Friend of Bob from way back when, in Hibbing, MN. The earliest circulating Dylan recording is of these two playing together.
Subject: John Bucklen tape -- longer version circulating? From: email@example.com Date: Tue, 07 September 1999 11:55 AM EDT In his recent book "Flowers In The Dustbin," onetime Newsweek music writer James Miller notes that the surviving Dylan home recordings from 1958 include a version of "Robert and Johnny's dreamy 'We Belong Together.'" This song doesn't match any list for the Bucklen tape fragments that I've seen, unless it's an alternate title for "Buzz Buzz Buzz." Miller isn't clear about his source for the information, but implies he heard it on a version of the "Highway 61 Revisited" TV documentary that Griel Marcus played for him. Can anybody shed any light on this. For that matter, can somebody identify "Robert and Johnny" for me [and Miller was not referring to Dylan and Bucklen here]? On 08 Sep 1999 01:28:37 GMT, in rec.music.dylan firstname.lastname@example.org (Shiphour) wrote: Robert Carr and Johnny Mitchell were two kids from the Bronx who signed with the Old Town record label in 1955. As Robert and Johnny, they hit #32 on the charts with "We Belong Together" in March 1958--just in time for Bob and John to hear it on the radio and decide to imitate it. Sept 2006: John Bucklen of Lomira sits back in the production room at the KFIZ radio studios and offices, 254 Winnebago Drive, Fond du Lac. After growing up together, Lomira's John Bucklen and Bob Dylan went their separate ways By Sharon Roznik That's what Dylan called John Bucklen of Lomira when they last met up. It was 1989, again in Madison. Bucklen had a backstage pass and two daughters in tow. "I've known this guy longer than I've known anyone," Bob told his crew after bear-hugging Bucklen. These days Bucklen, now 64, said he'd like to talk to Dylan about his new satellite radio show on XM ("Theme Time Radio Hour with your Host Bob Dylan"). "I like it. Bob plays stuff like Judy Garland, Lightning Hopkins· it's an ambience from those times," Bucklen said. It's something they have in common. Bucklen, who spent 35 years in radio, hosts a Sunday morning show at KFIZ in Fond du Lac that plays "middle-of-the-road" music. The story of the two young friends parting ways in November 1960 is the stuff dreams, and fate, are made of. Bobby Zimmerman, as Bucklen knew his now-famous friend, had plans to hitchhike to New York in a snowstorm to see Woody Guthrie. He asked his pal to join him. "I told him I'd pass and I went and joined the Air Force. I liked airplanes," Bucklen said. All it took was a visit to Hibbing, Minn., where the two friends grew up. Both have described the iron-mining community as bleak and cold, riddled with unemployment and alcoholism, yet politically-charged with liberal views that backed the unions and the worker. "I first remember seeing Bob at Alice Grade School. He was a neatly dressed little kid about seven months older (than me)," Bucklen said. Their first real encounter occurred in junior high school. A bunch of kids were walking down the street together and the then Bobby Zimmerman egged on a young Bucklen, asking him to sing. "I kept on singing until I realized everyone was laughing and he was making fun of me," Bucklen said. A love of the new sounds coming out of the radio, and the feeling of being an outsider drew the two teenagers together at Hibbing High School. While the general populace was listening to country western and polka, Dylan was bringing home records from a store in Minneapolis that "blew them away," Bucklen said. "It was 1957 and I bought a $15 radio, on time, from Wards. AM radio was pretty lively at night - Led Belly, Ray Charles, Muddy Waters, the black quartets singing doo-wop. We came to the conclusion we were the cool ones and so were black people," Bucklen said. As Dylan fooled around on piano, Bucklen sat beside him, humming along. The two bantering back and forth, Bucklen pretending he was a country-western fan and Dylan, a rhythm and blues buff. "That's why I took up guitar. I had these fantasies, but Bob, in the depth of his soul, was serious about it," Bucklen said. "Looking back, I didn't have the inner fortitude to carry it through." While Bucklen was practicing, Dylan formed a band with friends Leroy Hoikkala and Monty Edwardson and played pop songs. At one point, the music legend did "some weird things," Bucklen recalled, like telling everyone he was Bobby Lee, a new crooner at the time famous for a hit single called "Susie." "That's an example of the way he was sometimes. He had a plan and created this image completely separate from Bob Zimmerman," Bucklen said. Dylan went off to the University of Minnesota, grew his hair long and listened to Odetta. He preferred playing at local coffee houses to going to school. Bucklen, who was living in St. Paul, remembers that time as the birth of the beat generation. "You could see before you everything that would come to fruition in the late 1960s," Bucklen said. "I didn't become a part of it, but I agreed with the philosophy." In 1964, while stationed in England, Bucklen saw his friend perform at the Royal Festival Hall in London. "The place was all dark and Bob was doing a sound check when I walked in before the concert. He hugged me. It was a mind-blowing experience. I saw big, burly guys sobbing when he sang," he recalled. Today, when he thinks of the Zimmerman family, Bucklen is reminded of the kindness of Bob's mom, Betty, and how she impacted his life. "My dad worked for the mining company and was injured when two trains collided. He never worked again. There wasn't welfare at the time, but my mom sewed, so Betty made sure all the Jewish people living in the community brought their sewing to my mom," Bucklen said. Retired from full-time radio, Bucklen works for Mayville Engineering. His family includes wife Gracie, daughters Amy and Jennifer and son Benjamin. "I enjoyed being a disc jockey but it's lousy pay and too much politics," he said. It was his mom that saved the tapes of the two teenage friends just "joking around." Dylan's singing and playing are just bits and pieces scattered throughout 10 separate reel-to-reel tapes. "I know Bob wants them. I've been in contact with his manager," Bucklen said. He considers growing up in Hibbing with Bobby Zimmerman a fascinating experience. He is still trying to understand the power and presence of the man who calls himself Bob Dylan. "How does something like this happen to some people?" he asked. The Reporter email@example.com