From: Miss Information
To: atlas at edlis.org
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 2004
Subject: Re: atlas
BEFORE Woodstock the concert, there was Woodstock art colony. Then
came Woodstock the music mecca, where famous musicians and those who
wanted to get close to them flocked in the turbulent late 1960s and
A key figure connecting the latter two incarnations was Bob Dylan, who
took up residence in Woodstock in the early '60s as a modestly
successful folk musician writing songs in a room above a Tinker Street
cafˇ and left a decade later as a bona fide legend in a town whose
name was synonymous with the counterculture of the time.
IN HIS recently released memoir, "Chronicles," Dylan sums up his local
experience succinctly: "Early on, Woodstock was hospitable to us."
Unfortunately, the houses at Byrdcliffe and later on Ohayo Mountain
Road, where Dylan lived with his wife and children, soon became a
mecca for "dropouts and druggies," "moochers" and "goons," Dylan
writes, describing the unwelcome visitors who would show up at all
hours looking for a handout or some contact with their idol.
Things got so bad, Dylan writes, that he kept a pair of pistols and a
"blasting rifle" on hand, though he had been warned by local police
that he could be arrested for shooting the trespassers or sued if one
of them should take a fall while creeping over his roof.
GEORGE Quinn, who house-sat Dylan's Ohayo Mountain Road property as a
teenager in the early '70s, enjoyed having friends over to play on the
singer's grand piano and listen to the massive record collection, but
he was less enthralled with some unannounced visitors.
"It was this big, creaky old house, and I was sleeping in the big
brass bed from 'Lay Lady Lay,' and you'd just have these really
strange characters showing up at all hours - people who were not too
mentally stable, who were looking for Dylan," said Quinn, who still
lives in the area. "I would just try to talk to them and bring them
down to the Family (of Woodstock social services agency), which was
just getting started at that time. But this was going on even when I
was kid, 14 or 15, living with my parents. You'd have people stopping
by in the middle of the night looking for Dylan's house."
BEFORE Dylan exploded into superstardom, and Woodstock was transformed
from a quiet Ulster County art colony to a destination on the Hippie
Vagabond Trail, the young singer/songwriter lived in a room above Cafˇ
Espresso, later the Tinker Street Cafˇ and now the site of the Center
for Photography at Woodstock, courtesy of cafˇ owners Mary Lou and
"Back then, the town had 3,000 people year-round and 20,000 in the
summer," said Mrs. Paturel, who began booking folk music acts to drum
up off-season business. "In the winter, it was very quiet, and I think
(Dylan) liked the quietness of the place."
Mrs. Paturel, whose husband is no longer living, recalls Dylan as a
quiet and shy young man who would sheepishly ask permission to try out
new material on his hosts. In the winter of 1963-64, the space above
the cafˇ became the birthplace of songs that later would appear on the
album "Another Side of Bob Dylan," including "My Back Pages" and "It
Ain't Me Babe"
"We never thought of him as somebody really special," Mrs. Paturel
said. "He was just part of our lives. It's awesome when you think
about it in retrospect. ... But back then, he was just Bob Dylan who
stayed above the cafˇ."
DYLAN STILL was hanging around the Paturels' cafˇ in 1965 when,
according to fellow folk musician John Herald, the up-and-coming
singer became excited about a new song, "Like a Rolling Stone," which
soon would appear on "Highway 61 Revisited," the album that marked the
beginning of Dylan's move away from acoustic folk toward electrified
rock 'n' roll.
"He had just gotten an acetate of ('Like a Rolling Stone'), and he was
so excited he wanted everyone to hear it," said Herald, who got to
know Dylan in the early '60s when the two were regulars in the folk
clubs of Greenwich Village. "Anybody he knew who would pass by the
(Cafˇ) Espresso, he would run out and say, 'I've got this great new
song, it's going to be really big, you've got to hear it.' Then he
would take them inside and play it for them."
AS HE attained star status, according to filmmaker David McDonald, who
interviewed dozens of Woodstock old-timers for his unreleased
documentary "Woodstock ... Can't Get There From Here," Dylan became
surrounded by an entourage of hangers-on.
"Bob would walk into a room surrounded by 10 guys who were all his
best friend and very proud of it," McDonald said. "They wouldn't let
anybody else get close to (Dylan), so I think he became more and more
Mrs. Paturel, however, recalls Dylan as friendly - to a point. "He was
social, he was very open to people - as long as you didn't invade his
life or his privacy," she said.
IN 1966, as he was reaching the height of his fame, Dylan was
seriously injured in a motorcycle accident and began a period of
seclusion. The exact location and circumstances of the crash, however,
remains shrouded in mystery.
"That motorcycle crash is one of the great rock 'n' roll myths,"
McDonald said. "Nobody really knows what happened. Some people will
tell you he was really badly hurt, and some people will tell you that
he just didn't want to tour anymore, so he made that up."
Whatever the circumstances, the years after the alleged accident found
Dylan becoming increasingly reclusive as he retreated into domestic
life with his wife, Sara, and three children.
PHOTOGRAPHER Elliott Landy, who created some of the most memorable
images of the '60s rock scene, was invited to photograph Dylan at home
with his family in 1968. The resulting photos, published in Landy's
book "Woodstock Vision, The Spirit of a Generation," show another side
of the notoriously acerbic Dylan: as loving husband and doting father.
"He was very happy, in love with his lovely and gracious wife, Sara,
and with his family," writes Landy, who moved to Woodstock shortly
after the Dylan shoot and continues to live and work in the area. "He
was hiding from the world, savoring the magical experience of having
young children. That's why I didn't publish the pictures for many
years. He cherished his privacy and didn't want any media attention on
AT SOME point in the mid-1970s, Dylan moved out of Woodstock for good.
But by that time, at least in part due to his and manager Albert
Grossman's residency, the town had become a gathering place for some
of the biggest names in rock at the time, including Janis Joplin, Van
Morrison and Jimi Hendrix.
Quinn clearly recalls the arrival of the big names of the '60s
counterculture in the little town where a previous generation of folk
singers had lived a low-key existence centered around the art colony.
"The big turning point was when the rifle shop turned into a
psychedelic shop," Quinn said. "By '68, it had just mushroomed and you
started seeing some really famous people walking around town."
"Everybody was up there at one time or another," said McDonald, whose
film traces the origins of the 1969 Woodstock Festival - which
ultimately was held in the Sullivan County town of Bethel - to a
series of impromptu "Sound Outs" at a farm on Glasco Turnpike where
rock legends would jam out of the public eye.
"It was," he said, "like rock 'n' roll summer camp."