Booing for Bob

On November 6, 1965, Marsha Houghton, Joe LeRoy, (those two were going steady–Marcia had Joe’s ring, an engraving of a knight’s head, with wads of tape so it fit Marsha’s finger) Debbie Moss (on whom I had a mad crush–she was the nicest beautiful girl–she was actually stopped on Fifth Ave. in NY while walking with her mother and recruited for a jewelry ad that subsequently appeared in The New Yorker magazine), Dr. Moss and I set off for Kleinhans Music Hall in Buffalo. We kids were attending a Bob Dylan concert. I would say in retrospect that Marcia and I were the real Bob Dylan fans. We had the albums, we had the posters, we knew the songs and all the lyrics. Joe and Debbie came because it would be fun to attend a concert. Tickets–I checked on this–were $4.

Joe LeRoy told some really funny jokes enroute. To this day, almost 50 years later, they are the only jokes I can ever remember.

We stopped for dinner at Howard Johnsons. I had chicken pot pie. I don’t recall what my dining companions. It must have been a Saturday night because otherwise, Catholics were still forbidden to eat meat on Friday.

We had decent seats at the concert and Kleinhans was not some huge theater.

Bob Dylan walked out alone on the stage. As I recall, he stood in front of a closed curtain. A tall stool stood next to the mike stand. Dylan’s different harmonicas were parked there.

Dylan didn’t say much of anything and he hardly moved at all. I think he swayed a bit is all. He sang and played. I don’t know that he even introduced the songs. The crowd was respectful and appreciative.

There was an intermission.

Then things got interesting.

When the curtain opened, Bob Dylan had a backing band. They were an anonymous group to this audience but they had a name then, The Hawks, and they had a big name, The Band.

I cannot recollect the songs performed that night or the order in which they were played. But as soon as the amplified set began, a significant number of audience members began to boo and chant. A girl fairly close behind us clanked a cowbell in disapproval. Cowbells seemed to be the weapon of choice. I wonder now how they got in to the hall with them. They were pretty big. They normally made a lonely, wavery pasture sound, something between a bong and a clunk. But they are very disruptive when struck with a drumstick.

It seemed unbelievable to us that anyone would want to drown out the sound of a concert they had paid $4 to see. And the protestors had the fans who supported Dylan’s crossover act calling out “Hurray for Bob Dylan!  Hurray for Bob Dylan!”

The four of us, being 14 or 15, were nonplussed to be swamped with audience issues while trying to hear Bob Dylan.

The  Scorese Dylan documentary No Direction Home relays our Nov. 65 concert experience but with an English accent. Those were peculiar times and Bob Dylan is not at all pleasant and seems completely inarticulate but I will say he shines in comparison to Pete Seeger.