Sunday, September 9, 2018

Airstreamers Arrive in Dylan Country

Kim Kervina welcomes the Airstreamers to Duluth
at Indian Point Campground.
If you're a fan of music history, especially the roots of Americana, you'll very likely be jealous of the caravan of Airstreamers that rolled into Duluth this weekend. Street rodders have their road tours, as do bikers. Till recently I was unaware, though, of the passion for doing the caravan thing that Airstreamers have been sharing and experiencing. They have seen a lot over the years.

This year's Airstreamer caravan consists of people from Ontario and Maine to Florida, Texas, New Mexico, California and everywhere in between.

The theme for this year's traveling road tour is Highway 61 Revisited. It's certain to be a music and blues fan dream, led by Mary & Ingo Werk.

When you look at the itinerary you realize how much work goes into this month-long happening. Here's a synopsis from their H61R Driver Manual:

The Caravan starts in Duluth MN, where the iconic singer-songwriter, musician, author, artist and recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature Bob Dylan was born. We tour all Bob Dylan sites of significance in Duluth as well as in Hibbing MN, where he grew up. His 1965 album “Highway 61 Revisited” inspired this Caravan, as this once major American highway still connects us to the places known for their musical heritage. 

Next are the Twin Cities, where the multi-talented recording artist Prince, who passed away in 2016, resided. We tour his extraordinary private estate and production complex just outside of Minneapolis. Going South on 61, Memphis TN is a music explorer’s delight: Elvis Presley’s Graceland, Beale Street, Sun Records where Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash cut their first record, Stax Studios of Otis Redding fame and the birth of Soul Music. We see it all, and much more. Crossing the state line to Mississippi, 61 turns into the Blues Highway. This stretch is an education of the Mississippi Delta Blues and the rich history of this unique art form. We visit the Blues Museums featuring legends as well as Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club. We even visit a Grammy Museum dedicated to the Blues in the middle of nowhere. Heading South, Louisiana has its own music traditions. Our final destination is New Orleans LA, the birthplace of Jazz: Dixieland, Louis Armstrong, French Quarter, Fats Domino, etc. The Big Easy is this Caravan’s Grand Finale. If you got the rhythm, this Caravan is for you!

The opening event at noon Sunday was an hour long welcome from a few members from the Duluth contingent. After a bit of pot luck eats (yummm!) Ingo Werk briefly shared that there was a 100% Present attendance for this tour, the last Airstreamer arriving to the campground at approximately 11:28 p.m. last night. Ingo then led us in song, the first verse of Blowin' in the Wind, setting the one for this first leg of the tour.

Ingo then introduced Kim Kervina, from Visit Duluth, who played a role in orchestrating this first portion of the Airstreamers' adventure. Kim was followed by Ed Newman who gave a 20-minute talk titled Bob Dylan 101, primarily detailing key events in Dylan's early life, including his 1959 encounter with Buddy Holly at the Duluth Armory, interweaving stories and connecting a few dots. As Alexander Pope was observed, "If a man is worth knowing at all he is worth knowing well."

This spring on Bob Dylan’s birthday May 24 Duluth Mayor Emily Larson opened her remarks by asking, “How much of who we are has been influenced by our first formative years?” These first few days in the Northland will provide the Airstreamers numerous clues regarding those influences that you might not readily grasp from just reading a book or two about Duluth's native son.

Left to Right: Zane Bail, "Ennyman", Ingo Werk & Miriam Hanson
For me, one of the notable features of living in this region and circulating amongst other fans of the Nobel Laureate is that because of the proximity one will occasionally meet people with one or two degrees of separation from Dylan. Nearly every one has a story, or stories of others with stories. The net impact is that Bob Dylan isn't a storybook character in some mythological fairy tale, but rather a real person who went to school, read books, liked to do thing kids do, went to summer camp, listened to the radio, enjoyed music, signed other kids' yearbooks, liked motorcycles... and more.

Zane Bail then shared the backstory on how Bob Dylan Way came into existence through the efforts of her husband Don Dass, city council president Don Ness (who was later elected Mayor) and the late Steve O'Neil, a county commissioner. After decades of wrangling over whether or not to do it, and where, Don Dass wrote a letter suggesting Leif Erickson Park be re-named. This was a trigger that set in motion a real solution which now runs from the Duluth Depot to the Armory and includes three Dylan-themed manhole covers.

Zane then introduced Miriam Hanson who spoke briefly about the influence of John Bushey and his KUMD radio hour Highway 61 Revisited, which aired for over 26 years. Miriam was "knighted" by John Bushey to carry the torch after his passing in February and she's done an admirable job filling John's large shoes.

Miriam's story begins with listening to Highway 61 Revisited as a 15-year-old teen, finding inspiration to see the larger world. She began her life here in Duluth but left and spent a dozen years in the Caribbean before returning to Duluth, living once again in the Central Hillside, recalling for us how when Bob was here with Paul Simon he pointed up to the hills of Duluth and remembered them well.

I brought some of my books to share.
Monday the Airstreamers will be taking in Dylan-related points of interest in Duluth including his birth home on the Hillside where he lived till he was six and the Armory where Robert Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly perform just days before "the music died." A portion of the Bill Pagel Archives will be on display at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum Library. Tuesday will be a tour of several points of interest in Hibbing where young Bob grew up.

Wednesday the Airstreamer Caravan will leave the Northland and make their way to the Twin Cities where they will take time to take in additional sites in Minnesota, with tour guide Magic Marc Percansky sharing some points of interest.

One of the scheduled stops this week will be Red Wing, MN, so as a closing number it seems a good place to share the opening lines of Dylan's Walls of Red Wing.

Related Links
The Day the Music Almost Died
Highway 61 Revisited, Streaming Live on KUMD
Ennyman's Dylan Gallery (Paintings & Drawings)

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Get into it.


Phil said...

Another stellar post, Ennyman! The Airstreamers are very lucky to have had such an experienced and passionate trio to lead them through their Duluth visit. Glad the weather held up. What's next for you?

Sweet Candy said...

Thank you so much for coming out to meet us and for all of the information and insights you shared with us! The Dylan fans have a great resource in you!

Ed Newman said...

Thanks, Phil and Candy. It was a very special time and I was sincere when I said to the group, "A lot of us are jealous."