On July 11 Dylan performed in St.Paul, Minnesota – where Dylan once lived in Dinkytown – and in amongst a largely predictable set, he sang ‘Suzie Baby’, the song on the A-side of Bobby Vee’s first single, issued in 1959, back when Vee was a wannabe Buddy Holly, and very young.
Dylan sang ‘Suzie Baby’ because Bobby Vee, now age 70, was in the audience. Intoducing this one-off cover, Dylan said:
‘I used to live here, and then I left … I’ve shared the stage with everyone from Mick Jagger to Madonna, but the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with is Bobby Vee. He used to sing a song called ‘Suzie Baby’ …Please show your appreciation … with a round of applause. We’re gonna try and do this song, like I’ve done it with him before once or twice.’
They met up again that night, and Vee’s great-niece snapped the moment:
I was lucky enough to meet Mr. V myself, at the Dylan Symposium at the University of Minnesota in March 2007. He signed my own hardback copy of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia right alongside his entry in it, and I told him I’d seen him perform at Liverpool Empire in the early 1960s, when he was topping a bill that featured a charismatic 16-year-old Tony Orlando and the wonderful Clarence Frogman Henry – and I was surprised and pleased when he told me he’d been speaking to Clarence just a few weeks earlier.
Here’s that entry from my Encyclopedia:
Vee, Bobby [1943 - ]
Robert Thomas Velline was born in Fargo, North Dakota on April 30, 1943, and grew up via rockabilly to be a teenage pop star. By the time Bob Dylan was ‘making it’ in 1963, Vee, two years younger, was already struggling to hold on to pop stardom.
Dylan played piano in Bobby Vee’s band for a very brief period in 1959. Vee has told the story many times, as here:
‘After we recorded Suzie Baby, we started getting out and we were a rhythm band with guitar, bass and drums. My brother Bill played lead guitar and I played rhythm guitar and we would switch round from time to time. We were looking for a piano player… as we had seen Jerry Lee Lewis as the opening act on a country show and he just tore it up… Bill was in a record shop called Sam’s Record Land in Fargo and this guy approached him and introduced himself as Elston Gunn…and said that he had got off the road with Conway Twitty as his piano player. Bill was blown away. He took him to the radio station where there was a piano and he rocked out pretty good in the key of C and we thought we would give him a try.
‘He hadn’t played with Conway Twitty. Conway Twitty had been in the area and Dylan had seen him in Duluth a couple of nights earlier and then he came down to Fargo and was working as a busboy at the Red Apple Café. It was not meant to be, he didn’t have a piano and we didn’t have enough money to buy him one. He stuck around a couple of days and then he headed off to Minneapolis and then went to Greenwich Village where he became Bob Dylan. He came through my hometown about five years ago and I saw him then. I was amazed at how much he remembered as that was such a small slice of his life. He even remembered where my dad worked.’
Dylan’s comments on Vee in Chronicles Volume One add little to this account, but he recalls that he used the great pseudonym Elston Gunn at the time, says that he and this ‘old friend and fellow performer… had a lot in common, even though our paths would take such different directions’, and acknowledges that ‘he was a great rockabilly singer’ before he ‘crossed over’ to become a pop star. But though Dylan recalls that they saw each when Bob was singing in folk clubs and Vee was ‘on the top of the heap’ at the Paramount in Brooklyn with an array of other stars, he gives no account of the more recent visit that so impressed Vee.
Read this post in its entirety:
BOB & BOBBY MEET AGAIN