When I First Heard Dylan (a personal remembrance, by Samm Bennett)
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in New York's Greenwich Village, sitting at a corner table at the Cafe Whooo?, on my 17th cup of coffee, furiously scribbling the notes for my epic poem Upending the Redundant Conundrum, when the door swung open. The light from outside was momentarily blinding, but after a second we saw him there, a silhouette in the doorway, carrying his electric hot pink sousaphone. Somehow I knew this was the man who, 50 years later, would inspire a blog post about this moment.
He walked in like he owned the place. Went straight to the bar and ordered 4 bloody marys. Pete Seeger saddled up beside him and said, "you gonna play that horn boy, or just balance it on your nose while you tap dance?". Dylan shrugged, mumbled something about Leadbelly's younger sister, and downed three of the bloody marys.
Now, he was such a slight, wiry little guy, he could hardly hold that big pink horn. But he didn't let that stop him, no sir. He took
the stage with an air of confidence that belied his young age and, in his best 'just-blew-in-from-the-coal-country' voice, he announced: "My name is Bob Dylan, and I'm a-here to blow this pink sousaphone." It was then I noticed the message painted in sloppy letters on the bell of the horn: THIS MACHINE SLIGHTLY IRRITATES UNDECIDED VOTERS.
He started blowing, and immediately, the room was his. Peter, Paul and Mary were there, and Paul, upon hearing Dylan hit those low, flatulent notes so brilliantly, took his own sousaphone and threw it out the window. John Hammond, A&R man for Columbia records, stepped out of the shadows and quickly typed up a contract for a 5-record deal, folded it into a paper airplane, and sent it sailing
toward Dylan onstage. Dylan caught it, signed the contract and launched it back to Hammond, all without missing a note. Ten minutes later, Dylan left with my girlfriend, and I never saw either one of them again.
Upending the Redundant Conundrum remains unpublished.