Bob Dylan Center acquires newly discovered early Dylan recordings

Memberships are now available for next year’s grand opening

In advance of the Bob Dylan Center’s (BDC) grand opening on May 10, 2022, the center’s archivists have newly acquired a priceless trove of early Bob Dylan recordings and other one-of-a-kind tapes, journals, books and historical elements to add to the more than 100,000 exclusive cultural treasures found in the Bob Dylan Archive. These acquisitions shed new and revealing light on Dylan’s formative years as an artist, and will increase the public’s understanding of the myriad influences and environments that forged one of the world’s most important cultural figures.

Memberships to the Bob Dylan Center are now available for the first time. An array of levels will provide members with unlimited admission to the center when it opens, plus first access to admission booking, discounts on exclusive merchandise, private tours and more.

The Madison Tapes unearth Bob Dylan performances on two open-reel audio tapes recorded at the apartment of folk and blues musician Danny Kalb in Madison, WI, circa winter 1960­–1961, while Dylan was making his way from Minnesota to Greenwich Village. Approximately 90 minutes in length, the first tape captures the 19-year-old Dylan performing more than 20 songs, including six Woody Guthrie tunes and classics by Jimmie Rodgers, the Stanley Brothers, Little Walter, Pete Seeger and Big Bill Broonzy.

The proceedings were recorded by musician Jeff Chase.

Revealed on a second reel is the Madison Party Tape, a home recording of Dylan and friends performing folk songs at a social gathering, also recorded circa winter 1960–1961. The recordings found on both of these tapes bring clarity to what had been a critical gap in Dylan’s history, shedding important light on his development as an artist.

The Bailey Tapes consist of more than a half-dozen previously unknown and largely unheard open-reel tapes recorded in New York City in 1961 and 1962 by noted folk and calypso enthusiasts Milton (aka “Mell”) and Lillian Bailey. The Baileys, whose apartment at at 185 3rd Street served as a sort of salon for the vibrant Greenwich Village folk music scene, acted as documentarians of one of the most critical moments in US popular music history. Along with recording intimate private parties that attracted the likes of Bob Dylan, Paul Clayton, Cynthia Gooding, Bruce Langhorne, Ian and Sylvia, Dave Van Ronk, Tom Paxton, and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, they captured and preserved pivotal radio broadcasts from New York City stations WBAI and WRVR.

Included in these recordings is a Bob Dylan performance from autumn 1962, in which the young artist sings the earliest known renditions of his compositions “Oxford Town” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” as well as the July 29, 1961 “Saturday of Folk Music” hootenanny at Harlem’s Riverside Church, where Dylan first met girlfriend Suze Rotolo who appears on the cover of the classic The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan album.

The Toni Mendell Tapes represent the first complete extant recording of Bob Dylan performing at Carnegie Chapter Hall on November 4, 1961. This concert was the first major solo performance of the young singer’s career, organized by Folklore Center proprietor Izzy Young shortly after Dylan signed to Columbia Records. Within two years he would headline the main stage at Carnegie Hall.

This complete concert tape contains seven songs that have never been in circulation, including “He Was A Friend Of Mine,” a different arrangement of which would show up on the artist’s debut album in 1962.

The Harry Smith Library is a 4,200-piece collection of books, LPs, journals and pamphlets owned by the hugely important music curator, collector and anthropologist who died in 1991. The library collection contains numerous volumes devoted to anthropology, music, art, folklore, religion, literature, math and science, the occult, astrology, and astronomy. The LP collection is similarly broad, including blues, jazz, folk, rock, classical, and ethnographic field recordings.

In 1951, Smith moved to New York City where he began his most well-known work, The Anthology of American Folk Music. Issued in 1952 in three volumes, the anthology of 84 music tracks from commercially recorded 78 rpm records marked the first time a collection of music was curated and presented as a unified work of art. It became an inspiration to the generation that launched the folk revival of the 1960s and still reverberates throughout our culture.

Located in Tulsa’s burgeoning arts district just steps from the city’s renowned Woody Guthrie Center, Bob Dylan Center is being designed by renowned architectural and exhibit design firm Olson Kundig, led by design principal Alan Maskin. The BDC will feature cutting-edge and immersive technology in a multimedia environment that is designed to be as impressive and revealing to visitors new to Dylan’s work as it will be to long-time fans and aficianados.

59 Productions, world-leading specialists in design for stage and live events (including the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the record-breaking David Bowie Is exhibition and the decor concept design for the Met Ball), is collaborating with Olson Kundig on the exhibition design and media development.

The three-story façade of the Bob Dylan Center will face downtown Tulsa’s hugely popular public gathering space, Guthrie Green, and will depict a rare 1965 image of Dylan, donated to the center by renowned photographer Jerry Schatzberg.

Founding Memberships in the Bob Dylan Center include lifetime memberships to both the BDC and the Woody Guthrie Center, an exclusive invitation to the VIP grand opening of the Bob Dylan Center, and permanent recognition on the center’s donor wall.

Both the Bob Dylan Center and the Woody Guthrie Center operate under auspices of the American Song Archives, a project of the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF). GKFF acquired Dylan’s vast archives in 2016 and Guthrie’s in 2010.

Information regarding public admission to the Bob Dylan Center will be released first to members and later to the public in early 2022.

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Buddy Iahn
Buddy Iahn founded The Music Universe when he decided to juxtapose his love of web design and music. As a lifelong drummer, he decided to take a hiatus from playing music to report it. The website began as a fun project in 2013 to one of the top independent news sites. Email: info@themusicuniverse.com
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