Highway 61 Revisited
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Highway 61 Revisited

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The best kept secret in music


"In footsteps of Johnny Cash, musicians seek fans at Folsom Prison"

FOLSOM STATE PRISON, Calif.—When Bob Dylan imitator Joel Gilbert and his band took to the concrete stage on their latest tour, it was behind a strip of yellow tape usually found at crime scenes.

Fitting, perhaps, as about 100 hardened criminals gathered 30 feet away wearing prison blues, tattoos and wary looks of curiosity.

When the first notes of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” blasted from the loudspeakers, skepticism turned to smiles as the music crossed racial and generational lines and—for a couple hours—bridged the prison’s formidable granite walls.

“In here you get so numb in your feelings, and your routine all through the day is always the same,” said Jeremy Sims, 33, who has been locked up for murder since he was 17. “You lose sight of what it feels like to be out on the street until something like this happens and then you remember what it was like and it makes you want to get out and stay out.”

Ever since Johnny Cash recorded his famous concert at the place he immortalized in “Folsom Prison Blues,” it’s been a destination for performers looking to play on one of the world’s most unusual stages and maybe find some of the gold dust Cash left behind.

“This place has become a novelty for artists to play,” said Lt. Tim Steele of the prison. “To have that on your resume may be kind of appealing. We don’t go out looking for them.”
Gilbert’s band, Highway 61 Revisited, performed Sunday as the final stop on their Take No Prisoners Tour that played for free to inmates around the state, including a show at San Quentin the day before.

For two hours, they tried to blow the blues away for the men stuck in Folsom Prison.

Lawrence Dale Williams, 60, who’s served nearly 25 years of a life sentence for robbery and murder, said he hadn’t seen a band from the outside for years. He skipped church services to sit on a bag of laundry for the show, clapping his hands, tapping his toes and slapping his right knee to the beat.

“Everything I see like this inspires me,” he said as the band played “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

Perhaps the easiest thing about playing a gig at Folsom State Prison is finding a captive audience. The harder part is getting through the door at one of America’s most infamous penitentiaries.

Hours before the morning show, Gilbert and his band were at the famous iron gates. They had already passed the criminal background check and had to wait as guards combed through every piece of equipment, down to the guitar picks, looking for possible weapons or contraband.
Inmates were not told about the show in advance, which was originally scheduled for Independence Day weekend until a riot forced all inmates to be locked in their cells for weeks as punishment, said Lt. Robert Trujillo, the prison spokesman.

When 750 inmates were released into the prison yard for recreation, some stopped to watch the band set up, but most scattered—going to chapel, playing soccer, lapping the small dirt track on foot, shooting baskets or playing handball.

By show time, about 100 inmates, many shirtless and sporting tattoos, had gathered behind a thick yellow line in the asphalt they were told not to cross. Directly above, an armed guard stood watch in a tower. Several guards stood around the stage.

In singing from the vast Dylan songbook, Gilbert tried to relate to inmates as Cash did in his many prison shows, singing of outlaws, the wrongly convicted and redemption. The song titles alone were part of a theme for men behind bars: “All Along the Watchtower,” “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” and “I Shall Be Released,” to name a few.

“This one’s about watching the time flow by,” he said as they played “Watching the River Flow By.”

Polite applause and occasional cheers followed each song, but Gilbert still managed to alienate a few inmates and guards. Some black inmates complained about a racial slur in Dylan’s “Hurricane,” the wrongful conviction anthem of boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

Guards were equally upset with “George Jackson,” about an inmate accused of killing a prison guard. Jackson was later shot to death by San Quentin guards after allegedly sparking a prison riot that led to the deaths of two guards and three inmates.
“Bob Dylan isn’t a legend for writing non-controversial songs,” Gilbert said after the show.

Some inmates said they were slightly turned off by the distorted vocals, but they stuck around for whole show. Gilbert later quipped that the rasp may have made him sound more like Dylan.

Gilbert, 39, of Thousand Oaks, who dresses like Dylan in a black Versace western-style suit, white snakeskin cowboy boots and a black Stetson, only strayed once from the all-Dylan format. On the first anniversary of Cash’s death, Gilbert sang the prison’s namesake song that was a hit for Cash in 1955 and again in 1968 when Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison soared up the country and pop music charts.

Concerts have been a fixture in the history of corrections. S - Associated Press Newswire

"Bob Dylan Tribute at Avi Resort and Casino"

Bob Dylan isn’t known for his velvet voice or his dance moves. But his folk-rock infused protest songs were the backbone of the tumultuous 1960s, cutting a swarthy path of unforgettable music. If Elvis raised eyebrows in the ’50s, Dylan raised shackles in the ‘60s.

It’s that direction hard-core Dylan fan and tribute artist Joel Gilbert chose to take when putting together his salute to one of America’s most unique singer/songwriters. He brings that show—Highway 61 Revisited (named after Dylan’s 1965 album that even Dylan didn’t think he could surpass)—to Laughlin for the first time with an appearance at the Avi Resort and Casino.

“It takes a more three-dimensional approach to understand Dylan,” Gilbert explains. “The average radio listener takes a one-dimensional approach: ‘Does he hit the note?,’ ‘Is that a cool hook?’ But Dylan is a three dimensional artist. To get that full experience, you need to think about the music, lyrics and performance—and additionally, the order of the set and how each song relates to the previous numbers. All those together create the ‘Bob’ experience. That’s what I tried to capture from the very beginning.”
Gilbert’s portrayal doesn’t stop when the lights of the stage go dim. He’s very much into the character ... not just the music and the mystique, but the history and the impact Dylan has made on the world.

Gilbert considers himself not just a fan, but a disciple, on a quest to recreate more than just music.
“The first song that inspired me to want to recreate Dylan’s music was ‘The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,’ from the movie Don’t Look Back,” Gilbert stated. “The amount of power and passion that he put into that song just amazed me and I just had to capture that sound; somehow, I had to do it.”

And so he has. From a beginning in London pubs (Gilbert isn’t English but is from Tennessee) to top spots like the House of Blues in L.A., Gilbert has spread the Dylan gospel.

“Highway 61 is not an interpretation or an impersonation, but a recreation of the elements Dylan creates,” explains Gilbert. “It’s Dylan’s greatest moments and career, and something undefined.

“As fans, we know that others think our devotion to Dylan is a little ... well, crazy. In our more detached moments, we can admit that much of Dylan’s work takes some effort to appreciate. His lyrics are complicated and, at times, confusing. And his voice certainly doesn’t go down smoothly and easily.

“And he’s not someone you can pigeon-hole. Just what kind of music does he make? Folk? Rock? Folk-rock? Christian? Protest? Country?”

Gilbert has spent the last few years figuring all of that out ... while, at the same time, he has been figuring out his own calling.

He landed in L.A. in 1991, after finishing his MBA degree in finance at George Washington University in D.C. He worked as a financial analyst for Paramount Pictures and spent his free time playing at open mic shows in coffee houses.

He then moved into another side of the music business, that of managing other musicians. But the frustrations of trying to help market those who wouldn’t be marketed, forced him to rethink things.

“Realizing that, I didn’t want the struggle of their sometimes listening, sometimes not, I thought, ‘why not manage myself?’ I’ll get the rewards and I know I’ll cooperate.”

So he began giving his Dylan tribute a push. And, it took off like a “rolling stone.”

He even got an endorsement from Mickey Jones, Dylan’s drummer for the 1966 world tour.

“When I hear Highway 61 Revisited’s recreation of the music that I played with Dylan, it’s very special to me,” Jones has said about the act. “As I travel around the country, I see people trying to do Bob Dylan, but I’ve never seen anybody but Joel Gilbert make you do a double take when you walk in the room and see him and hear him playing.”
- Laughlin, Nevada Entertainer

"Bob Dylan tribute band, Highway 61 Revisited, visiting Moose Jaw"

Joel Gilbert, lead singer of Highway 61
Revisited, a Bob Dylan tribute band, says singing one of the legendary performer’s songs is like being in a famous painting in an art museum.

“The audience feels the greatness of the songs, their poetry, their symbolism,” said Gilbert.

“There’s so much colour, rhythm and deep meaning, yet it’s ordered in some way.

Performing it is like an artistic experience. “Dylan’s music is multidimensional. His lyrics speak to the mind.”

Highway 61 Revisited plays at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre on Thursday. In the band’s repertoire of 80 Dylan songs, the great ones can be found: Blowing in the Wind, Like a Rolling Stone and The Times They Are A Changin’.

“Our show is an authentic recreation of Dylan’s greatest shows and his greatest material. We are a look-alike, sound-alike tribute band, attempting to recreate his onstage essence,” said Gilbert, who performs as Dylan.

The band itself is named after one of Dylan’s classic albums, Highway 61 Revisited, released in 1965. Dylan, who grew up in Minnesota, named
the album for a highway that ran near the town that he lived in.

“In a way, we’re revisiting all of Dylan’s greatest songs and greatest albums, just as he revisited his home and roots on Highway 61 Revisited,” said Gilbert.

When Gilbert was a student in England
several years ago, he first discovered his talent of being able to sound like Dylan when he sang. He watched a documentary about Bob Dylan's 1965 tour of England called Don’t Look Back.

“I noticed that his voice sounded like mine. So I tried singing, and I found my voice sounded like his. I decided I would try and play and learn his material, and that’s what I did.”

However, Gilbert went on to be the manager of a an alternative rock band in Los Angeles. The band eventually broke up, so he decided to try singing solo as a Dylan performer. His connections from his days as manager of the rock band allowed him to land gigs at the best music clubs in Los Angeles.

“Soon word of mouth was getting around about what I was doing, and some musicians in Los Angeles started to approach me about joining the band.”

The seven-member band, which includes guitar, harmonica, bass and drums, has been together for seven years, and performs about 100 dates a year.

Although Gilbert has never met Dylan, he said he deals with Dylan’s office a lot on licensing issues, and has heard through the staff there, and some of the players in Dylan’s original band, that Dylan appreciates Highway 61 Revisited’s work.

Highway 61 Revisited’s performance in
Moose Jaw will be a date on the band’s first Canadian tour. Joining the band during the Canadian tour is Winston Watson, Dylan’s drummer in his band from 1992 to 1996.

Tickets for the show are $25 plus tax,
and are available at the Casino Moose Jaw box office (694-3726).

Who: Highway 61 Revisited

When: Thursday, 8 p.m.

Where: Moose Jaw Cultural Centre - Moose Jaw Times Herald

"Like a Rolling Stone"

Nearly three decades of summers since Slow Train Coming captivated new and old believers, reclusive rock legend Bob Dylan surfaces in a new album this month and a revealing documentary | Arsenio Orteza

When asked in 1997 to explain the enduring popularity of his songs, Bob Dylan said, "What makes them different is that there's a foundation to them. . . . They're standing on a strong foundation, and subliminally that's what people are hearing." On Aug. 29 Columbia Records will release Dylan's 32nd studio album, Modern Times, and judging from song titles such as "Thunder on the Mountain," "Spirit on the Water," and "Beyond the Horizon," the specific foundation to which he was referring-old folk, country, blues, and gospel songs-still serves as the bedrock of his composition. Another title, "The Levee's Gonna Break," eerily underscores the fact that the album's release date coincides with the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Dylan recordings and catastrophes have coincided before. In 1997 he was hospitalized with a near-fatal heart infection after completing Time Out of Mind, and in 2001 his Love and Theft was released on Sept. 11. But his history with hurricanes goes all the way back to 1976, when he hit the top 40 with "Hurricane," his lengthy musical recounting of the arrest, trial, and imprisonment of the boxer Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.

The hit marked the beginning of a renewed period of creativity in Dylan's life. The song, the album on which it was included (Desire), and the tour Dylan undertook in its wake (the Rolling Thunder Review) serve as the starting point for Bob Dylan 1975-1981: Rolling Thunder and the Gospel Years (Highway 61 Entertainment), the latest in a series of investigatory documentaries by Joel Gilbert, the leader of the "world's only Bob Dylan tribute band," Highway 61 Revisited.

What makes Rolling Thunder and the Gospel Years unique, however, is that it is the only project of its kind to explore the years during which Dylan was scandalizing the pop-culture world with recordings and performances that proclaimed Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.

"A lot of Dylan fans are not understanding or tolerant of Dylan's gospel period or the music," Gilbert told WORLD. "But they really should love that period. That's why I was happy to delve into the subject and help give an honest appraisal."

By interviewing members of Dylan's ever-shifting inner circles and acute observers on its periphery, Gilbert provides a wealth of insight into both the singer-songwriter (recently dubbed No. 1 of 100 best living songwriters by Paste magazine) and the effect of evangelism on contemporary society as a whole.
Christians will find Gilbert's interviews with those directly involved in Dylan's gospel music particularly interesting. Veteran producer Jerry Wexler, for instance, describes the often humorous challenges faced in recording Slow Train Coming with a largely religiously indifferent ensemble. "I had no idea what the content was going to be," says Wexler, now 89, "that it was going to be wall-to-wall Jesus. But I couldn't have cared less, and I don't care now. It could be the Yellow Pages. It's Bob, you know?"

Wexler also recalls Dylan's attempt to evangelize him: "I said, 'Bob, it ain't no use. You're talking to a 62-year-old, card-carrying Jewish atheist.' . . . He didn't try to work on me anymore."

Elsewhere, keyboardist Spooner Oldham and background singer Regina McCrary give firsthand accounts of performing Dylan's all-gospel sets to often hostile crowds. Providing equally revealing context are Joel Selvin (the San Francisco Chronicle critic whose panning of Dylan's new show both captured and helped set the tone for its hostile reception), Al Kasha (the award-winning songwriter and Messianic Jew at whose home Dylan composed portions of Slow Train Coming), and Mitch Glaser (the Jews for Jesus leader responsible for providing, at Dylan's request, on-the-spot evangelism and tract distribution at the San Francisco shows).

Gilbert's real coup, however, was coaxing Pastor Bill Dwyer, the teacher of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Bible class that Dylan attended for several months, to speak on the record for the first time. "I first spoke to [Pastors] Ken Gulliksen and Larry Myers," says Gilbert, referring to the other Vineyard clergymen usually mentioned in connection with Dylan's conversion, "and they're the nicest people in the world to phone, but they're very hesitant to speak publicly. They were still in 'keep Bob's story private' mode. Even 27 years later, I had to go through quite a bit to convince them to take a different approach." Five months of "long conversations" on the phone and mailing material, he said, preceded a breakthrough.

The persistence paid off. Besides sharing entertaining anecdotes-Dylan's reciting from memory the beatitudes in the King James Version as a condition for passing the course, for instance-Dwyer also explains in uninterrupted detai - World Magazine


The World's Only Bob Dylan Tribute Band
Masters of Dylan
Bob Dylan 1975-1981 Rolling Thunder and The Gospel Years Soundtrack


Feeling a bit camera shy


Highway 61 Revisited is the World's Only Bob Dylan Tribute Band. For the past eight years, Highway 61 Revisited has brought the music of Bob Dylan to stages around the world, including tours of Ireland, England, Canada and the United States. Highway 61 Revisited recreates Bob Dylan's greatest music and stage shows acccurately bringing over five decades of Dylan's most passionate and energetic performances to the stage every night.