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Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue: Unseen 1975 Photos (Without His Mother)

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Ken Regan took thousands of photographs during his time with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. In Rolling Thunder: Photographs by Ken Regan, we see the best of Ken Regan’s 1975 photographs with the singer.

 

15-hat-and-scarf-portrait

 

In 1974 music promoter Bill Graham had arranged for Ken Regan to photograph Bob Dylan at the end of his tour with The Band for a Time magazine piece. On consecutive nights, Ken spotted the same elderly woman in the crowd. “She had a really interesting face but she looked really out of place. She was about forty years older than anyone else in the crowd. I just figured she was a music freak.”

Ken mentioned her to Bill Graham, Bill explained that it was Bob Dylan’s mother, Beatrice, and that he should not take pictures of her. “I’d taken about four dozen! He told me not to release them because I’d never be let within 500 yards of Bob ever again.” Later Ken sent Bob Dylan some photographs from the concert, including photographs of his mother in the crowd. Ken’s note explained that he had not sent the pictures of Bob’s mother to Time, but that he wanted Bob to have them. “There was no response from him at all, which really kind of bummed me out.”

A year later during the summer of 1975, Ken is woken by the phone at 3am. On the line is Bill Graham’s partner, Barry Imhoff. Barry is in New York, and asks Ken what he is up to for the next couple of months. “I could be anywhere. Why, what’s up?” Barry is circumspect. There is talk of a tour, something a little different. He then passes the phone to Lou Kemp, a childhood friend of Bob Dylan who runs Kemp Fisheries. He says he is co-promoting a tour for Bob Dylan, and they want Ken to come on the road with them for a few months and photograph the entire tour.
It’s 3am and Ken is incredulous. Dylan? Kemp Fisheries? What? He asks to get Barry Imhoff back on the phone. Ken is a straight talker from the Bronx: “Barry, if this is a fucking joke, I’m gonna hunt you down and take you apart completely.”

Someone else comes on the line. Ken recognizes the voice immediately – it is Bob Dylan. He apologizes for waking Ken so early in the morning, and explains that Ken is in the frame as the photographer they are thinking of to document the tour. Bob Dylan makes a point of thanking him for the photographs of his mother that Ken sent to him. By not releasing them, Ken has gained some trust.

Later that day Ken travels to Studio Instrument Rentals’ in Manhattan, where Dylan is rehearsing. Bob explains that this is going to be a different kind of tour, lasting a few months, with Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and T- Bone Burnett on board already. Ken would be the only photographer on the tour with complete access. “Bob had given me free rein to shoot it all—onstage, offstage, dressing rooms, parties, trailers, whatever was going on.” There is one minor caveat. Bob explains that his wife and children are going to be on the tour at various times, and while Ken can photograph them, he can’t release those pictures. Ken is hired that day. There is no signed contract. “We shook hands, and I never betrayed that trust.”

The Rolling Thunder Revue is a tour of two halves, and Ken covers the first leg starting on 30 October 1975 at the War Memorial Auditorium in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and ending with a benefit concert for Rubin Carter at Madison Square Garden in New York on 8 December 1975.

 

Sunday 7 December 1975, when Bob Dylan visits Rubin Carter in jail, and plays an abbreviated set to an audience of inmates in Clinton, New Jersey. Ken’s photograph of Bob Dylan and Rubin Carter is the final image in the book.

Sunday 7 December 1975, when Bob Dylan visits Rubin Carter in jail, and plays an abbreviated set to an audience of inmates in Clinton, New Jersey. Ken’s photograph of Bob Dylan and Rubin Carter is the final image in the book.

Bob-Dylan-and-Joan-Baez

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan duet

Bob Dylan standing in dressing room doorway

Bob Dylan standing in dressing room doorway

Durham, New Hampshire, where Ken takes close up portraits of Bob Dylan in whiteface. “I want the people way in the back to be able to see my eyes.” Ken recalls Bob Dylan explaining to him.

Durham, New Hampshire, where Ken takes close up portraits of Bob Dylan in whiteface. “I want the people way in the back to be able to see my eyes.” Ken recalls Bob Dylan explaining to him.

Bob Dylan in fur hat at Gordon Lightfoot’s house in Toronto, with Gordon Lightfoot (left) and Roger McGuinn (right)

Bob Dylan in fur hat at Gordon Lightfoot’s house in Toronto, with Gordon Lightfoot (left) and Roger McGuinn (right)

Bob Dylan examining a proof of a flyer for The Rolling Thunder Revue during Ken Regan’s first shoot in October 1975, during rehearsals in NYC.

Bob Dylan examining a proof of a flyer for The Rolling Thunder Revue during Ken Regan’s first shoot in October 1975, during rehearsals in NYC.

A day at Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge, in Becket, Massachusetts. The owner, the larger-than-life Mama, is a huge Joan Baez fan, and takes the dungaree-clad Joan upstairs and gives her a present—her wedding dress. It fits like a glove. They shoot scenes for Renaldo & Clara with Joan in the dress, and eat home cooked food.

A day at Mama Frasca’s Dream Away Lodge, in Becket, Massachusetts. The owner, the larger-than-life Mama, is a huge Joan Baez fan, and takes the dungaree-clad Joan upstairs and gives her a present—her wedding dress. It fits like a glove. They shoot scenes for Renaldo & Clara with Joan in the dress, and eat home cooked food.

Party in Greenwich Village where Ken takes a famous series of photographs of Patti Smith and Bob Dylan in animated discussion on the stairs.

Party in Greenwich Village where Ken takes a famous series of photographs of Patti Smith and Bob Dylan in animated discussion on the stairs.

Dylan and the band warm up, during Ken’s first shoot in October 1975, documenting a day of rehearsal sessions in New York.

Dylan and the band warm up, during Ken’s first shoot in October 1975, documenting a day of rehearsal sessions in New York.

All Images © Estate of Ken Regan/Ormond Yard Press