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Brandeis recording of 1963 Bob Dylan concert found in music critic’s son’s basement

Published: October 22, 2010
Section: Features


Recording executive Jeff Gold recently discovered a hitherto unknown recording of a forgotten Bob Dylan performance at a music festival hosted by Brandeis in 1963.

He discovered the tracks while sorting through the basement of the family home of Toby Gleason, the son of Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Ralph J. Gleason.

The elder Gleason was the first ever full-time pop/jazz music critic and one of the first in the music world to recognize Dylan’s talents.

Gleason’s archives, that were described in Gold’s blog as a vast collection of “records, magazines, newspapers, posters, press materials and all kinds of ephemera,” were kept in the Gleason home after his death in 1975, with the exception of a few pieces offered to special buyers—including Gold.

However, after the death of his wife in 2009, a decision was made by Gleason’s estate to sell his home and offer up the archives for sale. While sorting through these archives with Toby Gleason, Gold discovered the forgotten recordings.

In his blog post about the discovery of the tapes, Gold said: “While sorting through, one was labeled only ‘Dylan Brandeis’ in light pencil on the edge of the box. We ‘put it up’ on the machine, the playback started, and I was blown away. Superb quality–obviously professionally recorded–early Dylan, singing and playing wonderfully. And a recording I’d never heard of–and was pretty sure was unknown (which it was.)”

The concert took place in the Ullman Amphitheater on May 10, 1963; a preview of the concert was reported in the April 30, 1963, edition of the Justice:

“Friday evening will again feature two events: the Poses Symposium on Contemporary Art and Criticism, and the opening concert of the Brandeis Folk Festival. Both events are set for 8:30: the latter, which will be held outdoors in the Ullman Amphitheater, or in the Shapiro Athletic Center in case of rain, will feature the following performers: Bob Dylan, one of the new and most exciting blues performers; Jean Redpath, foremost singer of Scottish ballads, Don Stover and the Lilly Brothers from West Virginia and Boston’s Hillbilly Ranch; Jesse Fuller, who described himself as ‘the last great vaudeville artist’ and who delighted an audience at Cholmondeley’s in October; and the silver leaf Gospel Singers.”

The Ullman Amphitheater used to exist in the area between the new Shapiro Science Center and the Bernstein-Marcus administrative complex. It was the former site of Brandeis’ graduations until the early 1990s, when the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center replaced it.

Dylan’s set list at the performance included “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” “Masters of War,” “Talkin’ World War Three Blues,” “Bob Dylan’s Dream,” “Talkin’ Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues” and an incomplete recording of “Honey Just Allow Me One More Chance.”

Currently, the only way to obtain the new tracks is to advance purchase the Dylan Bootleg Series Vol. 9 or The Original Mono Recordings before this Tuesday on Amazon.com.

Professor David Hackett Fischer (HIST) was teaching at Brandeis in 1963 at the time of Dylan’s concert. Though he doesn’t remember the event—he was “very busy with [his] young family, and preparing to welcome [his] second child, Annie, who would be born in the summer of ’63” —he has “been fascinated to read about the rediscovery of the folk concert.”

He remembers that this type of music festival “was typical of Brandeis in those days” when “the campus community was much smaller than today, but enormously dynamic and overflowing with creative energy.”

Though he happily reminisces about his early days at Brandeis, he also reminds us, “Brandeis rocked in ’63! We shouldn’t be overcome with nostalgia about all that. Those were great and good and happy days, but the best of Brandeis is yet to be.”