Searching for Bob Dylan...
Northern Minnesota isn't just Viking territory. It's Bob Dylan country.
And what even some of the more prominent Dylan fans out there might not be aware of, is that each year the towns of Duluth and Hibbing Minnesota, both of which hold claim to be Bob Dylan's childhood hometown (he was born in Duluth and moved to Hibbing later...) put on a week-long, dual-city fan-celebration on the week of Bob Dylan's birthday: The Duluth Dylan Fest! A quieter celebration, the Duluth Dylan Fest is a means for both cities to not just celebrate, but showcase and educate locals and fans from near and abroad alike about the place where one of the most prominent songwriters, lyricists, poets, and maybe the single most important pop culture icon of all time grew up. It's a chance to get in touch with Bob Dylan's roots, a chance to get in touch with a slice of the Americana that once never was...
We start (like Dylan) in Duluth, Minnesota...
Looking southwest from 1st Avenue at Nettleton Magnet Elementary School (Dylan's elementary school) out at Lake Superior.
Nettleton Magnet Elementary School (closed)
108 E 6th St, Duluth, MN 55805
(Dylan's elementary school)
Looking out across at the Lakeview Walkway...
Watching the boats come in at the Aerial Lift Bridge at the entry to Duluth Harbor.
Duluth North Pier Lighthouse looking out over Lake Superior
Duluth Public Library - 520 W Superior St, Duluth, MN 55802
A great place to start your Bob Dylan fan journey is at the Duluth Public Library. Up on the second floor of the building, there is a display case full of Bob Dylan memorabilia...
Bob Dylan Way
There is no official "Bob Dylan Drive/Way" in Duluth, which is shocking. Apparently, there was some controversy when the city wanted to create such a route, so as a compromise the city of Duluth erected, "Bob Dylan Way", a historical byway of signs across downtown.
(photo courtesy of www.BobDylanWay.com)
"In May 2006, the City of Duluth designated a cultural pathway in honor of Duluth’s native son, Bob Dylan, to commemorate his 65th birthday. Since then, a group of citizens has raised private dollars to create and install 30 street signs to mark the pathway.
The 1.8 mile Bob Dylan Way winds through Duluth’s downtown, extending from Michigan Street at 5th Avenue West to 15th Avenue East and London Road. It follows segments of three major arteries: Michigan Street, Superior Street and London Road (Historical Highway 61) linking cultural assets from the Depot to the history Armory and helping to create a comprehensive vision for Duluth’s vibrant arts community."
- From "www.BobDylanWay.com
There's a small glass-enclosed Bob Dylan display outside of Fitger's Brewhouse.
A group of artists that have held "iron pour" art events for years past has created three artist-designed, Bob Dylan-inspired manhole covers that are placed all over on Bob Dylan Way (parts of Michigan Street, Superior Street, and London Road) in Duluth, MN.
The iron pour events create a different form of art out of melted iron each year. The artist group that sponsored the event that led to the creation of the Bob Dylan manhole covers -- Common Language -- decided to apply for a grant to create the public art project focused on Bob Dylan, who was born Robert Zimmerman in 1941 in Duluth.
The artists received the grant money and decided manhole covers would be a great place for art, said Jeffrey Kalstrom, one of the organizers.
There are three artists created, iron made manhole covers across Duluth honoring Dylan.
(photo courtesy of www.marczapchenk.com)
The official, "Bob Dylan Way" manhole cover was created by artist Marc Zapchenk. Head on over to his website to check out a lot of cool pictures showcasing how he made the manhole covers - http://www.marczapchenk.com/design/#/bob-dylan-way/
Another manhole was designed by Laurel Sanders. She's a huge Dylan fan. Her design comes from Dylan's song "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
"This was pretty easy because the lyric in the song says, 'jump down a manhole,'" Sanders, a Duluth artist, told NPR's All Things Considered. "We had that image to start with."
This manhole cover, the third in the series, was designed by graphic artist Heidie Geyer. The design shows a harmonica against a background of a circular scale with musical notes. The circle is bisected with a harmonica framed in a music scale filled with notes. It says "Bob Dylan Way" along the top and "Duluth Minnesota" along the bottom.
Chris Monroe is an author, illustrator, visual artist and cartoonist. She is the author of seven children's picture books, as well as the illustrator of picture books by authors such as Kevin Kling, Jane Yolen, and Janice Levy. Her comic strip, "Violet Days" has been in print for over 19 years, and is featured in the collection "Ultra Violet: Ten Years Of Violet Days."
Chris Monroe has also contributed various unique Bob Dylan-theme designs to various Dylan-themed merchandise, which can be found in various shops across Duluth. Her artwork was also used on the first, "Duluth Does Dylan" compilation album (more information below...)
Monroe's work can be viewed at her website...
Duluth Does Dylan...
"Duluth Does Dylan" is a local project to independently release compilation albums featuring Dylan songs covered by local bands and artists native to the Duluth area. These compilations are available at the project's website and sometimes at Electric Fetus, a local record shop.
Duluth Does Dylan website... http://duluthdoesdylan.com
Historic Highway 61 (Highway 61 Revisited)
Chances are if you drove to Duluth, you took a highway. Running right through town is old, historic U.S. Highway 61, which runs 1,400 miles from the Canadian-Minnesota border to New Orleans, Louisiana, following the Mighty Mississippi for most of the journey. Highway 61 is famous not just because of Bob Dylan's album, "Highway 61 Revisited", but because of its history with the Blues, a style of music that greatly influenced Dylan and many artists of his time including The Band and The Rolling Stones.
Highway 61 runs through Memphis Tennessee into the Delta of the Mississippi, the very birthplace of the Blues...
A surviving stretch of the 8-foot concrete road
southeast of Winona.
State Hwy 61 marker at the Lester River in Duluth.
U.S. 61 route shield on the same post as a Constitutional Route 3 marker. Photographer unknown, from my private collection.
(Photos of historic U.S. Highway 61 courtesy of http://www.deadpioneer.com/routes/US61/us61history.htm)Gooseberry Falls State Park
There are many sights to see along Highway 61 up the north shore of Lake Superior...
Gooseberry Falls State Park
Gooseberry Falls State Park has access to lava flow formations, hiking trails, lakeshore and river beaches
Split Rock Lighthouse
Described as Minnesota's own "Statue of Liberty", Split Rock Lighthouse was Built in 1910 after the Mataafa Storm of 1905. The lighthouse is lit every November 10th as a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The "Minnesota Welcomes You" Sign at the Canadian Border on Highway 61 South.
Out on Lake Superior carrying iron ore...
One thing you see a lot of in Duluth, and all along the north shore are ships!
Some of these ships are 1,000 feet long and carry things like iron ore across the Great Lakes. My mother and I met my Uncle Al in Two Harbors, just 33 minutes up Highway 61 from Duluth and we were given a private tour of the American Century, a 1000-foot ship my Uncle Al was the Chief Engineer of at the time (he is currently retired and living in Traverse City, Michigan).
My Uncle Al's office on board the American Century
The Historic Duluth Armory
3th Avenue East and London Road (Historic Highway 61)
It was on the now infamous “Winter Dance Party Tour” that a young Robert Zimmerman saw Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper play at the Duluth National Guard Armory on January 31st, 1959, just a few days before the rock trio died in a tragic plane crash just north of Clear Lake, Iowa. 12 years later, the incident became famously known as "The Day The Music Died", as it was referred to in the lyrics of Don McLean's iconic 1971 song, "American Pie".
Dylan already had a reputation for being a rock & roller. It was noted in his high school yearbook that Zimmerman would most be remembered "... to join "Little Richard".
Holly performing at the Duluth Armory on January 31st, 1959 inspiring a young Bob Dylan
Poster for the Winter Dance Party in Duluth, MN.
"A new and lasting musical model emerged -- Buddy Holly. Dylan began to imitate Holly's sweet, naive, almost childlike voice, and the vocal quality of many of Dylan's early recordings shows his debt to Buddy Holly...."
"Dylan and his mates could identify easily with Holly -- another small-town boy, young, slight, vulnerable. Imagine the excitement when Holly and musician Link Wray appeared at the Duluth Armory. (Dylan visited Wray in 1975, and told him: "Link, I was sitting in the front row when you and Buddy Holly were at Duluth, and you're as great now as you were then.")... Only three days after Dylan had seen him, Buddy Holly was dead...."
- Robert Shelton, No Direction Home, London, 1987, pp. 53-54
Bob Dylan even mentioned Holly in his 1998 Grammy acceptance speech...
Bob Dylan's Childhood Home (Duluth)
519 N 3rd Ave E, Duluth, MN 55805
Bob Dylan's childhood home in Duluth as of May 2014
(photo courtesy of www.Duluth.com)
Two years later, on Bob's 75th birthday, May 24, 2016, as part of the festivities for the Duluth Dylan Fest that year, a small, round plaque was embedded in the front sidewalk; it has Dylan's face and the words, "In Bob We Trust.".
Dylan's childhood home featured in the exhibit at Fitger's.
Positively Third Street Bakery - 202 E 3rd St, Duluth, MN 55805
Another fun place to stop in for a special treat is the "Positively Third Street Bakery". They have all kinds of tasty treats available inside! This place isn't featured in any of the Dylan festivities, nor is it on Bob Dylan Way, but I still recommend you stop by and pick up something delicious while you bum around Duluth.
Leif Erikson Park
12th Avenue East & London Road, across from the Armory, and down to the Lakewalk level.
"One time my parents took me to see Harry Truman speak at a political rally in Duluth's Leif Erickson Park. Leif Erickson was a Viking who was supposed to have come to this part of the country way before the Pilgrims..."
- Chronicles, vol. 1, Pg. 230
The Official Duluth Dylan Festival!
In 2014, the Duluth Dylan Festival was broken up into two separate parts: the Duluth "North Country Dylan Celebration", and Hibbing's "Dylan Days". Here is the schedule of the festivities we attended...
Day 1 - May 16th, 2014 - North Country Dylan Celebration Pre-Party @ VIP Superior
We drove up U.S. Route 51 through Wisconsin and then drove over to Superior, Wisconsin for the kick-off party at VIP Pizza to hear some Dylan tunes performed by Dylan-duo Cowboy Angel Blue.
(Photo courtesy of V.I.P. Pizza's Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/Vintage-Italian-Pizza-VIP-59147193292/)
Day 2 - May 17th, 2014 - A Salute To The Music of Bob Dylan @ Sacred Heart Music Center
On the second day of the 2014 Duluth Dylan Fest, a "Salute to the Music of Bob Dylan" put on by the Duluth Armory and Magic Marc Productions at the Sacred Heart Music Center.
During this specific performance in 2014, Scarlet Rivera performed with the band. For those non-Dylan fanatics, Scarlet Rivera is best known for her work with Dylan on the album, Desire" and with the Rolling Thunder Revue.
Scarlet can be heard on these Dylan releases...
Day 3 - May 18th, 2014 - Dylan Trivia @ Carmody's Irish Pub
Dylan trivia was put on at Carmody's Irish Pub...
(photo courtesy of Carmody Irish Pub's Facebook Page)
Day 4 - May 19th, 2014 - Dylan-Themed Grog Time @ Tycoons Alehouse
Russ Sacket and Jamie Ness performing at Tycoons Alehouse...
Day 5 - May 20th, 2014 - Dylan Art Exhibition & Poetry Showcase @ The Red Mug (Superior, WI)
The Red Mug in Superior, WI hosted a really cool Dylan art exhibition and poetry showcase with live readings, refreshments, and Dylan artwork on display for all to see...
Scarlet Rivera reading at the Poetry Showcase...
Joe Biden made an unexpected visit to the Red Mug on a separate occasion...
Day 6 - May 21st, 2014 - Belle Notte Wed. @ Valentini's
A special on 1/2 price bottles of wine, pasta special, and Dylan music performed by local musicians and songwriter Greg Tiburzi.
Day 7 - Bob Dylan B-Day BashVol 1 @ Red Star Lounge with Cowboy Angel Blue.
Cowboy Angel Blue @ the Bob Dylan Birthday Bash Vol. 1 at Red Star Lounge in Fitger's.
Bob Dylan's 73rd Birthday Bash Birthday Cake
My mother and I hanging out with the Dylan heads at Bob Dylan's 73rd Birthday Bash. John Bushey wearing white in the center.
Highway 61 Revisited...
While "Highway 61 Revisited" is the name of one of Bob Dylan's most iconic albums, it is also the name of KUMD 103.3FM's Dylan-centric radio show hosted by John Bushey... A video pulled from FOX 21 about John Bushey receiving a local honor when the studio he has played "Highway 61 Revisited" in was permanently named the "John Bushey Highway 61 Revisited Studio.
Bob Dylan Birthday Bash vol. 2 @ Tycoon's Alehouse with Cowboy (Jim Hall's Band)
The final event of Duluth's North Country Dylan Celebration...
The final two days of the celebration were put on by Hibbing's "Dylan Days"...
Day 8 - May 23, 2014 - Dylan Days Literary Showcase @ Howard Street Booksellers (Hibbing)
Author of, "The Dylanologists" David Kinney did a reading at (now closed) Howard Street Booksellers in Hibbing, MN.
Dylan Days Singer Songwriter Contest @ Crown Plaza
GRAMMY Museum Traveling Exhibit "Daniel Kramer: Photographs of Bob Dylan"
After stops in Paris and London, the Grammy's Bob Dylan photo exhibit made a stop in Hibbing, Minnesota during the Dylan Days celebration. It was the first U.S. stop for the exhibit, bypassing New York and Minneapolis. The exhibit showcased Daniel Kramer's famous photos of Dylan, many of which you will recognize...
Daniel Kramer took the photos used for "Bringing It All Back Home" and "Highway 61 Revisited"...
(All photos taken by Daniel Kramer)
Day 9 - May 24, 2014 - Dylan Days Bus Tour (Hibbing)
On the second to last day, Dylan Days put on an official Bus Tour of Hibbing!
The Bus Tour loosely follows the Bob Dylan Walking Tour.
This tour was developed by staff at the Hibbing Public Library. It travels along a path that was once walked by Bob Dylan. Photographs of Feldman’s, L&B Café, the Synagogue, and the Alice School are the property of Aubin Photo Studio in Hibbing. The walking starts at the building that was Zimmerman Electric and ends at the Androy, the site of Bob’s Bar Mitzvah celebration. This Bob Dylan "Walking Tour" is approximately 1.9 miles, and the bus tour encompassed all of it...
The Walking Tour highlights are listed below. Many text and photos are lifted from Hibbing.Mn.Us's website, which has even more information about the Bob Dylan Walking Tour...
1 - Zimmerman Furniture and Electric - 1925 5th Avenue E. (Excel Business Systems)
In 1941, Maurice & Paul Zimmerman purchased Micka Electric. Bob’s father, Abe, joined the company in 1947 and became the secretary/treasurer. As a teen, Bob worked at the store. Helping with deliveries was one of his jobs.
2 - Hibbing Bowling Center - 1929 5th Avenue E.
The 1955-56 teenage bowling competition was won by a group called the Gutter Boys. Bob was one of the 6 team members.
(Second from the left is Bob Zimmerman.)
3 - L & B Café - 417 E. Howard
Bob and girlfriend Echo, would spend time at the L&B after school. They smoked cigarettes and played the jukebox. Bob’s favorite order was cherry pie a la mode.
(There is currently no building that holds the address for 417 E. Howard St.)
4 - Feldman’s Department Store - 403-05 E. Howard (Bender’s Shoes)
Bob’s mother, Beatty, worked at Feldman’s. Nancy Peterson (she once competed against Bob at a talent show and beat him) worked with Beatty. “She recalls the day in ‘62 or ‘63 when the owner made this announcement: “This is R. W. Feldman. We have a celebrity in woman’s wear—Mr. Bob Die-lynn.”
- Star Tribune, September 25, 2005, p. F8
5 - Crippa Music - 313 E. Howard (Rupar Music)
During the noon hour and after school Bob was known to stop by Crippa’s and charge sheet music and records to Abe’s account.
6 - Stone’s Clothing - 102 E. Howard (China Buffet)
During Bob’s childhood, Stone’s clothing was run by his Grandma Florence and Uncle Lewis.
7 - Lybba Theatre - 2135 1st Avenue (Sunrise Deli Lybba Restaurant)
The Lybba Theater was named after Lybba Edelstein, wife of Hibbing’s pioneer showman, B. H. Edelstein. Lybba Edelstein’s daughter was Florence Edelstein Stone; Florence’s daughter is Beatty Stone Zimmerman, and Beatty’s oldest son is, of course, Robert Allen Zimmerman.
(Photo courtesy of Cinema Treasures)
8 - Agudath Achim Synagogue - 2320 2nd Avenue W.
The Agudath Achim congregation bought the Swedish Evangelical Emanuel Lutheran church from the Oliver Mining Co. and had it moved from North Hibbing. Most of the time it had no clergy, but the Zimmerman family would attend services when conducted by a rabbi from Duluth.
9 - Alice Grade School - 2300 2nd Avenue E. (playground & parking lot)
Bob attended the Alice School. “He thinks the ringing of the recess bell means time to go home. It takes a few extra trips to figure out how very long the school day is.” - Engel, David. Just Like Bob Zimmerman’s Blues. Page 56.
10 - Memorial Building - 400 E. 23rd St.
Bob performed in the Little Theatre and the lobby. One of his memories of the building recorded in Chronicles, Volume One Pages 43-44, is having professional wrestler Gorgeous George wink at him while he was playing on a makeshift platform in the lobby.
(Photo courtesy of www.panoramio.com)
One of the special guests on the Dylan Days bus tour was Leroy Hoikkala. Not exactly a household name, but a local celebrity to Duluth and Dylan heads alike. Leroy Hoikkala was the drummer in Bob Dylan's high school band, "The Golden Chords".
Leroy standing next to an iconic image of the Golden Chords playing in February of 1958, at the Little Theatre, Memorial Building in Hibbing Minnesota almost a year before Dylan would see Holly, Valens, and the Big Bopper in concert. Leroy gave a talk at this exact same theater over 56 years later...
Robert Zimmerman (Bob Dylan) playing on stage with the Golden Chords (also with Monte Edwardson and Leroy Hoikkala).
11 - Zimmerman Residence - 2425 7th Avenue E.
A two-story, wood framed, flat-roofed, stucco house and an example of the Mediterranean Modern style that could be found all over Hibbing in 1947. On the first floor, there was the usual kitchen, bathroom, dining and living room with a fireplace. Upstairs, a hallway connected three bedrooms.
At one point (though not while we were there), the album cover for "Blood on the Tracks" had been painted on Dylan's childhood home's garage door...
12 - Hibbing High School - 800 E. 21st St.
Bob’s high school teachers generally remember him as being quiet. This is probably why his first performance on the high school stage was such a shock. May 1959, Bob sat with 424 other graduates in that same high school auditorium.
Bob Dylan (known then as Robert Zimmerman before changing his name) from his Senior Class Yearbook Photo - Hibbing High School, Class of 1959
13 - Hibbing Public Library - 2020 E. 5th Avenue
The library’s Dylan Collection includes books, newspaper, magazine articles, movies, music, posters, and many other items. There is also a small permanent exhibit on the lower level, which is worth checking out for any Dylan fan...
Available at the Hibbing Public Library during the festivities is banana chocolate chip loaf bread made from Bob Dylan's mother Beatty Zimmerman's own homemade recipe:
Get the official Zimmerman family recipe below...
14 - Androy Hotel - 502 E. Howard St.
Bob’s Bar Mitzvah Celebration was held at the Androy with about 400 people attending. Many relatives were present. They had old country names like Zigman Zimmerman, Chana Greenstein, Shabsie Solemovits, and Lybba Edelstein.
Zimmy's Was a Friend of Mine (Zimmy's No More)...
When I was working as a server on the Alaska Railroad in 2011, I met Bob Hocking and Linda Strobeck who took a keen interest in the fact that my name was Dylan (and even more so that I was named after Bob Dylan - thanks, Mom & Dad!). We got to talking and eventually the two told me that they owned a Bob Dylan theme restaurant called Zimmy's (After Dylan's birth name "Zimmerman") in his childhood hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota. They invited me to come have a meal at Zimmy's, but my work schedule over the summer would have made the journey to Zimmy's in late May an impossibility. However, when I finally took the trip in 2014, I was bummed to hear that Zimmy's had just officially closed its doors for business.
Photo of Zimmy's interior, the walls littered with Dylan merchandise.
With Bob and Linda in front of the Dylan poster at Howard Street Booksellers (also closed).
A photo was taken from Dylan Days' official Facebook page showing part of one of the signs being taken down.
Echo's childhood home
"Echo Helstrom, a free-spirited blonde from a less-affluent section of town than the Zimmerman family, has been frequently cited as the inspiration for Dylan’s classic folk ballad, "Girl from the North Country" (though this identification, however, remains uncertain. Bonnie Beecher, another of Dylan's early friends, has also been suggested as a candidate for the song's subject; the song may also not have been inspired by any real person.) Helstrom has also been seen as a possible inspiration for Dylan’s song "Hazel", as well as for parts of his album, "Blonde on Blonde" - description of Helstrom lifted from Wikipedia.
Helstrom passed away in January 2018.
Hull Rust Mahoning Open Pit Iron Mine.
The Bus Tour also heads to the Grand Canyon of the North... in the Iron Range.
U.S. Postal Cancellation & Local Artists Demonstrations @ Howard Street Booksellers (Hibbing)
Meanwhile, upon returning to Howard Street Booksellers, many local artists put on demonstrations while U.S. Postal Cancellation stamps were given out...
Blood On The Tracks Express...
Okay, this one I missed.
Due to one of the railroad bridges up the north shore railroad being washed out due to a later winter storm in 2014, the "Blood on the Tracks" Express train ride to Two Harbors was postponed until after we had already left. The BOTT Express is a special Bob Dylan celebration put on by the Duluth Dylan Fest. There's Bob Dylan music, booze, food, friendship, and beautiful scenery up Lake Superior as you go.
(Photo was taken from https://blog.thecurrent.org/2015/05/blood-on-the-tracks-express-celebrating-bob-dylan-on-rails-from-duluth-to-two-harbors/)
The Twin Cities...
It was bittersweet to leave Duluth and Hibbing after spending almost two weeks there, but our journey had to continue. There were more Dylan sights to see in the Twin Cities of St. Paul/Minneapolis...
Found this mural in the heart of Dinkeytown where Dylan once lived. Positively 4th Street indeed...
Loring Pasta Bar (formerly Gray's Campus Drug at 327 14th Ave SE). Dylan lived here in a 2nd-floor room starting in the winter of 1960.
This mural was still being painted by the time we arrived and has since been finished. It sits at 4th St. and Hennepin Av. S.
(Photo courtesy of the Star Tribune)
Of course, there are even more sights and events to highlight in Minnesota, and it should be noted that the Duluth Dylan Fest changes some its events each year. If you're interested in learning more, head on over to the official Duluth Dylan Fest Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/duluthdylanfest/ for updates about this year's Dylan Fest. I had a wonderful time getting to know all of the people in the events and who worked behind the scenes. Maybe one day I'll make my way back to the North Country until then I'll be listening to some Dylan bootlegs while cooking Mrs. Zimmerman's famous banana chocolate chip loaf bread...
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