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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bob Dylan Story: Rare Footage in Indiana in 1981 (article)

I felt like I was pulled into a Dylanesque hallucinogenic state when I descended the stairs of the Red Mug Coffeehouse in Superior, Wisconsin on Saturday, May 2nd.   “The truth was obscure, too profound to be pure, to live it, you had to explode.”  There was a group of 30 or so early stage Boomers there (born in 1946-55). I was probably the younger of the spectrum of the era.   It was as close as you can get to a pre-Dylan Fest get together without overblown music and infinite dedications.  A man named Marc Percansky was about to debut his film to the Northland about his Doberman named Ruby.  The name of his film was called Ruby the dogumentary which explored topics about the fear of death and the love between humankind and their fellow dog companions.   He decided to be magically forward thinking by slipping in rare footage of Bob Dylan along with storytelling.
What grappled me was not the rare footage that Marc possessed of Bob Dylan that he was about to show, but the living story that Gene LaFond recalled about Bob Dylan before the live footage was shown.   Gene had been college friends with Larry Keegan, a lifelong friend of Bob Dylan’s, whom Dylan met at summer camp in Wisconsin at a place called Herzel when they were teens.   Gene and Larry had the privilege of seeing an average of three concerts a year over 15 years at Dylan’s gratuity.  Bob Dylan remembered his childhood friend.  Larry Kegan broke his neck in a swimming accident when he was 16 and Bob Dylan stood by his lifelong friend during the ordeal and their friendship never dissolved.  Gene LaFond briefly shared a story of how one time Larry wanted to go canoeing near Bob Dylan’s farm in the Twin Cities.  They forgot the wheelchair when it was time to pick him up at the other end of the river and Dylan and Gene had to maneuver getting Larry into the van while still in the canoe.   Dylan also slipped in the mud and was a sight to behold.  He was afraid neighbors would recognize him as he cut through private yards near the river to safely retrieve his friend.  Dylan later made shish-kabobs for the whole group near his home.  What I love about this story is that it broke the sacredness within me that I felt directly linked only to my reserved part of my soul that is Bob Dylan.  His words and lyrics flow through me.  I’ve had over 50 songs memorized since age 18 (1978).  I have never participated in a public reception honoring him.
I did see Dylan with the Grateful Dead in 1988 in Orange County, California.  My intimacy with the words of Bob Dylan go down to the roots of my transformative religious faith in the chemistry of my makeup.  Being in a setting with people of like minded devotion and appreciation of the human side of Bob Dylan could allow me to perceive a man who looked after his friends, whose history was not just a jaded cross cut pattern through the wilderness from New York, of the coattails of Arlo Guthrie to his Southern redemption in the albums of Slow Train Coming and Saved.  After Gene LaFond’s touching story, Marc Percansky showed live footage of Bob Dylan and Larry Kegan in Blues Brothers candor of repertoire beats performing “Do you think I am Saxy?” in Merrillville, Indiana in October of 1981.   Larry Kegan was borderline rapping and Dylan was passionate within his saxophone performance.  There were other musicians behind them.  The video captured the strength of the childhood friendship and their comradery.  While the band members played on, Dylan completed his sax solo and pushed Larry offstage in his wheelchair.  Dylan was a messenger of comfort.
I was grateful to learn about a part of Bob Dylan’s life I did not know.  I never held him to the standards that other Duluthians did by insisting he claim his roots.  I grew up in White Bear Lake, Minnesota and it was the album “Street Legal” that measured my wandering heart, especially the song “Where are you tonight?”  My cousin Toivo Rysman of Canyon, MN rode tricycles with Bob Dylan when they were 3 and 4 years old in Duluth.   I am not going to claim any more pieces of Bob Dylan than a fan can pretense to have.  In my eyes, he is a Judeo prophet that surfaces and educated the streets of America, breaking through the bondage of government servitude and enlightening the Age of Aquarius.  His obscurity is part of that possession.  In a basement somewhere in Superior, Wisconsin, people of my generation embrace that genius.  The light in his blue eyes, the way he holds himself, his form of expression that only he can give.  Knowing he had compassion to childhood friends completes my vision of him.  Thanks Gene LaFond for sharing your story.  Gene will be performing onstage at Sacred Heart on May 23rd for Dylan Fest.  He will also perform with Dylan’s former violinist of the Rolling Thunder/Desire era, Scarlett Rivera, on May 24, 2015 at the Claire Nelson Community Center in Finland, Minnesota as part of Dylan Fests.

Jane Hoffman
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  1. Great story. I was at the Merillville concert in 1981. It was a special evening of music. Dylan's tender cover of "We Just Disagree" was a gentle reply to those who rebuked him for embracing Christ and playing gospel. We howled with delight at the sight of Dylan on sax and Mr. Kegan on vocals for the unexpected encore of Chuck Berry's "No Money Down." Such a night.

    1. I meant to say, I am glad that you were at that concert. What a coincidence. To think my cousin grew up with Dylan. I wasn't born until 1960 so got not close up brushes with him but my mom's best friend sister lived kitty corner from his parents when she was a young bride and Dylan was still in high school.

  2. Thanks Mark. It means a lot to me that you took time to read this. It was published in May of 2015 in the Reader Weekly in Duluth.

  3. Dylan, a Jew, is bound in lineage to Christ.