Friday, May 17, 2013

John Bushey: Dylan On His Mind

Extract from DNT a few years back
Name three things that Highway 61 Revisited host John Bushey has in common with Steve Martin? Both like music very much. Both are in the entertainment field. And both had early experiences as a demonstrator in a magic shop at an early age.

You know the job. Pull a trick off the shelf, pull in a small crowd, dazzle them and get them to part with a portion of the contents of their wallets. Steve Martin, as a teen, worked in such a shop at Disneyland, honing entertainment skills that carried him forward for life. John Bushey worked at Bruno's Costumes and Magic here in Duluth. And like another Duluthian whose love of music carried him away to the four corners of everywhere, Bushey's passion for magic has taken him around the world as well.

I've never asked him, but it would be interesting to see if John Bushey's passion for magic played a role in his passion for the music of Bob Dylan, who's ability to generate lyrics out of thin air is comparable to a master magician's sleight-of-hand.

Bushey has been host of KUMD's Highway 61 Revisited, a.k.a. The Dylan Hour, for more than two decades, of which I've been a fan for at least ten, or whenever it was that I became aware of the program, which by means of the internet can be heard around the world. Last year at this time I watched Bushey entertain a circle of friends on the Blood on the Tracks Express, performing magic. Making things appear and disappear, and more. When you watch a master do card tricks, all kinds of words come to mind. Mind-blowing. Befuddling. Astonishing. Bewildering. Fun.

But the pro Dylan buff does more than entertain. He's a collector as well. An enormous fan of Harry Houdini, he began collecting memorabilia related to escape artists at the age of ten and has continued to this day so that he has one of the largest collections of handcuffs and gadgetry pertaining to escapology in the country. We're talking hundreds of handcuffs of all styles.

Bushey is one of the forces behind our North Country Dylan Fest Celebration, which kicks off tonight with the Hard Rain Concert featuring Scarlet Rivera accompanied by Gene LaFond and His Wild Unknown. Special guest Courtney Yasmineh will be preceding them. Last night I discovered that Courtney lived on Lake Vermillion for a spell as a teen and, like me, she has a passion for writing. We're all looking forward to a great evening of music and entertainment. If you haven't purchased a ticket yet, there are still seats available and we'd like to see a full house. All proceeds will go toward the Armory restoration.

The great part of his show Highway 61 Revisited is Bushey's tireless effort to find rare tracks of Dylan music from obscure sources including outtakes and unreleased recordings that you won't hear anywhere else. One of Bushey's projects for this year's Dylan daze is a film collage featuring 12 great Dylan performances, to be projected Tuesday at the Red Star Lounge in Fitgers.

As a longtime listener to the program I've noticed that despite the quantity and breadth of Dylan's output, Bushey does return frequently to a number of favorite tunes. Several times in recent weeks he's played Highlands from Time Out of Mind and I asked him about this. He noted that the long songs give you a break when you're on the air. Why would a foremost Dylan DJ need a break? Answer: he's currently wrestling with Stage 4, Grade 2 follicular lymphoma. i.e. cancer. Bushey reassured me that Stage 2 cancer means it progresses very slowly. The goal of his current treatment regimen is remission, since there is no cure.

My prayer is that the escape artist will be able to get out of cancer's cuffs and take us for another 20 year journey into new channels of Dylan minutia. There are Dylan lyrics for every kind of situation and perhaps in an upcoming program he'll share an assortment of songs pertaining to new lessons he's learned from this experience. Meantime, he's got Dylan on his mind and a heart in the highlands.

Visit the Duluth Dylan Fest  page on Facebook.

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