Music Journalist (2016–present)Updated 3y
Which little-known musician became an in-demand studio musician after playing on a very successful album?
It was June 16, 1965, when a 21 year old songwriter, guitarist and hustler attended a recording session in New York at the behest of its producer, Tom Wilson.
He hadn’t been asked to play on the recording but was merely there by invitation – as a courtesy, a favour – being as he was a huge fan of the artist.
Despite this, the young guitarist was determined to play an active role in the session.
Taking the opportunity of Wilson’s absence from the control room to enter the studio, he joined the gathered musicians and proceeded to play guitar, jamming along with the impromptu attempts at defining the direction of the song that was being worked on.
Things were going well.
Until the guitarist that was booked for the session turned up, plugged in and decimated the confidence of our erstwhile back-door man. The guy was shit-hot.
Realising his disadvantage, the hopeful gatecrasher slunk back to the control-room with his tail between his legs, before the producer had noticed he’d even left it.
Matters progressed as the tune developed. It was tried in different time-signatures, with varying feels and approaches.
At one point the keyboard player was moved from the Hammond B3 organ to a piano.
Our hero, once again seizing the moment, suggested that he man the Hammond. Despite the nonplussed answer from Wilson being, “but, you’re not a keyboard player”, that was as good as a tacit yes, so he re-entered the studio and proceeded to unobtrusively eke out some rudimentary lines on the organ. Bear in mind he had little or no experience of playing the instrument. Didn’t even know how to turn it on, in fact. Fortunately for him, it was already on.
And the tapes rolled for posterity.
Several takes later and back in the control-room, Wilson replayed the results, while creating a basic mix on-the-fly.
As faders were pulled and EQs dialled, a voice sounding “like sand and glue”, instructed the producer to…
”Turn the organ up”.
That was the day and moment Bob Dylan’s career took a seismic shift in direction while simultaneously an upstart named Al Kooper suddenly became a very in-demand keyboard player.
Take 2 of ‘Like a Rolling Stone’, off Highway 61 Revisited. Over a half century ago.