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An incredible encounter with Bob Dylan, really

My family and I stopped at the Ariston Cafe in Litchfield, Il, during our drive up to Peoria the day before the concert.  It's a cool historic diner located on route 66 full of neon lights and great food.  They gave us a bunch of complimentary goodies I'm guessing for no other reason than we have cute kids.  I thought J.D. might like one of the route 66 postcards so I picked one to give to him.  

The morning of the concert we noticed two conspicuous buses parked across the parking lot and I noticed a man, who clearly looked like a musician (cool glasses and a fedora), walk from the buses to the side entrance of the hotel.  I eventually made it over to their lobby and saw the guy sitting at a table reading the paper.  I almost chickened out and left without saying anything, but, before hitting the doors outside, got a surge of courage and made a 180 and approached the stranger.  I asked him if he was with the tour buses and he said (slightly stunned), "yeah, uh-huh."  We chatted for a second and I asked him which band he was with.  He gave me look that said,  "I wish I could tell you, but I can't,"  I caught the vibe and dropped the topic.  I told him this was my 3rd Dylan show and he hoped I enjoyed it.  As it turns out, J.D. put together it was Stu Kimball that I had unknowingly met (I'm not quite the super fan J.D. is, so please forgive my not recognizing Stu right off the bat).  We went over a little later to get him to sign our post cards but he was gone (arggggg!).

The day progressed and we saw a couple other band members from a distance walking from the hotel to the bus, but still no Bob.  We then went to the riverfront in Peoria for a few hours and, upon our return back to the hotel, my wife and I saw a very hobo-ish figure with sweats and a hat on walking from the hotel to the bus.  I freaked and grabbed J.D. who was already in our room.  We scoped the site until the figure came out.  We barely got a glimpse of him as he went back into the hotel.  J.D. and I debated the possibility of it being Bob.  The figure then became know as the "Hoodie Weirdo."  It was from quite a distance and his clothes were really baggie, but, man, his posture and gait sure seemed to fit the bill.  After a few minutes we headed back into our room and I took a nap until it was time to leave.  

At around 4:30ish we gathered our stuff and headed out for an evening of music and fun.  As we approached our fish doctor friend's car I asked J.D. if he had the tickets.  He said "oh s***, man, no I'll be right back" and headed back to the room.  Me and the fish doc hopped in the car.  I was looking her direction and she was looking my direction, which gave her a view of the buses.  She noticed the "hoodie weirdo" we had been discussing earlier, and before she could finish telling me what she was seeing, I was out of the car making a B-line for the buses.  I didn't really expect it to be Bob, but hey, maybe it was another band member.  I wanted to catch the person before they disappeared back onto the bus so my pace was fast.  As I approached the buses I could see the figure's reflection on the further bus and it was getting closer to me.  I slowed my stride but my heart started to really pound and out from in between the vehicles a little man appeared.  My eyes and brain scoured his facial features, much like the Terminator as he searches for a positive ID on John Conner, and within milliseconds I recognize him as Bob Dylan, holy s***!!! BOB DYLAN!!!  Pure instinct kicked in and I managed to stay relaxed (I'm a nurse, so I'm used to breaking the ice with sick grumpy people, not that Bob was sick or grumpy, just that breaking the ice comes naturally to me now -- actually I think I've always been good at striking conversations with strangers, but anyway) as I shouted "We were just hopping in the car to head to your show, Bob!"  He looked over at me a little startled and said "what."  I repeated and by that time I was to him.  We greeted and shook hand (he has a very distinct hand shake).  He asked me more questions than I asked him -- my name, occupation, where I worked, lived and so on.  He seemed really curious and had a groovy way of putting things.  Its true that his stare is piercing, even through his sunglasses.  I told him about J.D. and what a big fan he is; and that I'd like them to meet.  Bob said that would be great, but I was terrified that J.D. would take too long doing whatever he was doing (I had forgotten by that point -- just hurry up J.D., dammit, its Bob Dylan!) and Bob would have to go.  I felt like every second with him was a privilege.  Finally after a few minutes -- that felt like an hour -- J.D. showed up.  Haha, finally!  Bob would definitely be roped by J.D. long enough for me to get those cool postcards!!  Bob said again as I left to get them that he wasn't going anywhere, but I wasn't about to risk it -- would you?  I scurried into the hotel, struggling to fit the damn key card into the damn slot reader to unlock the damn door because I started shaking so much.  I rallied the families, "HE'S OUT THERE! . . ." it was hard to bring words to my mouth at this point, " . . .WE'RE TALKING TO HIM!"  The girls, "who?"  Me, ". . . BOB DYLAN!!!!"  The girls "WHAT!  REALLY!!" and so on.  I managed to grab the postcards and booked it back to the action (it didn't occur to me that our families were allowed to meet him until I was about to leave with the cards.  I told my wife to grab the kids, barefoot and all, and lets go).  Bob made good on his promise to give us personalized autographs and seemed tickled the whole time. While I was gone J.D., the fish doctor and Bob had an interesting conversation about the fish doctor's job.  Here is that conversation from J.D.'s recollection:

Another kind of funny part. My friend, who is not really a Dylan fan at all but just tolerates the rest of us, was kind of just standing off to the side with he look of a patient, bemused mother while we were talking to Bob. She's a scientist/professor of fisheries. Finally when my other friend goes inside the hotel to get these cool Route 66 postcards Bob agreed to sign for us, I took that moment to introduce her to Bob. He'd asked all of us what we did for a living, so when I introduced her, I said this is my friend So-and-so. She's a fish doctor(which is what we all say to tease her). Bob goes, A fish doctor! Really. Like you treat fish when they're sick? 

My friend laughs and shakes his hand. She goes, Not exactly. I'm a university professor. I study fish. 

Then, just to keep teasing her, I say, ask her how she has to squeeze the fish to help them breed. 

Bob looks at her and starts laughing. He goes, I have never heard of a thing such as that. That's the weirdest thing I ever heard of yet.

My friend goes, and you thought your job was weird. 

He's still kind of laughing and he goes, Yeah, right? That's wild.

Seriously, I can't believe we had that conversation with Bob Dylan. Perfect.

Then, once I return with the postcards I ask him the only music related question of the whole conversation:

Me: Ok ok so here's a song question. I'm from Carbondale and I know there are a couple of other Carbondales. S-so here is what us Carbondalians want to know -- In Duquesne Whistle you mention Carbondale. Is it the one in Illinois?

Bob: <winking a little> Uh-huh. It sure is.

Me: Are you gonna play that one tonight?

Bob: We just might.

Me: This is my third time seeing you. Once at Sauget, Il and once in Carbondale. You probably don't remember that one, it was a few years ago.

Bob: I think I do remember Carbondale. We did hang out there a couple of times a while back.

His bodyguard looked like he could have smashed us with one of the buses, but he waved once he knew Bob was ok.  One other thing that really impressed me was Bob's humbleness, whether intentional or natural, he said 2-3 times that he hoped we would like the performance.  He'd say, "I'll do my best."  It was nice to hear.  In fact, he shouted it when we honked and waved as we headed to the show.  It was as perfect of an experience as one could hope for.  I got 1 on 1 time with Bob, J.D. got 1 on 1 time and our families met him too.  My daughters were too shy to approach him, so they clung to mommy and flirted with their eyes.  My wife gave an ecstatic, "Hi Bob," and gave a huge half circle wave.  Simply blessed.

Views: 7831

Comment by J.Seah on February 18, 2014 at 11:22pm

Priceless!!! :D

Comment by Richard Booth on February 19, 2014 at 9:37am
Comment by Jeffery Kite on February 20, 2014 at 5:28pm

Love reading stories like these. Brightens my day.

Comment by Robert Babb on February 21, 2014 at 2:29pm

wow! what a humble guy as well!

Comment by Chad B on February 21, 2014 at 9:02pm
A great story. Thank for sharing.
Comment by Rick Garceau on February 23, 2014 at 12:05pm

Great story! Brings back memories of the fun times traveling to Dylan shows with my kids. Thanks!

Comment by Josh Board on February 25, 2014 at 2:11am

THis story, sir...rocks!!! Thank you for sharing.

Met Dylan twice. He just walked by me!!!!  Not the biggest fan, but I think "Blood on the Tracks" might be one of the best records, by any artist, ever recorded. Glad you got the signature. And the great story.

Comment by Steve Cyrkin, Admin on February 27, 2014 at 7:06pm


Esquire published a really cool Bob Dylan article/interview in January that shows how unusual your remarkable encounter with him was.


Comment by Xwiesy on February 27, 2014 at 7:57pm
Both this encounter and the Esquire article show he'll do it- rarely- but he will.
Comment by Mike Chervinko on February 28, 2014 at 7:16pm

I do occasionally wonder why Bob was so receptive to me.  There was one point early in the conversation, but after he had said no photos, where he assumed I was the press.  When he asked me about it he said it in a way that made me think he didn't care if I was.  I told him that I wasn't, but I was an avid amateur photographer.  He seemed intrigued by this and asked me what kind of photography I did.  I mostly do art and so that is what I told him.  He gave me the feeling that he may have let me photo him since I know what I'm doing ( I only shoot film and I use a darkroom I built in my basement).  We didn't elaborate on the subject beyond that because I think that is when J.D. showed up.  If I have any regrets about the interaction, its not getting a chance to tell him more about my work.  In the end, it was more important, by far, that J.D. got to meet him.


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