to the Woodstock area in 1968 with his wife Susan Morss and his young son Damion. Already the town was a thriving music destination— with The Band, Bob Dylan, the Mothers of Invention, Richie Havens and the Blues Magoos in residence. It is said that Hardin, of all the songwriters in early 1960s Greenwich Village, was the best. His first album, recorded for Verve in 1966, yielded such tunes as “Reason to Believe,” which was covered by Rod Stewart, and “Hang On To a Dream” which became a staple for The Nice. In the aftermath of this release Bob Dylan referred to Hardin as the best songwriter alive.

It was with Tim Hardin 2, his second album, that the songwriter released “If I Were a Carpenter,” his most memorable song. Also on the album were such tunes as “Black Sheep Boy” and “Lady Came from Baltimore.” During an eight-month period from 1965 to 1966 some of his best-known songs were written on a piano in his room in Los Angeles. By the time Hardin moved to Woodstock his career was taking off.  Read the rest of this entry »

there is no eye

December 7th, 2009
Cover image of the book, depicting Woody Guthrie at the Cooper Union, 1959

Cover image of the book, depicting Woody Guthrie at the Cooper Union, 1959

In 2001 powerHouse Books published there is no eye, John Cohen’s photographic memoir of his life and times. He is member of the New City Lost Ramblers and his photographs hang in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. He has done field recordings, a number of fine albums, and films.

His book includes black and white images of Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Guthrie and many others. Cohen notes that “over the distance of time, those years on Third Avenue [1957-1964] seem very exciting, but in reality felt mostly desolate and run down. Still, I liked the sober seriousness of my daily life.” It was a time that Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Happenings were gathering steam. During this period Cohen rehearsed in the apartment with The New Lost City Ramblers and had his first photographic show. The mood of his book is filmic, lush and gritty.

Recently a friend recommended that we read the book, because it reminded him of Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to “Woodstock.” The title, there is no eye, is taken from Dylan’s Highway 61 liner notes, name checking Cohen.

John Herald: Root of Woodstock

October 22nd, 2009
Gaslight Trio

Tracy Bigelow Grisman's Gaslight Trio: Ralph Rinzler, Bob Dylan and John Herald

In 1954, a 15-year old Johnny Herald saw Pete Seeger in concert at Camp Woodland, outside Phoenicia, NY. He was so inspired that he vowed he would be a musician, too. Herald, of Armenian-American background, was born and raised in Greenwich Village. His poet father used to take him around to parties where Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie performed live. On the liner notes to Roll on John, Herald recalls “and here I was, somebody that was in on another sort of bohemian revolution in the sense of the folk part of art; folk craft, folk culture and so on.”

Herald began listening to Don Larkin’s New Jersey radio program on bluegrass music (Larkin Barkin’). Soon he was jamming with Bob Dylan, Rory Block and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. In 1959 he joined the Greenbriar Boys with John Yellin and Eric Weissberg. The latter was a fellow alum of Camp Woodland, although they actually met (according to Weissberg) at a freshman mixer at the University of Wisconsin.  Things started to heat up after Ralph Rinzler replaced Weissberg in the group. He urged the trio to practice more, and they won first prize for bluegrass in a North Carolina competition. Soon they landed a contract with Maynard Solomon’s Vanguard record label. Read the rest of this entry »

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