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THE MISSIONARY TIMES


It Takes A Worried Man...
(Anticipating The Third Annual John Green Day)

 by J. R. Stokes

 

Just round about now, about a fortnight before the day, I start to wish that we hadn’t got into all this. Now, I’m a good sleeper: nothing much disturbs my peaceful nights so when I wake at 2am with an image of Keith Agar appearing ghostlike on my bedroom ceiling I immediately know that things aren’t quite what they should be in that tiny corner of my brain that keeps the bubble smack bang in the middle of my cerebral spirit level. 

I have completed my part of the task: the advertising has been done; the Traders and the speakers have been booked; the tickets have been printed and all sent to the correct recipients: the data base (with an abundance of thanks to Marilyn) looks like a work of art; the programme has been designed (with an abundance of thanks to Jess) and is ready for collection. After six months of hard graft I can take a breather. So why do I find it so hard to breathe at 2a.m. when my body should be getting massive doses of sleep therapy? The problem is that so may things could still go wrong: the main attraction booked for the event may just not turn up; the sound equipment may fail; the hotel could be burned to the ground a few days before D-Day; I could go down with flu etcetera, etcetera. 

My main area of concern however centres on our fabulous Master of Ceremonies Keith Agar. There is only one Keith Agar and if our habitat was the jungle instead of East Anglia I would be an ant and Keith would be an elephant. Yet therein lies the problem for you don’t get too many elephants in the jungle and Keith frightens the life out of me when he disappears for a few days just prior to an event. Has he chickened out? Has he left the Country? HAS HE DIED? So much depends on Keith that the entire day would be disastrous without him and I have 2 a.m. visions of crowds of people requesting refunds, angry faces at my window; ruin on my doorstep.  

So, for any relief from all this stress, I have to look a lot closer at that image of Mr. Agar that appears ghostlike on my bedroom ceiling at 2 a.m. And what do I actually find there? The real, reliable Keith with a broad grin and a firm welcoming hand. The Keith who has never, ever, either in Cambridge or in Northampton, let us down and the Keith who has single-handedly turned so many average occasions into unforgettable events. And there is usually something else behind that image of Keith: another smile of another face. The face of John Green himself telling me not to be so bloody stupid and that nothing matters anyway. Apart, of course, from a Dylan ticket, a Bacardi and coke and a jiffy bag to keep it all in. 

So I have a restless moment and then I go back to sleep in the blissful knowledge that it will be alright on the night. But, hold on a minute, what if the hotel fucks up the catering arrangements or has booked the wrong people into the wrong rooms or……. 

For those who wont be able to make the day, the following are the contents of the programme. Here’s hoping for an event that will match the magic of the first two. I’ll let you know.


Just Allow Us One More Chance – The Third Annual John Green Day
 

After the Second Annual John Green Day held in 2002, the organisers of the event received a letter from Alan Titterton, John’s brother-in-law, on behalf of John’s family.  The following are extracts from Alan’s letter: 

‘It was a great weekend……There was amazing warmth that pervaded the gathering….. Edna’ (John’s mum) ‘loved it. We all loved it. What better way to remember a man than by his friends meeting and celebrating a common love and friendship. Thank you again and we look forward to the next John Green Day.’ 

The sentiments expressed in that letter not only encouraged us in our endeavours to plan another event, they also highlighted perfectly the purpose of the day. The ‘common love’ that Alan wrote about is the love of Dylan folk for the work of Bob Dylan and the Third Annual John Green day will be another celebration of that common love. A celebration too, of friendship. Of the kind of friendship that, by his generosity of spirit, John forged with many people both within and outside of the ‘ Dylan world ’. We are sure that on this Third Annual John Green Day, many old friendships will be renewed and many new friendships will be similarly forged.  Whether you knew John Green personally or not, it does not matter. It is his example of friendship that brings us all together once again to celebrate our love for the work of Bob Dylan. 

The work of Bob Dylan that we are focusing on this year concerns his ‘early folk’ years and we are very lucky to have Carolyn Hester, who was a major influence on the young Dylan, to perform for us.  It is almost 40 years to the day since Dylan released the Freewheelin’  album and in the programme for the First Annual John Green Day held in 2001 a verse of a song from the Freewheelin’ album was quoted. The song was ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream’ and the verse, which recalled time spent with friends went as follows:  

‘With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,
Where we together weathered many a storm,
Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn.’
 

Hopefully there won’t be too many storms for the organisers to weather today! If all goes according to plan then everyone involved will be laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn.

So, without further ado, let the laughter and the singing begin!

Our words to be told, our songs to be sung – what we have planned

The Master of Ceremonies for the day will again be Keith Agar. Those who attended the first two John Green Days  will surely remember the way that Keith masterfully managed the events. Keith will again be bringing his own wonderful style to introduce the various happenings throughout the day and evening.  

The event this year will be split into two halves with talks and other features taking place during the morning and afternoon and the evening concentrating on live music. The speakers will include Andrew Muir whose new book ‘Troubadour’ will be published on the day of the event. The always entertaining C.P. Lee will also be speaking. There will be a panel discussion chaired by Derek Barker, the Editor of ISIS, together with the ever popular Dylan quiz hosted by our Quiz Master Ged Keilty. 

We are particularly lucky this year to have Carolyn Hester performing for us. You will find further details of Carolyn’s strong links with Dylan elsewhere in this programme and we are pleased to say that Carolyn has agreed to give a talk during the afternoon about her involvement in Dylan’s early folk days including a screening of the Westinghouse TV show. 

The evening’s live music will be kicked off by the wonderful ‘Dylanesque’. The young band ‘Cold Overture’ who swept us away like a hurricane with their exciting set last year, will be next on stage before a performance by Carolyn Hester which will complete the live entertainment. If enough people bring their guitars and are willing to get up and sing, the night will be a topped off by a free-for-all hootenanny in true folk club fashion. 

Throughout the day there will be a separate video room with a large screen which will have a continuous showing of film about and relating to Bob Dylan. The film will contain highlights from Dylan’s entire career. During the day there will be a raffle, the prize for which will be copies of the films that are being screened in the video room. 

There will be merchandising tables from My Back Pages, Badlands, lazycarrott.com, Sound Advice, Street Legal and Colin Groves. These very nice people will be selling books, Cd’s, magazines, T-shirts and all manner of other Dylan related material. Browse or buy- they will be pleased to see you. 

Food will be available on the day in conjunction with The Moat House Hotel. The convention bar will be open throughout the day until late on Saturday night. The residents bar will be open throughout the night – indeed until the last man (or woman) is still standing!

Talkin’ John Green Day III News -  the day’s agenda 

Below is set out the planned agenda for the day. These events will take place in the main room of the Buckingham Suite. Although we intend to keep to the times detailed, there may be a slight variation on the day. 

 

10.00–11.00am

Registration.

11.00–11.15am

Formal welcome, introduction and opening by your Master of Ceremonies for the day, Keith Agar

11.15–12.15pm

Talk by Andrew Muir, well known Dylanologist, author of the Dylan book ‘Razors Edge’ and editor of Judas! magazine. Andrew’s new book ‘Troubadour’ will be published on the day of the event.

12.30–1.30pm

‘Will You remember Me At All?, a quiz organised and presented by Ged Keilty.

1.45–2.2.45pm

Talk by C.P. Lee, a Freewheeler, a respected Dylanologist and author of the popular Dylan books ‘Like The Night’ and ‘Like A Bullet of Light’. C.P.’s new book ‘Shake Rattle and Rain’ has recently been published and will be available on the day.

3 – 4pm

An afternoon session with Carolyn Hester, talking about the early folk days.

4.15 – 5pm

A panel discussion chaired by Derek Barker. Included on the panel will be Jeff Stevens who gave a talk at last years event.

5-7pm break

At 7pm the raffle will be drawn and the ticket prize winner will be announced.

7.15 – 8.15pm

The first of the evenings live music with the wonderful Dylanesque performing from their extensive repertoire of Dylan covers.

8.30–9.30pm

Performance by the band Cold Overture. This young and energetic band will be again be bringing to the house their own highly charged music.

9.45–10.45pm

The highlight of the evening’s entertainment with a set from the American folk icon Carolyn Hester.

10.45 – 11pm

Formal closing of the day by Keith Agar.

11pm - late

Free for all hootenanny by any one who wants to get involved. If you’ve got a song to sing, we want to hear it!

 

She Was A Friend Of Mine 

For any young wannabe it is simply a matter of getting yourself into the right place at the right time. If you have a worthy talent you will get noticed and the rest should follow. It certainly worked that way for a 20 year old Woody Guthrie wannabe from Minnesota who had so much talent that, one day, he would be able to stop the world from spinning.  All he needed was that right place and that right time and, of course, a friend to lend a helping hand. The 20 year old wannabe from Minnesota was lucky for he got two bites at the cherry and each right time that he found himself in the right place, the same friend was there with that helping hand. 

The first right time was in August 1961 and the right place was a folk gathering at the popular Club 47 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The friend of the wannabe, an established folk performer, invited him up on stage in the middle of her set and gave him the chance to showcase his talents. The 20 year old got up on stage and sang four songs. For some of his audience the world just stopped spinning during that brief performance and when he finished, they came to realise that the world wouldn’t spin in quite the same way again. He had been set on his way. 

The second right time was far more important. It was a few weeks later, in September 1961 and the right place was an apartment on West 10th Street, New York. That same friend of the wannabe, the established folk performer, was rehearsing songs for her new album and she invited him along to the apartment to play some backing harmonica. What made the occasion so important was that an influential, and indeed legendary, record producer just happened to be in the same place at the same time. The magic then happened again because, after he had heard the wannabe play, the influential record producer was so knocked out by the obvious talent that, so rumour has it, he offered the 20 year old a recording contract on the spot. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Now let me add some flesh to the bare bones of these anecdotes. Let me say that the influential record producer was none other that John Hammond Senior; the wannabe was none other than Bob Dylan and the friend with the helping hand was none other than Carolyn Hester. It wouldn’t be true to just blame these incidents on mere simple twists of fate: in those early folk days there was a strong link between Bob Dylan and Carolyn Hester. 

Writing in the 106th issue of ISIS some 41 years later, the Dylan historian John B. Way reminded the magazine’s readers of the link between Dylan and Carolyn Hester. John was in fact reviewing the recently surfaced Westinghouse Broadcasting television programme from 1963 in which both performers appeared. John had this to say about Carolyn Hester: 

‘Next up is another singer who has strong links with Dylan – Carolyn Hester. Born in Waco, Texas in 1936, and a distant relative of ex-President Lyndon Johnson, she was brought to Columbia records by John Hammond and, to compound the parallels with Dylan's story, this was after a rave review by Robert Shelton in The New York Times following her first New York concert! But not before she had made her first eponymous LP for Pat Clancy’s Tradition label (sleeve note by Stacy Williams alias Robert Shelton – another parallel!). The story of her second eponymous LP, with Dylan, is well known by now and its importance to Dylan’s subsequent career cannot be overstated’.*

It is with some great delight then that on this Third Annual John Green Day we are able to renew that link from the past and see Carolyn Hester perform at a gathering of Dylan folk. We are very grateful indeed to Carolyn for agreeing to appear at the event and we have now doubt that, at some point during her performance she too will be able to stop the world from spinning. We wish Carolyn well for the remaining shows on her UK tour.

*The extract from ISIS 106 is reprinted here with the kind permission of Derek Barker  

Freewheelin’ would like to thank all those taking part in the Third Annual John Green Day. We certainly couldn’t have done it without you.

 

 
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