Here's PART TWO of HEY HEY WOODY GUTHRIE, AH WROTE YOU A SONG by Toby Thompson (from _US_, a Bantam Book published October 1969) *** Echo and I are enjoying our second Grain Belt Premium Beer in Jolly Rodger Cafe, down at the east end of Howard Street. Old miners with Pow-r-House Blue Denim Engineer's caps, heavy olive- drab jackets, and high top boots are drinking and talking in hoarse roars. The Wilburn Brothers pick a lively number from the half-converted nickelodeon in the corner; there's a pool game going on just this side of the bar; and the cussing of two old timers at a back room card table periodically knifes through the din. Echo tosses her long blonde hair, takes a bite from her hot dog and a pull of her beer: "Bob and I loved to eat hot dogs, not like this one, ugh, but like we used to get out on the road to my house. At the A&W Rootbeer stand. He'd always make me buy him hot dogs. With mustard and relish. He'd say, 'Please Echo, please, I'm STARVING' and we'd have to stop. He never seemed to have any money. So *I* usually bought the hot dogs. He'd give me a bite. It was the same thing the one or two times I saw him in Minneapolis. I can remember having to buy him turkey and peanut butter sandwiches at the Scholar. Oof! Didn't want a bit of those! "We'd pull into the Hibbing Rootbeer stand on Bob's motorcycle when the weather was warm. One time, just outside my house on the old service road, he tried to teach me to ride it. He told me all about the controls, started it up and set me on board. Only trouble was my feet weren't long enough to reach the ground. But I didn't realize that until I'd already taken off. I made about twenty yards in first gear and thought I'd better practice stopping before I went any further, so I tried to put on the brakes; but something went wrong and the engine started revving and I hit a post or a tree and went head over heels. The motorcycle fell over and the rear wheel went crazy with sparks flying and gravel...Bob stood there with his mouth open and his eyes real big, not believing it." Up at the bar, an old fellow in a worn hunting vest and dayglo- red deer cap suddenly explodes into a fit of the blackest rage, damning and threatening some invisible foe directly to our left. One or two of the old timer's barmates looked casually up, returning quietly to their beers. I can feel Echo move a little closer beside me in our booth. "That sort of thing used to happen all the TIME up here," Echo shudders, her hand on my arm. "These old miners, some of them don't have much brains left. I'd be so GLAD when Bob was there." *** (in bold letters) "Well, this is 4th Street," Ellen Baker informs me, as she shifts her big Citroen into the incoming turn. "Whether or not this 4th Street is 'positively' the one, who can say? Everyone here in Dinkytown thought their main drag was the one Bob sings about, though. It makes sense. Dinkytown is the student neighborhood, where everyone Bob hung around with stayed: the old folk people, the University crud. The Scholar and Bastille coffee houses were here too." "What about drugs? Any drugs when Bob was here?" "Sure, there have always been drugs around. But Bob never indulged. Not when I knew him. Drugs were associated with hoods in black leather jackets, who wore motorcycles and listened to rock and roll. The folk set wouldn't have anything to do with that. It just wasn't 'Dinkytown.' I can remember Bob seeing somebody he didn't know at a party or someplace, a girl usually, and saying things like, "Never saw HER around Dinkytown before.' That was the criterion. Had to be from Dinkytown." Ellen parks her car behind a variety shop, and we stroll out onto 4th Street, past student-quarter tobacco and leather shops, a Baskin-Robbins ice cream parlor, Gray's Drugstore, where Bob and Ellen used to sip sodas. The College Hotel, where Echo has told me she spent a two-week post-graduate spree, and...a brand new Burger Chef on the site of the old Ten-O-Clock Scholar, where Bob gave his first coffee house performances. Kids are hustling up the street; there's music playing from a record store near a busy railroad overpass, people are buying Burger Chef burgers by the bagful, ice cream cones in the afternoon. No sadness, no Hibbing regrets; just cars and students and noise and not a harmonica in sight. We make our way back to Ellen's car, and swing out of the parking lot towards the center of town. We drive along in silence, past fraternity houses alive with touch football, down streets canopied with trees, finally pulling to the side of the road in front of a shabby complex of light green houses. "Now right there, 711 15th Street, that row house...Bob lived there for a while with a couple of his friends. Hugh Brown and a terrible boy named Dirty Max. Absolutely horrible. I wouldn't even go over there unless I had to. But one day, for some reason or another, I was waiting there for Bob, when Dirty Max screamed down from the bathroom, 'Hey Ellen, come scrub my back.' Well, it wasn't every day a girl got to scrub a back like Dirty Max's, so I went on up. That was a real experience! Bob and I just howled...Dirty Max isn't in town any more. Neither is Hugh Brown. I guess there aren't too many of us left." *** Back on Howard Street, Echo does a suspicious looking hop, and pulls me to a halt. "Did I tell you about the song I wrote the other day? After you called and said you were coming back out to Minnesota?" "You sure didn't. Let's hear it." "Oh there's no music...except that I thought it could be played like one of Bob's old talking blues." "Recite it then, for godsake." "Well, I was thinking maybe we could record it, you know, make a tape and try to send it to Bob. Just for a joke. You play the guitar, don't you?" "Yep, and the harmonica. Regular old Bobby Die-lan. Got my guitar in the car, as a matter of fact." "Let's do it!" So, I hike back to the car, pick up my instruments. Echo turns on her north country smile, and we con Joe Hyduke at Team Electronics (one of Zimmerman's old competitors) into setting up a miniature recording studio, four track stereo, monitors...right there in front of the store. Joe is incredulous! Two blond crazies, one playing this corny country guitar with a harmonica- chunking along at the same time, and the other bouncing around and warbling in a little-girl voice: First you come around with your singing and dancing wild hair waving, and fancy-pantsing, and you want to be seen! So the people came from miles around just to see you smile and laugh and frown, like a crazy clown, with your hair hanging down! Now you've left town. Don't want nobody hanging round. You wanna hide, won't go outside, don't go outside, don't make the scene, you don't wanna be seen. I think you're mean! "That's great! Bob would really get a kick out of that!" "It's AMAZING how much you sound like him." *** (bold letters) Barry Bershow is escorting Ellen Baker and me into the new chapter house of Sigma Alpha Mu, the University of Minnesota's fraternity where Bob lived for a quarter of his freshman year. "We can look in the old scrapbooks, 1959 and 60, but I don't think we'll find much. There are some pictures of the old house, but none of Dylan. He wasn't here long enough. He left after a couple of months, quit his pledging. Wanted to be alone with his magic, I guess. Folksingers don't seem to like fraternity life a whole lot anyway." "Tell him to call Lenny Levine," a voice bellows from upstairs, "He pledged the same year as Dylan. He'd know all about him." Barry gives Ellen and me a half-disgusted shake of his head, and continues to leaf through three huge scrapbooks. There are hundreds of pictures...of Polynesian weekends, homecoming floats, the old house flooded for a party, with a waterfall roaring down the stairs into a pond full of live turtles and fish...but not even a pledge class shot of Bob. "Tell him to call Lenny Levine. Lenny the shit." Barry snaps the last of the scrapbooks shut, apologizing for not being more help. I notice an ancient piano crowded into one corner of Sigma Alpha Mu's sun porch, however, and ask if it is the same one that was at the old house. "It sure is," Barry answers, "I never even thought about that before" as I'm shooing Brothers out of the way, checking the light, and setting up a classic, moody photo. One shot and my shutter jams...Me cussing, Barry Bershow and the guys still rapping..."That's gotta be the ugliest piano going, our piano...do you really think Dylan played it?" *** After a thirty minute telephone conversation ("Why don't you journalists stop TORTURING this boy") which makes me feel like Lucifer sneaky and ground hog low, Bob Dylan's Mother has consented to meet me for a mid-afternoon snack. I'm to pick her up at Feldman's Department Store, where she works irregularly as a salesclerk. I've deposited Echo at her parents' house a mile or so from town, and the restless, hungry feeling gnawing my novice reporter's insides don't mean no part of me no good. From Bob Dylan's girl friend to his mother, in one terribly complicated lesson. Yes, Mrs. Zimmerman (sure, Mom), I'd love to meet you for lunch. "You're up here with Echo, aren't you?" (No, mom, HONEST. I haven't done anything wrong...pick you up at work?) Ah, Sweet Jesus-of-the-mines, deliver me from the existential metaphysics of my workaday sins. Mrs. Zimmerman hasn't granted an interview since 1963, when TIME and NEWSWEEK did hatchet jobs on Bob, his music, AND his background. Somehow, though, I've managed to convince her over the phone that I'm not really an ogre. Echo's told me to be "sure and mention that Jewish fellow's name RIGHT OFF, what is it, Goldstine?" but her advice is meager solace as I trudge on down Harvard Street. Feldman's two-story building looks like some witness stand in the distance. At the big glass door, the better part of valor nearly gains the upper hand...but then I'm inside, smack dab in the center of the Ladies' Department, dresses and scarfs and racks and cash registers and Mrs. Zimmerman smiling and shaking my hand, more attractive than I'd ever imagined and friendly as can be! She suggests that I hurry next door to the Howard Restaurant and grab a booth, assuring me that she'll be over directly. I offer meek assent, floating back out the door in a cloud of deepest awe at the responsibility of my task. I am successful, and Mrs. Zimmerman joins me in a short five minutes. Under a Florida tan and a glamorous head of blonde hair, she is a dead ringer for Bob! It's positively spooky. She even has the same accent; and her eyes could belong to no one else but Bob Dylan's Mother. She doesn't wish to be quoted, "except to say that I couldn't be prouder of both my sons," and then proceeds to talk about Bob non-stop for over an hour. But I am lucky. Most of the things she says are of Bob's life now, and of no real concern to a Robert Zimmerman fan. But she recalls how she and her husband were besieged for years at the old house by pilgrims and well- wishers; how reporters still call her from all over the country to ask such trivia as the hour of Bob's birth; how she can't even mention her name at a party in another town without people virtually forming a receiving line to ask about Bob. People stop at our table every couple of minutes, shaking Mrs. Zimmerman's hand and asking about Florida, or bussing her in big welcome home hugs. But no one asks about Bob here; this is Mrs. Zimmerman's show. She goes on to quietly explode many of the old myths about Bob having run away and not keeping in touch after he finally DID leave home at nineteen and one-half; about the evolution of the name 'Dylan' (of course it was after Dylan Thomas. Bob had no family name even remotely similar.) Our hamburgers and several cups of coffee finished, my ears ringing with tales of the great man too numerous and terrifyingly close to home ever to see the printed page. Mrs. Zimmerman signals our waitress and insists on picking up the check. I thank her perhaps too much and we make our way back to the sidewalk reality of afternoon Hibbing. I shake hands and say goodbye at Feldman's big front door, thanking her again and promising to send a copy of whatever I write...and she is gone, disappearing into the least assuming building in town. *** (bold letters) Back outside of Sigma Alpha Mu's chapter house, Ellen takes me past a grassy lawn in front of a University building, where she and Bob used to sunbathe in Minnesota's late- spring relief from winter. "Bob and I would spread out on the grass here on those rare warm afternoons and watch people go by. Bob used to love to do that, just watch people, imagining. Especially girls. He'd lie on his stomach with his blue eyes twice normal size, until we had to go to class. Or until I had to go to class. Usually I'd leave Bob lying there on his stomach, still staring. "Bob was funny about girls. At first he seemed very shy, sort of scared, but it didn't take long before you noticed a good deal of that was an act. Bob was surprisingly amorous. And undiscriminating! He's see a girl on the street or at a party, and it didn't matter what she looked like or who she was with, if he was in that mood. "Bob and I weren't that way, and it bothered him a lot. Gradually, he started coming over to dinner less and less, and we'd run into each other by accident on the street, say hello...Later, when we'd stopped seeing one another altogether and I'd heard he'd actually gone East, I wa surprised. But not worried. I knew that little-boy helplessness of his wouldn't desert him in New York. He'd survive." "Have you seen Bob since he left college; since he's become famous?" "Uh-huh, twice, both times here in Minneapolis. The first was down by the river, a couple of years after he'd gone East. Joan Baez was in town for a concert at the University, and I had no idea Bob was back. But my husband and I were strolling along that afternoon, and here come Bob and Joan Baez on bicycles. They stopped to say hello, but Bob was sort of abrupt. The other time, Bob was here for a concert and a bunch of us went backstage. He didn't have much to say that night either. "It was funny the way I found out he'd made a record, too. I was in Cambridge, Massachusetts visiting my husband, oh, about a year and a half after Bob left Minnesota, and I was in some club that was so small it didn't even have a john. You had to go upstairs through a record store. Anyway, I was on my way to the john through this stop when I spied Bob's record. It was taped up in the window, staring right at me. I can remember stopping and saying to myself, wait a minute! I know that fellow! And then, after I'd bought the record and seen the liner notes, thinking, 'well, Robert! You've made it after all." *** Sunday after noon suppers for Echo's family in Hibbing haven't changed much since she was a little girl. Weather permitting, parents, in-laws, grandparents, and grandchildren all gather outside Matt and Martha Helstrom's house, cut themselves long sticks for roasting wieners and huddle around a big outdoor fireplace. The conversation is of game, children, the constantly changing weather, or any great northern pike that might have been landed. At four o'clock in the afternoon the moon has already risen, pale and icy in the north country sky. Matt Helstrom has killed two bears no more than thirty yards from his front door in the years he has lived here outside of Hibbing, and the hides are nailed skin-up on an old tractor shed out back. Inside, Matt Helstrom is running movies he's made this past winter of deer feeding on hay and grass piled up on deep snow by concerned villagers. Ten or twelve deer spring up from their feeding and race down the service road behind Echo's house. A hand-held camera follows them through the windshield of Matt Helstrom's station wagon, on down the road, and into a distant woods. White tails and hoofs kicking up snow through the brush. Lights come on, conversation resumes, and Echo's mother emerges from the basement with an armful of old 78's. She spreads them out on a sofa, and I browse through a few--some with "Echo Helstrom" taped to the labels. Yes, Bob and Echo had listened to records together here at the Helstrom's. Probably to some of the ones I'm holding in my hand. Mrs. Helstrom puts on several, well-worn but still playable: Spade Cooley's "Detour," Cowboy Copas' "Candy Kisses", Pee Wee King and his Golden West Cowboys, Eddie Arnold, Hank Snow..."That Hank Snow song there, 'Prisoner of Love.' Bob used to sing like that, talk-singing. He'd play a couple of verses with his friend John Bucklen, and then go into the talking. He'd make up songs that way, too. Some situation would pop into his head and he'd build on it, going for the longest time! I don't think he ever wrote those songs down though; they were just fun when he'd make them up on the spur of the moment. "I wish I had some old picture of Bob, but I don't think--but wait! There ARE some old pictures in my yearbooks! Why didn't I think of that before? Let me look." Echo disappears for a moment into a bedroom, returning with two dark green *HEMATITES*. the first is from Bob and Echo's senior year, 1958-59. They had broken up by then, and the picture of Bob is a chubby Elvis Presley pose, with just the hint of a smirk on his shiny lips. The second *HEMATITE* is the 1957-58 edition, Bob and Echo's eleventh grade year, when they were still going steady. This picture is a little more like it--Bob's curly hair is mussed in a familiar fashion, his face is thinner, and a grimace of startling intensity leaps out from the page. "Look at that face!" Echo whistles, "Boy, Bob must have REALLY been mad that day." A decrepit recording of Carson Robinson's "Ohio Prison Fire" suddenly flips on, diverting Echo's attention. "Oh listen to THIS one, Toby. This has got to be one of the earliest of those modern-type protest songs; I can't remember whether or not Bob ever heard it, but isn't it like him?" I pay strict attention to the mournful tale of an entire prison gutted by fire--a fire that took the life of every man still locked in his cell, and apparently due to over-crowding and negligence on the part of the guards. The song could easily have appeared on "The Times They Are A-Changin." "These old records were interesting, even in those days, but mostly Bob played his own music. Not stuff he'd written but things from the radio. He'd sit out front there on that swing and play his guitar, or perch on some old stone steps that used to lead up to our front door. He'd sit and play, alone or with John Bucklen, and I'd be the audience. The songs he'd play then weren't band songs, but quiet ones, sort of country, like what we've been listening to." Echo's swaying slowly back and forth on Bob's old swing, draggin a toe in dirt not toyed with for some years. Another Hank Snow record scratches and clicks into action on Mrs. Helstrom's Victrola, and the sound of muffled guitars and fiddles drifts out of the yard and up towards Maple Hill. The song ends, and Echo's mother is calling to us from a window. She's found something special. One of Bobby's songs she'd forgotten she'd bought. Echo fumbles with the 45 spindle, dusts off the old needle, and-- "Chimes of Freedom", done in Byrds- electric fashion by a group called The Bad Omens. Mrs. Helstrom smiles her big Swedish smile and does a little bounce. Echo sits down on the day bed, slouching to the rhythm. I listen and watch. The B side is another old song, "He Was a Friend of Mine." ------------------ NOTE: Toby Thompson is working on a book about Bob Dylan, but he never met the man or any of his acquaintances until a chance phone call led him to Dylan's uncle. One the strength of that brief conversation, Toby drove from his home in Maryland to Hibbing, Minn., where Dylan spent most of his youth. What he found on that trip appeared last spring in *The Village Voice*. We sent him back to Hibbing for another look around. -------------------------------------------------------------- Marguerita's note: anybody know if Toby actually DID write a book? what happened to him????????