In 1959, at the age of 18, the then-Bobby Zimmerman, by happenstance, got a gig playing piano with the even-younger singer Bobby Vee and his band while they were playing in North Dakota. Vee was having a pop-hit with the song “Susie Baby.” The story is apparently that Bob Dylan played at two dances with Bobby Vee. Vee told Robert Shelton that “he played great—in the key of C. His style was like Jerry Lee Lewis.” But Dylan (who came up with the name “Elston Gunnn” for this gig) didn’t have his own piano, and the band were not in a position to buy one and transport it around with them. So after the two shows in North Dakota, they bid farewell, with Bobby Vee paying Bobby Z. the then-respectable sum of $30.
Last Wednesday, July 10th, Bob Dylan played a concert in St. Paul, Minnesota. It turns out that Bobby Vee was in attendance. He is now 70 years of age (and last year shared the news that he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease). Late in the set, Bob Dylan interjected a few rare spoken words, something like the following:
I lived here a while back, and since that time I’ve played all over the world with all kinds of people, everybody from Mick Jagger to Madonna … and everybody in there in between. … But the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on the stage with is a man who’s here tonight, who used to sing a song called “Susie Baby.” Bobby Vee is actually here tonight. Maybe you can show your appreciation with just a round of applause. So we’re gonna try to do this song. I’ve done it before with him once or twice.
And then Bob and his band played “Susie Baby.” Dylan has in recent years returned to playing piano, now that he can afford to carry one around with him, so that’s the instrument he was playing, just like in 1959. I’m pretty sure he has expanded his knowledge slightly beyond the key of C at this stage, but nothing too wild.
A little more on the background of the Bobby Vee/Bobby Zee relationship is provided at this link by Harold Lepidus.
I’m a little tardy picking up on this story, but then it’s never too late to pause and reflect on something nice, is it? Below, if it has not yet been taken down, is someone’s video capture of the moment, via YouTube.