The Dylan Archives Will Make Tulsa A Rock Fan’s Destination



I’ve never had Tulsa on my places-to-see wish list, but I surely will in a couple of years when the Bob Dylan Museum opens in the friendly Oklahoma burg. The Museum will be an offshoot of the reported $15-20 million deal between Dylan and a charitable foundation that is seeing him donate his complete archives to the University of Tulsa’s Center for American Research.

It’s a win-win deal for everybody. With legacy in mind, Dylan knows that his massive collection of writing, audio tapes, film and personal items would be best kept in one place, for the benefits of scholars and fans alike. And Tulsa seemed like a good place for the archive given Dylan’s love of small-city America, his contrariness, and the fact it’s also the home of the Woody Guthrie Center.

The trucks have started delivering what will eventually be more than 6,000 items that once belonged to the most important artist of the second half of the 20th century. There is so much amazing material that scholars and journalists will be coming up with new Dylan theories for decades to come. There could be books written about every album he made.

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Rolling Stone got a sneak peak at some of the material in the collection, and it all sounds thrilling. The archive will hold digital copies of the raw session tapes from every Dylan album, plus the audio from all of his recorded concerts of the past five decades. The guy was a bit of a hoarder, and he kept reams of typed and handwritten lyrics on notebooks and matchbooks and anything else he could write them on.

There is also some amazing film and video, including outtakes from Dylan’s movies and never-before seen footage of him in the recording studio. There’s a previously unknown 16mm film of Dylan making music, hanging out and playing cards with The Band during the Basement Tapes era. That one item alone has got Rock fans and historians drooling with anticipation.

Right now researchers are being given access to the material but only if they request something very specific to see. You can’t just go rummaging through this stuff like a bargain hunter at a yard sale. Curators are going through the material and picking out the best stuff to be eventually displayed at the Museum. I hope it includes:

  • A 1969 letter from George Harrison: “Dear Bobbie, Thanks for Nashville Skyline, It is beautiful. Love to you all.”
  • The complete contents of Dylan’s wallet from 1966 including Otis Redding’s business card and Lenny Bruce’s contact information.
  • A love song written for Mavis Staples in 1963, back when they almost got married to one another.

Living on Tulsa time. 24 hours from Tulsa. I will definitely be heading there when this amazing treasure trove of Rock history becomes available for public viewing in two years or so.

Photo credit: By Francisco Antunes (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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