BOB DYLAN in Nashville

by Charlie McCoy

(from the magazine Hit Parader, Oct. 1966)
When Dylan first came into Nashville, I already knew him from New York where I played on his "Highway 61" album. I already knew what he was like but the Nashville guys were wondering what everything was gonna be like. When he first came in he had his manager, Al Grossman, and his organ player, Al Kooper. Everybody was introduced and he asked us if we'd mind waiting a while. They had stopped at an airport in Richmond, and he didn't have a chance to finish his material. He asked us if we'd mind waiting a minute while he worked on a song.

So we all went out and let him have the studio to himself. He ended up staying in there working on that song for six hours. He sat at one table and never got up for six hours and worked on that one song. He finally told us to come in and we cut it. It turned out to be 14 minutes long. The name of the song was "Sad Eyed Lady of the Low Lands." It was a great song.

The whole session followed a pattern like that. We'd go outside for a long time while he worked on a song, then we'd come back and record it.

I don't believe I've ever seen anybody that had so much concentration and is so serious. When Dylan is in the studio, everything is strictly business. But it's a lot of fun, too, because he takes suggestions from everybody. He has a definite idea of what he wants before he comes in there and he works real hard till he gets it.

Al Kooper played organ and several Nashville people who played were Kenneth Butrey, drummer; Henry Straleki played bass; Joe South played guitar; Wayne Moss played guitar; Mack Gayden played guitar; Hargus (Pig) Robbins played piano.

The second time Dylan came in he brought his own guitar player with him - Robby Robertson - who by the way is one of the best blues guitar players I've ever heard in my life. He's from Toronto.

The first time we did about 6 sides over a period of 3 days. The next time he came in, we did 6 or 7 more. Some of the things were very long and they said at Columbia it was so good they were going to put out a double record album.

Dylan also came in with Bob Johnston, who is his producer and he's worked with people like Simon & Garfunkel, The Pozo Seco Singers whom he's recorded in Nashville, and Patti Page. He's got about four things he's produced in the top 100 now. He's probably the hottest A&R man in the business.

Johnston had been around Nashville before he went to New York. When he went to New York, he talked Dylan's ear off and finally got him to come to Nashville.

A lot of people have weird feelings about coming to Nashville because we have a reputation as being a country recording center. But Dylan made the statement after he finished that he'd probably cut everything he did down here from now on. That made us feel real happy and it also shows we cut a lot more than country things here.

The night we cut "Rainy Day Women" Dylan said he wanted to get kind of a salvation army sound so they asked me if I could find a slide trombone player. I said, "yeah I've got one in my band, Wayne Butler." So I called him and asked him if he could be over to the studio by midnight. He came over and 17 minutes after we sent him home because we finished the thing. Actually, what had happened, we did it in one take and it was so great we let it stay the way it was.

The overall view of Dylan from all the Nashville musicians was, we were very impressed. He was one of the hardest working people we ever saw. He knows exactly what he wants, comes in and he gets it. He's great to work with, a lot of fun, he's open-minded and accepts all suggestions. I'd also like to say, I got to play harp on one song with him and it was probably one of the great achievements of my life.

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