Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bob Dylan At Mardi Gras New Orleans Feb. 1964

Mardi Gras New Orleans Feb.11th 1964 I was there with Victor Maymudes and Bob Dylan running the streets all day and night until 3am Ash Wednesday. Read all about it on the back of ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN. I am Joe B. Stuart the "white southern poet". My last name was slightly mispelled on the album. Either because it was transcribed from a tape or because the lawyers had Columbia change the names slightly to avoid law suits from people who had not given permission for their names to be used. You can read all about this Mardi Gras Day in Robert Shelton's bio of Bob, NO DIRECTION HOME. He describes the day and night fully. I should know because he used my written memories of it that my brother had sent to him. I called my memories LOOKING BACK AT BOBBY D. IN A NOW NEWSREEL.

I wrote down my memories in 1967. Victor Maymudes Bob's road manager and body guard and I played some ping pong in The Seven Seas Bar in the French Quarter. That bar is still there I believe. He beat me so I was impressed by that because I was pretty good. Dylan and Victor liked chess and ping pong. Victor ran off some loud mouth people who screeched up in a car on Decatur street yelling at Bob "Do you want to come with us?" And Bob replied, "Victor speaks for me". And Victor said "No". I now think this was Paul Clayton in a car with some other people. Paul Clayton was along on this trip but was not with Victor and Bob during Mardi Gras day and night. He was off doing something else. Since Bob was so little known by the general public in Feb.of 1964 I can't think of anyone else who this could have been except Paul Clayton. I may be wrong on this but no one else knew Bob Dylan from Adam in New Orleans at that time. I later knew someone in DC who knew Clayton. I never met him. But Paul Clayton was an interesting person and is often forgotten. He should be better remembered. I also remember that the writer Pete Karman was along with Bob and Victor and Paul Clayton on this trip. It might have been him that yelled from that car on Decatur Street but I doubt it. I remember Pete in La Casa de los Marinos. I recently heard from Pete. He told me he was sober that day and night after a big night the night before. So I now think it was simply the fact that he was sober that made me think he looked out of place in La Casa and nothing more.

Victor was 5 years older than us at the time. So he must have been 29 years old. A tall good looking guy. He could tell who was OK and who was not just by looking at them. A man of few words. But a really nice guy. I was 23 going on 24 at the time. We were all so young, so good looking and so unwrinkled. Time did a number on us like it does on everyone. But it is nice to look back and remember when we were young and full of piss and vinegar. I never met Victor ever again. Though I thought of him often.

I did meet Dylan again down on the Mall in Washington D.C. in 1986 when he was in town for concerts. We both were down on the Mall to see the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival because the Sun Rhythm Session Band was there. And that night we were all at the Twist and Shout in Bethesda,Maryland to see and hear them play.

Note #1. That Sunday Feb. 9th was the first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show by the Beatles. I remember watching it in a bar on Decatur St on TV that Sunday night and being amazed that people were taking the time to watch this new group from England. That was a merchant seaman's bar named Jewel's Tavern near the corner of Decatur St. and Gov. Nicholls. Two days later I was in that bar with Bob and Victor and I remember playing two songs for Dylan on the jukebox. One was Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash. And the other was MY SON CALLS ANOTHER MAN DADDY by Hank Williams. I said "Listen to that". Not knowing then that Hank Williams was and still is Bob's main man and most favorite singer. The arrival of the Beatles was a big important factor in the evolution of the ever growing and changing of Bob Dylan. He was still playing to small college audiences of 200 people or so in Feb. 1964. On their trip west Bob said they listened to the radio in the car and that the Beatles had 5 of the top ten songs on the Billboard charts. He would have been well aware of that and what it meant for the changing nature of pop music as it meant the end of folk music and the rebirth of rock and roll. Bob brought the poetry and the Beatles brought the electricity along with others. So it would be only natural that Bob would plug in sooner rather than later.

Here is one quote from Bob standing on the corner outside of La Casa de los Marinos on that Mardi Gras afternoon. A girl told him "You sure do have long hair". Bob replied, "Yes I am going to let my hair grow down to the street and write my poems from the tops of these buildings". And so he did. Note#2: I just remembered a few things I want to correct that Robert Shelton changed in his telling of this story. He has since died so they will never be corrected in NO DIRECTION HOME his bio of Bob Dylan. We were all going up Bourbon Street when Bob spied a young man with a guitar singing "Don't Think Twice". We stopped and listened to the young man. Bob told him "You sing that very well". The young fellow looked at Bob and said " it couldn't be. You arent Bob Dylan are you?" Dylan replied "No I'm not". We all laughed and took off. Bob has recently commented that often when fans meet a celebrity will ask "Is it really you" as if they cant believe it. I think it was around this time on Bourbon Street that I told him "Listen to this." I then recited a song called CHILDREN FROM BROKEN HOMES. It goes like this: "Seems like married men are sad everywhere I go. They learn late what children from broken homes know. As they lie in bed late at night hearing mama and papa scream shout fuss and fight. Separation, divorce, call it what you will It leaves an emptiness no one woman can fill. Children with shattered faces and cracks in their hearts They need no teachers to tell them the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I'll tell you I know and some of you do too its not the homes but the children that are broken into." Bob said, "Who wrote that? Hank Williams?" No, I said. "I did".

Later when we were all standing outside BABY GREENS(a black only bar on Burgundy St.)Dylan was trying to get the black man who ran the place to let us in.Dylan kept saying "Why man Why Not?" The guy told us to go on before the cops came and locked us all up. The black guy said to Dylan, "Son go on home. Somewhere your mother is on her knees praying for you". And Dylan shot back,"I don't have a mother and if I did she wouldn't be praying for me". I remember some guy joining us as we were over on Dauphine St. We tried to go in Cosimo's bar with a black guy but they would not let us in. I was amazed to recognize the bartender as a former Air Force pilot I had known when I was in the Air National Guard two years before. He said, "Joe, don't bring that guy in here". It was after that that we tried to go down to Baby Green's but they would not let us in either. Somewhere along the way on Burgundy St. we had picked up another young man who ran and jumped up on top of a car and walked over it from front to back. Up on the hood, over the top, and down over the trunk as well all yelled "No". I think this was the guy who asked Dylan if he had ever read Jean-Paul Sartre. And Dylan replied that he had. Dylan then asked the guy, "Have you ever read Jean Genet?" The young man answered "Yes". But Dylan shot back at him"Yes. Yes. But have you REALLY read Genet?" There was a good bit of this literary one upmanship going on.

Later as we were walking past Jackson Square I asked Bob when he was going to go in the military. Remember in 1964 there was still a draft and it was something all young men had to think about. He replied, "I tried to join. But they wouldn't take me". I remember that Victor was carrying a gallon jug of red wine. We would all take drinks from this jug. I also remember Bob giving me a look when I took what was most likely a really big slug from this bottle. You can be sure Bob had paid for it. Later in the Greek bars on Decatur St.(The Athenian Room and the Gin Mill) it was getting very late. 3am. We all got a kick out of a drag queen dancing with a drunken sailor from the USS Lexington which was in port during Mardi Gras. The sailor thought he was dancing with a woman. And he would bend her over and give her a big kiss. Well he/she was having a good time too. I had to leave to get back to Mobile because I was supposed to teach school the next day. Obviously that wasnt going to happen. Dylan kept saying to me to come with them to Denver. That he knew poets there. Well, it was tempting but I wasnt going off in a car with a mad poet singer songwriter and a few others guys when I had a good job back in Mobile. Plus we were all very drunk on red wine and I knew that when we all sobered up the next day it would not be so rosy a picture. I dont see how it would have been a good idea. I could see it leading more to me being thrown out in a desert somewhere along the way. So I declined the offer. But there was something I wanted to tell him before I left. I wanted to let him know that I hoped he would not sell out and change the way Elvis had after he went to RCA and was on the Ed Sullivan show and other TV shows. So I said to Dylan," Don't ever go on the Ed Sulllivan show ". His eyes got real big. What I didnt know at the time was that he had already had a chance to go on the Ed Sullivan show and his appearance was cancelled at the last minute because they would not let him sing "Talking John Birch Blues". So he walked off instead of changing the song. Bob Dylan never appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

He didnt need it by 1965. He was big and getting bigger. I just watched DONT LOOK BACK AGAIN for the first time since it came out in 1967. Now available on Netflix. The 1965 Dylan is all changed from the 1964 Dylan. Before he was scruffy. Now he is cleaned up wearing jackets and styled hair and looking hip to the max. Interestingly Victor does not appear in this film. He must not have made the trip. Grossman is there as manager and Joan Baez is there but just along for the ride. By 1965 Bob Dylan is a solo act that can sell out The Royal Albert Hall in London. It is very interesting to look back at this film now and see a 24 year old Bob Dylan.

Another memory. I remember at that Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 1964 we were walking along in front of the Monteleone Hotel and Dylan saw two young girls. He asked them if they wanted to go to a party. They said no. He chased them a little way down the street saying come on we are going to a party. They, of course, had no idea who he was because in Feb. 1964 he was still a nobody and an unknown. A year later in London the girls there knew who he was and chased him and stood outside his hotel as can be seen in DONT LOOK BACK yelling for him to come out. One of them has a real nice loud whistle too. Bob Dylan is a gemini. And when sober he is quiet and speaks to no one. But once he started in on the red wine and got drunk he spoke to everyone. He opened up and spoke freely of everything on his mind.

Some quotes I remember Bob saying: He had asked me what I did and I told him I was teaching high school English in Mobile, Alabama.While we were standing outside Jackson Square on the sidewalk some other people came up and he asked a girl what she did and she said she taught school. Bob replied loudly, "I am surrounded by school teachers!"
He asked me if I would teach his poems and songs to my students and I told him I would. And I did. They must have been the first students in a US high school to have Bob Dylan taught to them. He told me that I was "a brave cat to teach school".

I took all of them to a Mardi Gras party on Madison st. in the French Quarter.On the way there I ran ahead to tell Susan we were coming. Bob took off running after me on Decatur St. and tripped and fell on the corner of Madison and Decatur St. Victor picked him up. We were climbing the stairs 4 flights up to Sue and Tony's apartment. Bob said, "We are all just steps". I thought to myself that is good. We are all steps. My college friend Sue lived there with her husband Tony. Their guests were all wearing suits and evening gowns. We all were in blue jeans and scruffy clothes. But Sue let us in and she and Bob had a discussion.

While they talked the other guests stood back and didnt have a clue who this was or what he was all about. Bob would eat some cheese, drink some wine and rock back and forth almost hitting his head on the coffee table as he talked to Sue. I think he was impressed by how smart she was. The rest of us just listened. More later on this. Since this was an interesting conversation I will add some more of what I remember. Bob started telling us of his trip down South and how they had stopped in Flat Rock, North Carolina to see Carl Sandburg. They got him to come out on the porch of his cabin where Bob and Sandburg talked. This conversation is recounted in Robert Shelton's book NO DIRECTION HOME. Carl Sandburg told Bob, "You certainly are an intense young man". I asked Bob what he thought of Southern writers Tennessee Williams and William Faulkner. Dylan said, "TennesseeWilliams is a sick cat, man". And that he wished he could have met William Faulkner. But he never did because Faulkner had died in July of 1962. In Bob's new book Chronicles he says that he once met Tennessee Williams and that he was a genius and looked like one. Bob also told the often told story of how he was drunk at an awards banquet in NYC for Civil Rights leaders and was to be awarded some award and when he got up to speak he was drunk and mouthed off some words that got him roundly booed. He said something along the line you have you try to understand Lee Harvey Oswald and that all of us have some of that in us. It was stupid drunken talk. And it is worth noting he never repeated any more of these drunken mistakes in public again.

Outside of La Casa de los Marinos on the corner of Decatur Street and Toulouse Street I told him that I had just finished reading Woody Guthrie's BOUND FOR GLORY. Bob said, "I read that 8 years ago". Which means he read it when he was 15 since he was 23 years old at the time. Bob told me he wanted to be a writer. I took that to mean something other than songs. Recently he explained how he finally came to realize that he would not do novels or plays but he would say what he had to say in songs. Now with Chronicles he can stretch out some in his prose.  What I liked about Victor was he was very friendly and open and not at all closed off guarded. If you asked him a question he would answer it. Right after you met Victor you felt like he was your friend.

Note#3: I saw three guys playing for tips in a bar at this Mardi Gras in 1964. They were unknowns passing a hat. The bar was on the corner of Toulouse Street and Chartres Street in the French Quarter. They were folksingers doing folk songs. 1964 was the year of the folksinger. There were many many young guys walking around carrying guitars at this Mardi Gras. But all these years I have remembered the guy standing on the left because years later in 1968 when Jerry Jeff Walker recorded MR. BOJANGLES (which he wrote) I saw a picture of him on the LP album cover and I thought: He looks just like that guy I saw playing for tips at the Mardi Gras in 1964. Recently I found out that it was in fact Jerry Jeff Walker. I sent him an email and he told me that it was him and that I had a good memory. All these years I have wondered if that was him and now I know that it was. It is nice to know that Jerry Jeff was at that same Mardi Gras in 1964 as was Bob Dylan and Victor. And even nicer to think about the fact that the guy who wrote MR BOJANGLES was at the same Mardi Gras as the guy who wrote MR TAMBOURINE MAN. Both songs were written not long after that Mardi Gras of 1964. joebstewart
Here is Bob Dylan doing Hey Mr. Tambourine Man at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 just a few months after the Mardi Gras described above.

And this is Jerry Jeff Walker doing Mr. Bojangles. This is the earliest video I could find. And it sounds very much like the original album version. This was on the Dinah Shore Show. That is Don Meredith the old Dallas Cowboy quarterback from the 1960s doing the introduction.

And here is a nice version of Mr. Bojangles by Jerry Jeff from 1991.

Here is some actual home movie footage of that 1964 Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It is the only one from 1964 that I could find on YouTube. Stick with it. It starts out at someone's house and then on a levee and then they go downtown to the Mardi Gras. Pete Fountain is seen in this.