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BOB & SID GLEASON


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In 1959, a New Jersey electrician named Bob Gleason and his wife, Sidsel, heard a radio broadcast of the script that Millard Lampell had written for the 1956 Woody Guthrie benefit concert. At the end of the program, listeners were encouraged to write Woody at Greystone Park... Since they lived near the hospital, the Gleasons decided to see if there was something more they could do for Woody than just writing...

After several visits..., they started bringing him to their home on weekends, and the word quickly spread through the New York folk community that Woody was receiving visitors on Sundays in East Orange, an easy bus ride from the city... Marjorie and the kids, who found it far easier to get to East Orange than Greystone, came most weekends...

Pete Seeger often would be there, and Harold Leventhal, and occasionally Alan Lomax... The real energy on Sunday afternoons came from the younger folkies, though -- the kids who worshipped Woody and wanted to hear him play: Ernie Marrs, Ralph Rinzler, John Cohen, Lionel Kilburg, Peter LaFarge, and Mel Lyman...

Arlo Guthrie was now old enough to join the rest, and though he played the guitar a little too loudly for Woody's taste, he did write a song about a math test -- to the tune of "So Long" -- that showed promise.

The Gleason's home became a youth hostel for wandering folk singers. Bob Dylan lived with them for several weeks after he came to town, listening to the tapes Bob Gleason had compiled of the Sunday-afternoon sessions and of Woody's old record collection -- vintage recordings of the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and the others... And when it came time for Dylan to make his New York debut at Gerde's Folk City, Sid Gleason gave him one of Woody's suits to wear for the occasion...

Joe Klein, Woody Guthrie -- A Life, London, 1981, pp. 425-427.

Dylan's so-called East Orange Tape (Feb-Mar 1961) was recorded at the Gleasons' home in East Orange.


The Gleasons say Dylan took a job for a short time, working as a laborer for the Department of Sanitation removing snow from the city's streets...

Sid Gleason says she's certain Dylan worked at this whenever he could. David Whittaker remembers Bob talking about the job. But almost everyone else who knew Dylan says it was impossible: "Are you out of your mind?" exclaimed one very close Dylan friend... "No man who ever called himself a folk singer would take a straight job, and especially not Dylan. That would have been undignified. It would have been socially unacceptable."

Anthony Scaduto, Bob Dylan, London, 1973 (Abacus edition), p. 60.


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