My favourite bootleg from 1969: The Dylan / Cash sessions
[Bob Dylan]…the greatest writer of our times
– Johnny Cash (introducing “Wanted Man” on the album “At San Quentin”)
“I was deeply into folk music in the early 1960s, both the authentic songs from various periods and areas of American life and the new ‘folk revival’ songs of the time, so I took note of Bob Dylan as soon as the Bob Dylan album came out in early ’62 and listened almost constantly to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in ’63. I had a portable record player I’d take along on the road, and I’d put on Freewheelin’ backstage, then go out and do my show, then listen again as soon as I came off.”
– Johnny Cash (Cash, autobiography)
..Johnny was and is the North Star; you could guide your ship by him – the greatest of the greats then and now. I first met him in ‘62 or ‘63 and saw him a lot in those years. Not so much recently, but in some kind of way he was with me more than people I see every day.
– Bob Dylan (Statement on Johnny Cash – Sept 2003)
“Of course, I knew of him before he ever heard of me, In ’55 or ’56. ‘I Walk the Line’ played all summer on the radio, and it was different than anything else you had ever heard. The record sounded like a voice from the middle of the Earth. It was so powerful and moving.”
– Bob Dylan
They recorded together at the CBS studios, Nashville, TN February 17-18, 1969, and it resulted in my favourite Bob Dylan (and Johnny Cash bootleg from 1969), The Dylan / Cash Sessions. It was released in 1994 and re-released in 2004.
The background story goes something like this:
Johnny Cash wrote the young Bob Dylan a letter, and they began writing back and forth. They met at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and Cash gave Bob Dylan his guitar (This is a Country Music Tradition and is seen as a gesture of great respect and admiration).
When Bob Dylan was in Nashville recording his ninth studio album, Nashville Skyline, Johnny Cash was recording in the next door studio. Cash joined Dylan at the end of the sessions. On February 17 and 18, 1969, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan laid down 15 tracks (that we know of). Only one, Girl From the North Country, was included on Nashville Skyline.
This is a bootleg of historic significance and a great recording. It is a document of two giants recording together, and even if it’s a bit loose and “hit and miss”, it is a joy to listen to. It’s a must have.
Other entries in this series:
My Favourite Bob Dylan bootleg from 1962: The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Outtakes
My Favourite Bob Dylan bootleg from 2011: Funen Village, Odense, Denmark June 27
My Favourite Bob Dylan bootleg from 2012: The Day of Wine and Roses, Barolo, Italy July 16