Bob Dylan second recording session for “John Wesley Harding”

JW: John Wesley Harding – why did you call the album that?
BD: We… I called it that because I had that song John Wesley Harding. It didn’t mean anything to me. I called it that, Jann, ‘cause I had the song John Wesley Harding, which started out to be a long ballad. I was gonna write a ballad on… Like maybe one of those old cowboy… You know, a real long ballad. But in the middle of the second verse, I got
tired. I had a tune, and I didn’t want to waste the tune, it was a nice little melody, so I just wrote a quick third verse, and I recorded that. But it was a silly little song….
~Bob Dylan to Jann Wenner November 29, 1969

This quiet masterpiece, which manages to sound both authoritative and tentative (a mix that gave it a highly contemporary feel), is neither a rock nor a folk album—and certainly isn’t folk-rock. It isn’t categorisable at all.
~Michael Gray (BD Ecyclopedia)

45 years ago Bob Dylan entered Columbia Studio A, Nashville Tennessee tempting his second recording session for “John Wesley Harding”.

Some background from wikipedia:

Dylan went to work on John Wesley Harding in the fall of 1967. By then, 18 months had passed since the completion of Blonde on Blonde. After recovering from the worst of the results of his motorcycle accident, Dylan spent a substantial amount of time recording the informal basement sessions at West Saugerties, New York; little was heard from him throughout 1967. During that time, he stockpiled a large number of recordings, including many new compositions. He eventually submitted nearly all of them for copyright, but declined to include any of them in his next studio release (Dylan would not release any of those recordings to the commercial market until 1975′s The Basement Tapes; and by then, some of those recordings had been bootlegged, usually sourced from an easy-to-find set of publisher’s demos). Instead, Dylan used a different set of songs for John Wesley Harding.

It is not clear when these songs were actually written, but none of them has turned up in the dozens of basement recordings that have since surfaced. According to Robbie Robertson, “As I recall it was just on a kind of whim that Bob went down to Nashville. And there, with just a couple of guys, he put those songs down on tape.”

Those sessions took place in the autumn of 1967, requiring less than twelve hours over three stints in the studio.

Dylan brought to Nashville a set of songs similar to the feverish yet pithy compositions that came out of the Basement Tapes sessions. They would be given an austere sound sympathetic to their content. When Dylan arrived in Nashville, producer Bob Johnston:

“he was staying in the Ramada Inn down there, and he played me his songs and he suggested we just use bass and guitar and drums on the record. I said fine, but also suggested we add a steel guitar, which is how Pete Drake came to be on that record.”

Dylan was once again recording with a band, but the instrumentation was very sparse. During most of the recording, the rhythm section of drummer Kenneth A. Buttrey and bassist Charlie McCoy were the only ones supporting Dylan, who handled all harmonica, guitar, piano, and vocal parts.

“I didn’t intentionally come out with some kind of mellow sound……. I would have liked … more steel guitar, more piano. More music … I didn’t sit down and plan that sound.”
~Bob Dylan 1971

This album is no cheap thrill. It is, though, a most serious, darkly visionary exploration of the myths and extinct strengths of America; its Calvinist spirit gives it an eerie power in mixing the severely biblical with a surreal 19th century, American-pioneer ethos.
~Michael Gray (BD Ecyclopedia)

Studio A 
Columbia Recording Studios 
Nashville, Tennessee 
Novemver 6, 1967, 6 pm – 9 pm.

 Produced by Bob Johnston


  1. All Along The Watchtower
  2. All Along The Watchtower
  3. All Along The Watchtower
  4. All Along The Watchtower
  5. All Along The Watchtower (a splice of 3&5 released)

    There’s three kinds of ways. You write lyrics and try to find a melody. Or, if you come up with a melody, then you have to stuff the lyrics in there some kinda way. And then the third kind of a way is when they both come at the same time. Where it all comes in
    a blur: The words are the melody and the melody is the words. And that’s the ideal way for somebody, like myself to get going with something. All Along The Watchtower was that way. It leaped out in a very short time.
    ~Bob Dylan (to John Dolen – September 1995) 

  6. John Wesley Harding
  7. John Wesley Harding
    Jann Wenner: Why did you choose the name of the outlaw John Wesley Harding?
    Bob Dylan: Well, it fits in the tempo. Fits right in the tempo. Just what I had at hand.

  8. As I Went Out One Morning
  9. As I Went Out One Morning
  10. As I Went Out One Morning
  11. As I Went Out One Morning
  12. As I Went Out One Morning
    “As I went out one morning
    To breathe the air around Tom Paines
    I spied the fairest damsel
    That ever did walk in chains”
  13. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  14. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  15. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  16. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  17. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  18. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  19. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  20. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  21. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
  22. I Pity The Poor Immigrant
    [about the album JWH]…..Dylan comes across like a man who has arisen from armageddon unscathed but sobered, to walk across an allegorical American landscape of small, poor communities working a dusty, fierce terrain. The masterpieces within the masterpiece are ‘I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine’, ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and ‘I Pity the Poor Immigrant’.
    ~Michael Gray  (BD Encyclopedia)

  23. I Am A Lonesome Hobo
  24. I Am A Lonesome Hobo
  25. I Am A Lonesome Hobo
  26. I Am A Lonesome Hobo
  27. I Am A Lonesome Hobo
    “I am a lonesome hobo
    Without family or friends
    Where another man’s life might begin
    That’s exactly where mine ends
    I have tried my hand at bribery
    Blackmail and deceit
    And I’ve served time for ev’rything
    ’Cept beggin’ on the street”


  • Bob Dylan (vocal, guitar & harmonica),
  • Charlie McCoy (bass),
  • Kenneth Buttrey (drums).


  • 1, 4, 11, 13, 15, 19, 24  are false starts.
  • 10, 17, 18, 20, 21 are interrupted

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