I love collecting letters and documents that help tell the story of popular music, and thought I'd start posting a few of my favorites.  I buy this kind of thing whenever I can, keeping those that interest me most, donating the rest to archives that will preserve and share them--most often, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (which is opening their Library and Archives on April 9.) Here are two great ones, both with some insightful Bob Dylan content.

 The first was sent by folk singer Malvina Reynolds (best known for her song "Little Boxes") to San Francisco Chronicle music critic and Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Ralph J. Gleason, on May 23, 1963.  Written in response to what must have been a negative review of the Monterey Folk Festival, she notes "There were some good things at the Monterey Folk Festival--you must have missed them, or they didn't appeal to you anyway.  A young fellow by the name of Stewart Clay, with a home made railroad song; a girl named Janis Joplin, square built, impassive, singing blues in a high, skin-prickling voice like a flamenco woman; Bob Dylan, and some others."  She goes on to argue that Gleason missed the point of the festival, ending "When thousands of kids are doing something with diligence and devotion, there are going to be some geniuses amongst them--it figures mathematically.  And something is coming of this.  Bob Dylan is a sign."

Boy, did she ever get that right.  At the time this was written, Janis Joplin was (forgive me) a complete unknown; she didn't move to San Francisco and join Big Brother & The Holding Company for another three years.  I can't imagine this wasn't her first trip West.  And Dylan's May 18 Monterey spot was his first West Coast appearance; according to Clinton Heylin's excellent "Bob Dylan: Life In Stolen Moments" Dylan drove to Monterey with Elektra Records founder Jac Holzman and producer Jim Dickson; performing 3 songs at the Festival; almost surely "Talkin' John Birch Society Blues," "Masters of War" and "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," then dueting with Joan Baez on "With God On Our Side."  Remember, this was 9 days before the release of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan." He too was almost completely unknown, and for Reynolds to invoke the genius-word was pretty prescient--and daring, indeed.

While I haven't yet found Gleason's review of the Festival, he later wrote that at first he didn't get Dylan, thinking him a Woody Guthrie wanna-be.  But very soon after this was letter was written, Gleason embraced Dylan in a very big and public way, becoming a friend, confidant and very vocal and important early supporter.

The second letter was also written to Ralph Gleason, this one on a "Monday evening" in December, 1965, from an unknown "Donna."  She writes in response to Dylan's legendary KQED Press Conference on December 3, 1965.  Gleason organized and hosted what became Dylan's first and only televised press conference.  It's available on home video and I'm sure online, and is a fascinating glimpse into Dylan's psyche.  Donna writes to Gleason with her insightful take on Dylan and the press conference, and rather that excerpting her letter, I suggest reading it.  There's an excellent and comprehensive website I can't recommend enough for those interested in the press conference.

While letters and documents such as these might not have a great deal of monetary value, I think they're  important in charting the arc of popular music.  If anyone reading this has any interesting letters, documents or files they are interesting in parting with (or any rare records or music memorabilia) please do email me.


VIRTUAL MUSEUM: An Amazing Jazz Collection

Just before the end of the year, I was fortunate to purchase an amazing collection of classic Jazz memorabilia and autographs, some of which I'd originally sold years ago--and never thought I'd see again.  This post shows off some of the most interesting and unusual items, many of which are for sale at Recordmecca.   But beyond the commercial aspect, I thought readers might enjoy seeing some truly rare and amazing artifacts from an era long passed.

To the left is a large poster advertising two November 1962 shows in Stockholm, Sweden by the "classic" John Coltrane Quartet--with Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison.  These shows were later issued on CD as "The Complete Stockholm Concerts."  Coltrane posters are extremely rare, and we can find no other surviving example of this bold beauty.

John Coltrane is probably my favorite jazz artist and the next item is truly extraordinary--Coltrane's own Grammy Nomination plaque awarded to him in 1965 for "Best Original Jazz Composition: A Love Supreme."  Coltrane was nominated for only two Grammy's during his lifetime, this one and "Best Jazz Performance: Small Group Or Soloist" the same year.  He didn't win either, so this award--owned by Coltrane himself, is as close as he got.  The fact that it's for his most important work, "A Love Supreme," and that it was consigned by Coltrane's family to the legendary 2005 Guernsey's Jazz Auction make this as desirable a piece of Coltrane memorabilia as you're ever likely to see.  From the same auction, we also here have Coltrane's own Downbeat Reader's Poll Award for 1966 (First Place: Tenor Saxophone.)


Next are some great jazz handbills--first, a truly rare handbill for two performance by Charlie "Bird" Parker at the Open Door, a club in New York's Greenwich Village where jazz writer and Brooklyn College teacher Bob Reisner held a weekend jazz club.  These shows took place in early January, 1955--only two months before Parker's death, at age 35.  Charlie Parker memorabilia is impossibly rare, and this handbill, while simple, says it all--"The Greatest In Modern Jazz."  And along the same lines, another Open Door handbill, this one from 1954 for Thelonious Monk and His All Stars.  What a scene that must have been.  And finally, a 1966 handbill for the "Titans of the Tenor !" show at New York's Philharmonic Hall, featuring John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Coleman Hawkins and Zoot Sims on the same bill.

And now some autographs.  First, a framed Charlie Parker "cut" (a small piece of paper with a signature,) framed with a famous William Gottlieb photograph of Bird (also signed.)  As you might imagine, an authentic Bird autograph is the rarest and most sought after signature in jazz.

And here are the very rare autographs of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane, both signed on photographs (making them all the more desirable,) and a later signed Miles Davis postcard.  All highly collectible, and rare (at least authentic ones are.)

Here's a great framed Sun Ra handbill with the autographs of his Arkestra (more signatures than appear on the typed legend.)  Sun Ra is a scarce signature, but this is the only set of Arkestra autographs we've seen. 

And finally, here are two handwritten John Coltrane musical manuscripts, from the hand of the great man himself.  These were also sold by his family at the Guernseys 2005 Jazz Auction, so in addition to being rare, they have unbeatable provenance.  

While our main focus is on rock, blues, soul, and folk memorabilia and records, we're very proud to be able to offer these special Jazz collectibles at Recordmecca .  And as always, we're looking for high end music collectibles and rare records--so let us know if you have anything to sell.


Bruce Langhorne's Debut Album-50 Years After His Recording Debut

Fifty years after his recording debut (on the 1961 album "The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem") the great Bruce Langhorne has released his debut solo album, the appropriately named "Tambourine Man."  Bob Dylan, in the liner notes for his "Biograph" box set said ""Mr. Tambourine Man,” I think, was inspired by Bruce Langhorne. Bruce was playing guitar with me on a bunch of the early records. On one session, (producer) Tom Wilson had asked him to play tambourine. And he had this gigantic tambourine. It was like, really big. It was as big as a wagon-wheel. He was playing, and this vision of him playing this tambourine just stuck in my mind. He was one of those characters…he was like that. I don’t know if I’ve ever told him that.”

Bruce played guitar on Dylan's "Freewheelin'" and "Bringing It All Back Home" albums, later reuniting with Dylan in 1973 to play on the soundtrack to "Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid."  In the past 50 years, Bruce has backed up some of the most important folk artists ever, including Odetta, Richard and Mimi Farina, Joan Baez, Tom Rush, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte Marie, Richie Havens, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Fred Neil, John Sebastian, Eric Andersen, David Ackles, Mike Bloomfield, Babatunde Olatunji, Mickey Hart, and Carlos Santana (ok, not a folk artist), as well as composing film scores for Jonathan Demme and Peter Fonda (the legendary soundtrack to "The Hired Hand.")  And in his spare time ?  Bruce became a hot-sauce maven, with his highly regarded "Brother Bru-Bru's African Hot Sauce." 

In the past few years, Bruce has endured some serious health problems, and so his friends Debbie Green and George Madaraz decided it was high time for Bruce to take the spotlight.  And so with Bruce, they have released "Tambourine Man," "to preserve and present this unique and joyous music composed by a guy with definite legendary status.  The compositions represent the third stage of his creative career and have been only heard by a small circle of friends."

The CD pictures Bruce's legendary Turkish tambourine, and album artwork (under the CD tray) reproduces Bob Dylan's message to Bruce, written inside his copy of Dylan's "Chronicles":  "To Bruce, "Mr Tambourine Man"  Back there was something else !  Like they say, it was better to be in chains with friends than in a garden with strangers.  So true, huh ?  Stay well and all the best, Bob Dylan."

All proceeds from the album's sales go directly to Bruce, and it's available through Amazon.
Bruce is a wonderful man and a great talent, who I'm proud to call a friend.  Check it out and support one of the greats.



Here's something I thought people might enjoy seeing; a 1967 management contract for The Byrds and The Jet Set, their previous incarnation, which included Jim McGuinn, David Crosby and Gene Clark. This 10 page document is signed by the original Byrds lineup--David Crosby, Jim McGuinn, Chris Hillman, Michael Clarke, and Gene Clark (who signs using his legal name, Harold E.  Clark.) This document unravels the Byrds and Jet Set's original management contracts with managers Eddie Tickner and Jim Dickson and formalizes a royalty arrangement with Naomi Hirschorn, who had  provided cash to the band in their earliest days, so they could buy stage clothing and equipment. 

There is a tremendous amount of detail here regarding royalties, outstanding loan repayment, their record contract with Columbia Records, and the Byrds and Jet Set's business affairs.  We have never before seen any documentation of the Jet Set, which makes this a bit more special. The contract is signed on the final page by all 5 band members (though at this point, Crosby and Clark were no longer members--but shared in past royalties and the Byrds partnership,) Eddie Tickner, Jim Dickson, and Naomi Hirshhorn.   Hirschorn deserves to be better known; according to music writer Richie Unterberger, she invested $5000 for a 5% share in the then-unknown Byrds, enabling them to buy state-of-the-art equipment including a 12-string Rickenbacker guitar for Roger McGuinn, a Fender bass for Chris Hillman (who was previously using a cheap Japanese bass) and a full drum kit for Michael Clark (who was previously using cardboard boxes!)  

         The contract is for sale at Recordmecca.


Ralph J. Gleason on Bob Dylan/Ramparts Magazine, March 1966

Here's a great Ramparts cover story by early Dylan supporter Ralph J. Gleason from March 1966; Gleason was one of the most important music critics in America at the time and his early and wholehearted embrace of Dylan was important to Dylan's acceptance by the critical community.  This article features some great Dylan quotes and Gleason's admission that he first found Dylan to be "a drag" but listening again "has changed my life fundamentally."  While scanning this article for an eBay listing (an original illustration for the article from Gleason's collection) it struck me that this is an article few have seen--so we're presenting it in its entirety.  Enjoy !


It Was 50 Years Ago Today--Bob Dylan's First Concert

It was 50 years ago today—well, tomorrow--that Bob Dylan played his first concert, on November 4, 1961.  Billed as Dylan’s “First New York Concert” it was, more accurately, Dylan’s first anywhere concert.  Prior to this show, at Carnegie Chapter Hall, he had only played club dates and a few guest spots on multi-artist bills.  Dylan arrived in New York on January, 21, 1961 and began playing hoots at clubs like Gerdes Folk City almost immediately. 

His first “break” was a two weeks stint opening for blues giant John Lee Hooker at Gerdes in April of that year.  On September 26, Dylan began another two week engagement at the club, opening for the much better known Greenbriar Boys.  Though Dylan was the opening act, New York Times music critic Robert Shelton focused entirely on Dylan in his review of the opening night.  The impact was immediate, and a few days later Dylan was signed to Columbia Records by legendary A&R man John Hammond (who had discovered/signed Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Count Basie, and later Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan.)

Five weeks later, Izzy Young, owner of Greenwich Village’s Folklore Center (and an early Dylan supporter) presented Dylan “In His First New York Concert” at Carnegie Chapter Hall, a 200 seat room that was part of the Carnegie Hall complex.  Reportedly only 53 people attended, but it was the start of a touring career that continues today.  Dylan expert Clinton Heylin notes in “Bob Dylan: A Life In Stolen Moments” that he sounded “extremely nervous and uncertain of himself,” and performed “Pretty Peggy-O,” “Black Girl (In The Pines),”Gospel Plow,” “1913 Massacre,” “Backwater Blues,” Young But Daily Growin’,” “Fixin’ To Die,” and “This Land is Your Land.”

We have reproduced here the program for the concert, with it’s ridiculous biographical sketch, drawn from an interview Dylan gave Izzy Young.  He exaggerates for effect, claiming he got his start playing in carnivals, was raised in Gallup, New Mexico, and was given a scholarship to the University of Minnesota.  Classic stuff.


Velvet Underground Collectibles from the Sterling Morrison Archive

Recently we've had the good fortune to acquire some truly amazing Velvet Underground artifacts from the collection of the late, great Velvets guitarist, Sterling Morrison.

Sterling actively collected memorabilia from throughout his band's career, and we feel fortunate to have obtained many one-of-a-kind items from his widow, Martha Morrison.  We've created a new Velvet Underground Memorabilia Blog to showcase some of these extraordinary items that we have for sale.

Here we are showcasing some great period Velvets ads from Sterling's archive, and a few previously unknown and undocumented Velvet Underground posters and handbills from Sterling's collection (available for purchase via the Velvets Blog and Recordmecca.)  So without further ado, the stuff !

Here's a great and very unusual ad promoting Nico "singing to the sounds of The Velvet Underground" at the New Mod-Dom.  The Velvets and Andy Warhol's multi-media spectacle, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable first played the Dom, a Polish hall in New York during April of 1966.   The EPI included the Velvets, Warhol films, a light show, dancers (including Gerard Malanga with his "whip-dance") and more.  While it's been disputed that the hall the Velvets played in was called "The Dom," this ad from a February, 1967 issue of the Village Voice, makes it clear that was the case.  We've never seen anything before that highlighted Nico in this way.

The Velvets and Warhol's multi media spectacle the Exploding Plastic Inevitable returned to the Dom, now renamed The Balloon Farm, in September and October 1966.

During March and April, 1967 the Velvets played New York's "new happening discotheque" The Gymnasium.  Some of these shows were billed as "Andy Warhol presents The Complete Spectrum of Sounds with the Velvet Underground, the Dick Hyman Trio & Tony Scott, "one of the world's greatest Clarinetists.'"  !!!
An ad for a series of shows at Hollywood's Whiskey A-Go-Go where the Velvets shared the bill with Chicago Transit Authority, aka Chicago.  A very strange double bill, indeed.

This is a previously unknown and undocumented 1969 poster for a series of shows by the Velvets at the Unicorn, in Boston.  Few Velvets posters featured their photograph, and this one is a beauty. We were thrilled to find this in the Morrison attic.

This is a previously unknown and undocumented handbill for the Velvets shows at The A-Go-Go in West Yarmouth, Mass (on Cape Cod.)  This one is particularly interesting as the artwork is a direct rip-off of Wes Wilson's famous 1966 poster for the Velvets and the Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore in San Francisco. 

Yes, yet another unknown handbill--this one from the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Hollywood, California.  This lists shows in November/December 1968, including The Velvets with Bay Area band Cold Blood.  Of note, soon after the Velvets shows were shows by the great Moby Grape.  And as the copy notes, "playing with Moby Grape for the first time anywhere will be the Flying Burrito Brothers--a new band formerd by two former Byrds, Chris Hillman and Graham (actually Gram) Parsons.  Truly historic.

And last but certainly not least, here is an extremely rare Velvet Underground set-list, handwritten by Sterling Morrison.  This was likely for a Chicago show, as it's written on the back of a form from a long defunct Chicago accounting firm.  Only a handful of Velvets setlists survive, all from Morrison's collection. 

If you'd like to see more of this kind of thing, or are interested in purchasing items from Sterling Morrison's archive, visit our Velvet Underground memorabilia blog.  Thanks for looking.


The Rolling Stones: Gimmie Shelter Deconstructed

My friend Zach just sent me a link to an incredible website where you can listen to any or all of 9 individual basic tracks to the Rolling Stones classic "Gimmie Shelter" and mute parts selectively to hear individual tracks in any combination.  Multiple guitar, drum, vocal parts and one for Bill Wyman's bass--amazing to hear how it all fits together so beautifully.  A wonderfully intuitive interface too--just click the circles to turn off that track.  Check it out here : GIMMIE SHELTER


Dylan Manuscripts Pulled From June 23 Christie's Sale

Earlier today we received word that the amazing Bob Dylan manuscripts offered in the June 23 Christie's New York sale (see below) have been pulled--a close friend of ours received word from Christie's that “Lots 319-325 have been withdrawn, pending resolution of a title issue”.   Evidently Christie's had no other comment beyond this.

We don't know what happened, but the logical guess would be that Dylan objected to the sale of these important manuscripts.  The catalog noted that these were originally from the collection of Dylan's late manager, Albert Grossman.  Dylan and Grossman ended their relationship with a long and highly contentious court battle, and Christie's note that there was a "title issue" suggests that there might be an issue with the provenance of the manuscripts.  More as things develop...



Today's mail brought me an auction catalog for Christie's upcoming sale of "Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts," which takes place June 23 in their New York showrooms.  While manuscript auctions typically aren't my thing, this one includes some truly mindblowing items for any Dylan fan.  Hidden at the very end of the catalog are six astounding lots of original Bob Dylan manuscripts--indisputably AUTHENTIC ones--the likes of which you aren't likely to see offered again.

These come from the collection of Dylan's former manager, the late Albert Grossman, and if you've been confused by the proliferation of Dylan items for sale--real and most often forged--take a long, hard look at these, for they are as real as real gets.  Offered for sale are drafts and partial or whole working manuscripts for Outlaw Blues, Love Minus Zero / No Limit, Queen Jane Approximately, Farewell Angelina, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Maggies Farm, Bob Dylan's 115th Dream, I'll Keep It With Mine, Visions of Johanna, and the unreleased You Don't Have To Do That.  

The manuscripts offered are typed, handwritten, or more commonly a combination of both; and illustrate Dylan's writing process in a way words can never convey.  As Clinton Heylin has written about how Dylan is "an exemplar editor of his own work.  Rarely will he substitute an image or a phrase with an inferior one."

If you've read this blog before, you know I've written extensively about issues of authenticity and provenance.  I've been fortunate enough to examine many indisputably authentic Dylan manuscripts and these rank with the very best.  I encourage anyone interested in Dylan's work to spend some time looking closely at these (links below.)  They are truly special.

Outlaw Blues
Love Minus Zero / No Limit/You Don't Have To Do That
Queen Jane Approximately
Farewell Angelina
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Maggie's Farm/Bob Dylan's 115th Dream/I'll Keep It With Mine
Visions of Johanna

And if you're a collector of rare records or music memorabilia, or have rare vinyl or music collectibles to sell, please check out the Recordmecca website.