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Rare Early Dylan Recording Given to Historical Society

19 year-old University of Minnesota student Robert Zimmerman recorded in his college apartment in 1960 – tape donated to the Minnesota Historical Society.

    Known to Dylan bootleg collectors as the “Minnesota Party Tape,” the 12-song recording was donated to the Historical Society last week by Cleve Pettersen, who kept it at the back of a drawer for many years.

    “I listened to it a couple times and forgot about it,” Pettersen said.

    As of Thursday, everyone can now hear the tape. The Historical Society announced that the recording is available for public listening in the library at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul.

    Bonnie Wilson, curator of sound and visual collections at the center, described the recording as “the perfect artifact representing Dylan’s time in the Twin Cities.”

    The tape was made by Pettersen on a $50 reel-to-reel machine in the Dinkytown area of Minneapolis, when Dylan was not, yet, Dylan. He would not make a formal recording until two years later.

    Not yet an original songwriter, young Bobby sang traditional folk and country songs in Dinkytown-area coffeehouses at the time. Pettersen’s tape captures him singing tunes such as Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 8 (Muleskinner Blues).”

    Other songs include Woody Guthrie’s “Jesus Christ” and “Talkin’ Merchant Marine.”

    Both Pettersen and Wilson confess that Dylan’s performance on the recording and its sound quality are “no great shakes,” as Pettersen put it.

    “If he didn’t go on to be that famous guy, I doubt anybody would have any interest in hearing it,” Pettersen said.

    ….Only 15 at the time, he said, he was “just a kid who hung around” the burgeoning Dinkytown folk scene. Through a friend, he got Dylan to agree to sit for the recording at an apartment where the singer lived on 15th Avenue SE.

    Some of Dylan’s friends, including then-girlfriend Bonnie Beecher, were in the room for the recording. A bottle of wine was passed around and lots of cigarettes were smoked — hence the “Party Tape” moniker.

    “It was all pretty innocent,” Pettersen recalled, denying rumors that marijuana was smoked.

    ….Why didn’t he go for the money?

    “[Dylan] was nice enough to let some kid he didn’t know record him one night, and then he went on and became famous,” he said. “It just didn’t seem right to turn around and exploit it.”

    The History Center has CD and cassette copies of the recording in its library at 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., which has free admission and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. [StarTribune]

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014.Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: [email protected], Facebook.com/amhaunted, Pinterest America's Most Haunted.Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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