THE STORY BEHIND THIS INTERVIEW:
On Apr 19, 1990, Charlie Daniels and Band played a USO concert at the Rheingold-Halle in Mainz, Germany. At that time, I worked as an interpreter for the local U.S. Military Police who were tasked with providing security for this concert.
I figured that this was the chance to approach Charlie Daniels about his involvement with Bob Dylan from "Nashville Skyline" to "New Morning."
What interested me most was the alleged Dylan/Harrison session, of which tapes had just got into circulation (off the 'Gelston' Columbia Reference acetate II; "Song to Woody" through "One Too Many Mornings").
Unfortunately, Charlie Daniels was pressed for time and had to leave immediately after a very enjoyable concert. I was, however, able to present him with a tape of the acetate songs along with my questions and xeroxed copies from Krogsgaard's 'Master of the Tracks' pertaining to the sessions in question.
What follows is an edited version of Charlie's letter which I received on Jan 28, 1991 (edited in the sense that in most cases I have combined the original questions with his answers as I have also done with my Happy Traum interview).
Dear Manfred, please forgive me for taking so long to answer your very interesting letter. Now on to your questions, I will answer them as truthfully and as candidly as I can. As you're aware, it has been quite a number of years, so we will see how well my memory serves me.
Let me say that as to dates, even the exact year in which something was recorded, I can't say for certain. I am not very good with those sort of things.
Yes, my first Bob Dylan session were [sic] on "Nashville Skyline." The musicians were as you assumed Charlie McCoy, Kenneth Buttrey, Pete Drake (who were on "John Wesley Harding"), Norman Blake, Bob Wilson and myself... The list of songs on Nashville Skyline are [sic] correct, The only song that I didn't play on was "Girl From the North Country" with Johnny Cash.
Were you, like Norman Blake, who played on several Johnny Cash albums, a regular Columbia Records sideman by then?
Although I played quite a number of Columbia sessions, I was not a regular side man for them.
QUESTION: Of the songs on "Nashville Skyline," Dylan stated in a 1969 interview:"They are the songs I've been writing over the past year. Some are songs that I've sung and never written down and just turn up again. I can't remember where they come from."Were the songs already written or did he make them up while in the studio?
CHARLIE DANIELS: Dylan did change some of the songs somewhat, and wrote most of "Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You" after we started the session. But he seemed to have come to Nashville very well prepared.
QUESTION: Your next session with Dylan must have been the May 1, 1969 taping of the Johnny Cash Show at the Ryman Auditorium, which (according to my information) was taped twice. "Living the Blues" was allegedly even recorded a third time. What was the reason for that?
CHARLIE DANIELS: I don't remember anything about "Living the Blues." I did, however, play the Johnny Cash Show with Dylan.
QUESTION: In May 1969, the sessions for what was to become "Self Portrait" started... Some songs which are rumored to have been recorded at these sessions are "Thirsty Boots", "Sitting On the Dock of the Bay", "Universal Soldier", "These Working Hands", "Spanish Eyes", "Ball and Stripes Rag" (another title for "Little Sadie"?), "When a Man's Out of a Job", and an earlier version of "Went to See the Gypsy." Do you recall having played on any of these? Or on others?
CHARLIE DANIELS: We recorded so many songs for "Self Portrait" that I cannot accurately remember all the titles. However, some of the titles you mention, I don't recall. But I'm sure that a lot of the songs recorded never ended up on the album. If I remember correctly, some of these sessions were done on the last count and I was not on them. My memory is kind of fuzzy about the rest of the "Self Portrait" period.
QUESTION: The session I am most interested in is one which is supposed to have taken place in New York City, on or around May 1, 1970...
British New Musical Express reported in its May 6, 1970 issue:"Dylan and Harrison Wax LP Together -- Beatle George Harrison and Bob Dylan have recorded a 'sensational' album together in New York... The recording session took place during a recent visit by Harrison to the States..."
Rolling Stone, in its May 28, 1970 issue went into further details:"Bob Dylan snuck into Columbia's Studio B in New York on May Day and recorded for 12 hours with George Harrison... Described as 'kind of a nice, loose thing,' the get-together was produced by Johnston, who also sat in on keyboards. Other musicians included Charlie Daniels on bass and an unidentified drummer...
About five of the numbers are reportedly of high enough quality to merit inclusion on a future Dylan album..."
Did this session really take place, and were you a part of it?
CHARLIE DANIELS: First of all, let me thank you for the copy of the tape of the Dylan session... I have wanted a copy for years and had no idea how to get one, so thank you again... Yes, the tape you sent me came from the unreleased session.
The New York sessions you refer to were mostly songs which ended up on "New Morning;" these sessions were Dylan, Harrison, Russ Kunkle (sic) and myself.
As far as I know these sessions were never released. We recorded them again in New York, with Russ Kunkle (sic), Al Kooper, David Bromberg and myself. I think that possibly a few other people could have been on the session. At any rate it finally turned into "New Morning"....
One other thing comes to mind that may be of interest to you. I remember Dylan got very loose and in a good mood that day and sang song after song, almost anything that we'd ask him to sing. I don't know what happened to those tapes, and I don't remember what the songs were, only that there were several of them.
I sincerely hope that the information I have supplied will be of use and interest to you. Again forgive me for taking so long to answer. I hope to meet you some day.God bless