Monday, June 27, 2011

Bob Dylan Shows Up At The Smithsonian Folklife Festival In Washington D.C. In 1986 To See And Hear The Sun Rhythm Section Band

In 1986 my wife Rachel was a volunteer at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. She volunteered at this festival for many years.
That year she came home and told me that young people were showing up with albums in their hands to get autographs from the members of The Sun Rhythm Section Band that was playing at the festival that year.
   Tennessee was the featured state that year.

Above is a sample of their kind of music.

Among the musicians in the Sun Rhythm Section were Paul Burlison, J. M. Van Eaton, Sonny Burgess and others that had played on many of the famous records made by Sam Phillips at The Sun Record Studios in Memphis in the 1950s.
   Here is some good information on the Sun Rhythm Section band.
And here is more on Paul Burlison.
Since I had seen an ad in the paper that Bob Dylan was to be in town to play a concert with The Greatful Dead and Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers I told her to keep an eye out for Bob since I felt certain he would show up to see The Sun Rhythm Section play.

On July the 5th 1986 I went down to the Festival and sat through 2 of the performances of The Sun Rhythm Section. They were all in their 50s by this time but they said they were rocking the 50s at 50.

I kept looking around for Bob to show up. He had a concert scheduled for the next day but I figured he would be in town a day early and would come down to see his early rock and roll heroes.

After the band had finished I walked back up the Mall.   I saw Bob and the people who were with him. I said "Hi Bob I am Joe B. Stewart. I met you in New Orleans at the Mardi Gras in 1964. Do you remember me?"
He stopped and turned around and said yes. We began a short conversation and then he asked where the Sun Rhythm band was playing. I told him they were finished for the day but would be playing at The Twist and Shout in Bethesda, Maryland that same night. He asked where Bethesda was.

Bob asked me if I was going to his concert the next day. I told him no but that my son was going.
He asked me why I was not going. I said because I didn't like those large stadiums like RFK in D.C.
He said he didnt either.
Note: The other reason I didn't want to go was that I planned to be back down on the Mall the next day listening to the Sun Rhythm Section. I would much rather hear the Sun Rhythm Section band play than The Greatful Dead and Tom Petty with Bob. And I did go back down to the Mall the next day July 6, 1986 and really enjoyed some good rocking 1950s style music while the Deadheads suffered in the heat at RFK.

I feel sure if he was free and not working he would have come back down to the Mall to hear the Sun Rhythm Section play again himself.

We walked over to the volunteer section of the Festival and sat at a picnic bench. I introduced him to my wife Rachel.
    Several people asked for his autograph and he said no.
  He also told one of his entourage to tell people not to take his picture. He told one of his men, "Go tell that guy it is 100 dollars to take my picture".
   The founder of the Festival was Ralph Rinzler(now deceased)walked up and said hello to Bob. He had known Bob in the early 1960's in Greenwich Village. Rinzler was a member of the folk group The Greenbriar Boys.
    Ralph asked Bob for some money to help restore Woody Guthrie's home in NY. Bob said "Tell me where to send the money. I will tell Bruce and Willie also".

About the Sun Rhythm Section Bob told me, "Have you got any idea how long I have waited to hear these guys". 
Bob Dylan did show up that night at the Twist and Shout in Bethesda, Maryland which was just a small dance hall in a local American Legion hall.
   Dylan sat off in a corner with his back to the wall. He kept a long table in front of him and one of his bodyguards kept people from approaching him. He also kept his black sunglasses on all the time staring straight ahead until the Sun Rhythm Section began their set. Bob got up and went right up front.
    After the set he asked to speak to the drummer J. M. Van Eaton. Bob asked him on what Jerry Lee Lewis records had he played and Van Eaton told him all the early hits.
Bob and J.M. Van Eaton had their picture taken together.
 Shortly after that Bob and his entourage left. I walked outside and saw them turning around in their long black limosine and off they went.

Note: The next year when the Sun Rhythm Section returned to The Twist And Shout J.M. Van Eaton was no longer with the band. Elvis's former drummer D.J. Fontana was now on drums.
I was told J.M. Van Eaton did not want to travel.

The next day(July 6, 1986) at RFK stadium Bob and the Greatful Dead and Tom Petty played for a large crowd. The temperature was around 105 degrees. Jerry Garcia passed out from heat exhaustion. Dylan's sound was terrible. No one could understand anything. After the show Bob Dylan fired that sound man or at least that is what I read in the newspaper.
Below is a link to some good descriptions of the show July 6 and July 7 at RFK stadium.
Below Paul Burlison takes us around Memphis and points out the sites from the old days(1950s).

Click on the label Bob Dylan below to read many more of my posts on Bob Dylan. One of them is my very first post on this blog. It is about meeting Bob Dylan at the Mardi Gras in New Orleans in 1964.
When I asked Bob in 1986 what he remembered about that Mardi Gras in 1964 he said, "The Greek Bars".
They were called the Acropolis and The Gin Mill. Both are now closed. They were located on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. See my post about that 1964 Mardi Gras to read more on those Greek Bars.