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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Annotated “Flowers” Theme Time Radio Hour - Episode 11 (Part 2)

Being the 2nd Part of a Compleat Transcript with Commentary on Episode #11 of Theme Time Radio Hour, "Flowers"

Original air date: July 12, 2006


There's much of note in Episode 11 -- "Flowers" -- of Theme Time Radio Hour, including monster lists, the largest group of def poetry readings in the show's history, quotations from Buddha, Isiah, and H.L. Mencken among others, a mystery laugh, appearances by two Dylan contemporaries from the Greenwich Village scene of the `60s, and some evidence that Our Host was wingin' his commentary as much as reading from a script. 

The transcript/commentary length was way past what I think a typical blog reader would tolerate, so I've split the "Flowers" transcript into two parts.  Part One can be found here. ~ fhb


[Commercial clip – Singers: “You’re so much wiser to buy fertilizer where you get the best in price and quality!” Announcer: “Yes and there is a difference in the price and quality of fertilizer! See us for the best in both! ]

Bob Dylan: Tiny Tim was a character who played around Greenwich Village in the Fifties and Sixties. And a lot of people just think that he was a joke. But I’ll tell ya, no one knew more about old music than Tiny Tim did. He studied it and he lived it. He knew all the songs that only existed as sheet music. When he passed away, we lost a national treasure. Here’s Tiny Tim, and the only song that made it to the top of the charts and kept him in the public eye. Here’s “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” on Theme Time Radio Hour.

[Tiny Tim – “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips”]

Bob Dylan: That was “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips” by Tiny Tim, a song that sold over 200,000 copies. In 19 and 68 when Tiny Tim got married on the Johnny Carson Show it was one of the biggest events in television history. And deservedly so. His daughter from that marriage was named “Tulip.”


Dylan’s admiration for Tiny Tim is obvious in this segment, and the Bob Dylan/Tiny Tim connection has a long, rich history, which Dylan alludes to as he introduces "Tip-Toe through the Tulips." In Chronicles, Volume I, Dylan writes about their first meeting,
"One of the guys who played in the afternoons was the falsetto-speaking Tiny Tim. He played ukulele and sang like a girl -- old standard songs from the '20s…"
Tiny Tim was born Herbert Buckingham Khaury, on April 12, probably in 1932, although in various interviews he gave his birth year as anytime between 1922 and 1932. His first performances -- under the name Larry Love -- took place in 1954, where he won several amateur contests. His professional career began in 1963 or '64 at a lesbian cabaret in Greenwich Village called the Page 3. In a short time, Tiny Tim was well-known in the Greenwich Village music scene, although more as a novelty act than for his deep knowledge of American music.

In Chronicles, Dylan goes on to tell about sharing lunch with Tim, "The best part of working with [Fred Neil] was strictly gastronomical -- all the French fries and hamburgers I could eat. At some point during the day, Tiny Tim and I would go in the kitchen and hang around. Norbert the cook would usually have a greasy burger waiting. Either that, or he'd let us empty a can of pork and beans or spaghetti into a frying pan."

In 1967, Dylan and Tiny Tim would meet again, when Tim recorded several songs with The Band for Peter Yarrow’s deservedly seldom-seen rockumentary, "You Are What You Eat." The Band/Tiny Tim collaboration included “Memphis, Tennessee,” the Sonny and Cher classic, “I Got You Babe,” and the Al Jolson standard, “Sonny Boy.”

According to Tim, Dylan renewed their friendship after hearing he was recording with The Band, and invited him to his Woodstock home. Greeting Tim at midnight Dylan’s first words were, "Tiny, I never saw a Toronto Maple Leaf hockey game."

In the course of conversation, Tim serenaded Dylan with Rudy Vallee’s "Maine Stein Song" and "My Time is Your Time" and played Dylan's own "Like A Rolling Stone" - comparing Dylan's popularity to Valle's. According to Tiny Tim, "After he [heard] the comparison to [Rudy] Vallee and what he meant to me Dylan said, 'Look, do you want a banana before you go to bed?' I said, 'No, I have my own fruit with me.'"

Before retiring for the night, Tim sang an Irving Kaufman song from 19 and 23 called "What's Today Got To Do With Tomorrow (When Tomorrow's So Far Away)", and Dylan in turn played "Cool Water” for him. Dylan also offered Tim a minor part in "Eat the Document," for which Tim was paid $22.00.

Tim's performance in “You Are What You Eat” led to his first TV appearance on the popular “Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In,” where he was an instant sensation, although perhaps not in the way he wanted. But that was hard to tell. Tiny Tim seemed to exist in his own space; oblivious to snickers, laughter, and ridicule. In any case, he became a hot TV property, appearing on “Laugh-In” several more times, as well as on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show, and, of course The Tonight Show.

In 1969 [not 1968, as Dylan mistakenly says] in front of an estimated 40 million viewers, he would marry Victoria May Budinger, better known as "Miss Vicki," on The Tonight Show. The couple had a daughter, Tulip, as Dylan also mentions on Theme Time, but lived apart, and divorced after eight years of marriage. Tulip is alive and well and living in Pennsylvania with her family.

Although the public's taste for Tim's inherent weirdness faded away by the mid-70s, he never stopped performing wherever and whenever he could, reportedly even joining a circus for a few months in the 1980s. In September of 1996, Tiny Tim suffered a heart attack while performing at the Ukulele Hall of Fame in Duxbury, Massachusetts. Upon his release from the hospital, Tim resumed his concert schedule, but, on November 30 1996, suffered another heart attack in Minneapolis while performing his signature song. He died an hour later. His remains are in the mausoleum of Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

A true eccentric who happened to be in the right place at the right time to become a media star, and a lover of the American songbook who dedicated his life to bringing back old, obscure songs, Tiny Tim never let his personal oddities or public reaction interfere with his main mission… singing the songs he loved.

Bob Dylan: “Beauty itself is a faded flower.” Another flower that faded was “The Wildwood Flower.” We’re going to hear “The Wildwood Flower” by the most influential group in country music history, The Carter Family. They switched the emphasis from hillbilly instrumentals to vocals. Alvin P. Carter, his wife Sara, and his sister-in-law, Mabel, sang pure, simple harmony. A.P. collected hundreds of British-Appalachian folk songs and recorded them, enhancing the pure beauty of these “facts-of-life” tunes. Here’s one of the best, still fresh as a daisy, “Wildwood Flower.”

[The Carter Family – “Wildwood Flower”]


“Beauty itself is a faded flower.”

Dylan is paraphrasing Isaiah 28:4, again probably from memory…
“And the glorious beauty, which is on the head of the fat valley, shall be a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer; which when he that looketh upon it seeth, while it is yet in his hand he eateth it up.”
“…the most influential group in country music history.”

Dylan’s commentary on The Carter Family is taken almost verbatim from the first paragraph of their entry in the “allmusic” web site.

Bob Dylan: That was The Carter Family with “Wildwood Flower.” This song was originally a written song from 1860, called “I’ll Twine ‘Mid the Ringlets.” These songs were passed around from person to person over a long period. By the time the tune got to The Carter Family many people claimed to have written it. And like a game of “Telephone,” some of the words stopped making sense altogether. “I will twine and will mingle my weepin’ black hair/ With the roses so red and the lilies so fair/The myrtle so green of an emerald hue/ The pale emanita and violets of blue.” These lyrics are difficult to interpret. There’s no flower named “emanita.” Some hear it as “the pale and the leader.” Somehow, amidst the confusion, the song still makes sense.


Most of Dylan’s information appears taken from the Wikipedia page on “Wildwood Flower.” It’s interesting that he specifically cites the “pale and leader” variant of the line, as that was the way the line was sung by Joan Baez on her debut album of 19 and 60. While Dylan was certainly already familiar with the song before meeting Baez, one can imagine the two singing the song together and using that line.

Bob Dylan: I got another song that A.P. Carter composed or found. Another song about roses. This one is called “When the Roses Bloom Again.” It’s by a young singer from Nashville, Tennessee named Laura Cantrell. British disc jockey John Peel called her album, “Not the Tremblin’ Kind, “…my favorite record from the last 10 years… and possibly my life.” “When the Roses Bloom Again,” Laura Cantrell.

[Laura Cantrell – “When the Roses Bloom Again”]

Bob Dylan: “Taking time to stop and smell the roses.” Laura Cantrell, “When the Roses Bloom Again.” Laura became a mother this year, giving birth to young Isabella May. Congratulations, Laura.


Cantrell’s daughter was born in May 2006, indicating that Dylan recorded his narrative sometime between that month and the show’s air date of July 12, 2006.  See the entry on “The Sharpest Thorn," which narrows the timeline even further.

Bob Dylan: I was golfing with Ricky Jay, the magician, and he told me something interesting…

Photo: Ricky Jay. Credit: Jesse Dylan

Ricky Jay: Many stage acts made use of flowers, but more interesting than that was a very early Dutch woman – off the top of my head I can’t remember whether she was 17th century or 6th century – named Eva Vlieghan who was supposed to have lived entirely off the scent of flowers. Ate nor drank food or water but lived entirely off the scent of flowers. It was presented as a religious oddity rather than someone you actually paid to see perform. But I think she did… ah, she rather enjoyed if people left donations.


“I was golfing with Ricky Jay…”

There have been various reports in recent years that Dylan is an ardent golfer, including speculation that he bought his Scottish mansion because it was right next door to Abernethy (not “Abernathy”) GC, a nine-hole course built in 1893. Both Dylan had Eddie Gorodetsky are friends of Ricky Jay, and Jay’s appearance on TTRH could have been at the invitation of either. The mind boggles at the thought of being on the links and confronted with a threesome composed of Messrs. Dylan, Gorodetsky and Jay, with perhaps the foursome being rounded out by Penn Jillette.

“Eva Vlieghan…”

In the year 1594, at age 19, Eva Vliegen began to eat less and less. Contemporary reports have it that beginning in 1597 she took no nourishment whatsoever. It was said that she lived from the fragrance of flowers, with Eva herself claiming that she was being fed by a honey-sweet substance supplied by Heaven. Her town council attested in writing that their examination of Vliegen proved she was not a fraud.

In early 1614, Vliegen abruptly declared an angel had appeared to her to announce that God was going to punish humankind with “widespread death,” and from that moment forward refused to utter another word, a silence she successfully maintained until her reported death later that year. Reports become confused at this point, with Vliegen apparently somehow discovered alive and well some fourteen years later living in a house with an ample supply of food and drink. She was reportedly arrested and disappeared into the mists of legend.

For centuries a wax figure of Vliegen, nicknamed in Dutch legend “Bessie Meurs,” was exhibited in an Amsterdam garden maze. A mechanism enabled the waxwork to wipe the crumbs from its mouth with its arm, to the accompaniment of a rhyme:

This old crone is Bessie Meurs, most faithless of females
She shakes her head, ay, swears an oath, while spouting her tall tales:
For two and thirty years, she says, she’s eaten not a crust,
She tells a string of barefaced lies, her words you cannot trust.

Eva Vliegen, a woman of obvious attraction to modern mountebanks Ricky Jay and Bob Dylan.

[Geraint Watkins – “Only a Rose” (background)]

Bob Dylan: Well there’s no shortage of rose songs, and here’s one I first heard through the grape vine. It’s from a young Welshman named Geraint Watkins. He played piano and accordion with Dave Edmunds and Shakin’ Stevens. But more recently he’s been in Nick Lowe’s band and has recorded and toured with Van Morrison. Here’s a beautiful song that he wrote, “Only a Rose.” Geraint Watkins.

[Geraint Watkins – “Only a Rose”]

Bob Dylan: Geraint Watkins, “Only a Rose.” And remember, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.

Bob Dylan: Gonzalo Perez from Austin Texas sent us an email. He asks, “Can I plant pansies in the fall?” Well, Gonzalo, traditionally pansies were the first spring annual I set out each year. I eagerly await their appearance at my local garden center. No matter how much I picked and deadheaded, by June they were leggy and limp from the heat and I pulled them to make room for something else. But now, late summer varieties are available. They may go dormant in cold winters, but they revive in the spring. Happy planting from Theme Time Radio Hour.

Bob Dylan: I wasn’t gonna play any more rose songs, but how could I not play this one? It went to Number 3 in 19 and 67 and it’s called “I Threw Away the Rose.” We’ve talked a lot about Merle, so I’m just going to play the record.

[Merle Haggard – “I Threw Away the Rose”]

Bob Dylan: That was Merle Haggard, “I Threw Away the Rose,” with his story of unrequited love. This is Theme Time Radio Hour, and we’re discussing flowers. Buddha said, “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” Georgia O’Keefe, who knew a little bit about flowers, said that when you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment. On the other hand, according to Mencken, a cynic is a man who when he smells flowers looks around for a coffin. Mencken was definitely not someone who ever let the green grass fool him.

[Wilson Pickett – “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You” (background)]

Bob Dylan: Another person like that is one of the roughest and sweatiest soul singers of the Sixties. Wilson Pickett, “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You.”

[Wilson Pickett – “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You”]

Bob Dylan: That was Wilson Pickett, “Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You,” the centerpiece of the 19 and 70 album, “Wilson Pickett in Philadelphia.” He got a bunch of hits on Atlantic Records, but after the hits began drying up he gave a pair of young producers, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, a chance to update his sound.

Bob Dylan: We’re just about outta time here and I gotta get home and water my azaleas. But we got time for one song first. Roses are the most popular flower to give, so let’s hear one more song about `em. Why not make it Allen Toussaint? Allen just did a new album with Elvis Costello, and they wrote a bunch of new songs together. Here’s one of `em, called “The Sharpest Thorn.” “Hot as a pistol, keen as a blade. The sharpest thorn, upon parade.” Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint.

[Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint – “The Sharpest Thorn”]


“Allen just did a new album with Elvis Costello…”

“The Sharpest Thorn” was a track on the Costello/Toussaint collaborative album, “The River in Reverse,” released June 6, 2006, further narrowing down the window when Dylan recorded his narrative to roughly sometime between early June and early July 2006.

Bob Dylan: That was Allen Toussaint and Elvis Costello, “The Sharpest Thorn” from the album, The River in Reverse,” on Theme Time Radio Hour.

Bob Dylan: Well it’s been an hour, so I gotta make like a tree, and leave. But don’t worry, I’ll be back next week with more dreams, themes, and schemes on Theme Time Radio Hour, your perennial favorite.

[“Top Cat (Underscore)"]

“Pierre Mancini:” You’ve been listening to Theme Time Radio Hour with your host, Bob Dylan. Produced by Eddie Gorodetsky. Associate producer, Sonny Webster. Continuity by “Eeps” Martin. Edited by Damian Rodriguez. Supervising editor, Rob Macomber. The Theme Time research team: Diane Lapson and Bernie Bernstein, with additional research by Lynne Sheridan, Kimberly Williams, and Robert Bower. Production assistance by Jim McBean. Special thanks to Randy Ezratty, Debbie Sweeney, Coco Shinomiya, and Samson's Diner. For XM Radio, Lee Abrams. Recorded in Studio B, The Abernathy Building. This has been a Grey Water Park Production in Association with Big Red Tree. This has been your announcer, Pierre Mancini, speaking. Join us again next week for Theme Time Radio Hour when the subject is..."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Annotated “Flowers” Theme Time Radio Hour - Episode 11 (Part 1)

Being the 1st Part of a Compleat Transcript with Commentary on Episode #11 of Theme Time Radio Hour, "Flowers"

Original air date: July 12, 2006


There's much of note in Episode 11 -- "Flowers" -- of Theme Time Radio Hour, including monster lists, the largest group of def poetry readings in the show's history, quotations from Buddha, Isiah, and H.L. Mencken among others, a mystery laugh, appearances by two Dylan contemporaries from the Greenwich Village scene of the `60s, and some evidence that Our Host was wingin' his commentary as much as reading from a script. 

The transcript/commentary length was way past what I think a typical blog reader would tolerate, so I've split the "Flowers" transcript into two parts, Part Two can be found here. ~fhb

The Woman in Red: It’s nighttime in the Big City. Outside the dogs are barking. A woman walks barefoot, her high heels in her handbag. It’s Theme Time Radio Hour with your Host, Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan: It’s time for Theme Time Radio Hour, and tonight we’re going to be talking about the most beautiful things on Earth – the fine-smelling, colorful, bee-tempting world of flowers: the Bougainvillea, the Passion Flower, the Butterfly Clerodendrum, the Angel’s Trumpets, the Firecracker plant.

Bob Dylan: We’re gonna be talking about rosa rugosa, the Angel Face, All that Jazz, Double Delight, the Gemini, and the Julia Child. We’re going to be talking about the Knockout Shrub, the New Dawn, the Mister Lincoln. And that’s only the roses! We’re also gonna hit on the Silver King, the German Statice, the Globe Thistle, and the Joe Pye Weed. The Violet, the Daisy. The lovely Chrysthanthemum. The Yarrow and the Tansy. We’ll be hittin’ on the Bachelor’s Button, the Coxcomb and the Lion’s Ear, the Love in the Mist and the Victoria’s Sorghum… I just made that one up. (laughs)”

[background laughter]

Bob Dylan: We’re gonna be talkin’ about… flowers. On Theme Time Radio Hour.


“We’re gonna be talkin’ about… flowers.”

Richard F. Thomas notes in his 2007 essay, “The Streets of Rome: the Classical Dylan,” that “… Dylan’s surreal humor, consisting of absurdist juxtaposition, has become a trademark feature of his Theme Time Radio Hour... The [Flowers] list is arranged to form a poem, almost a talking blues of flower names.”

Thomas also points out that Gemini is Dylan’s birth sign. Whether that was in his mind or not, the Gemini hybrid tea rose that Dylan names is a favorite of rose exhibitors.

Other plants probably not familiar to the casual listener include the Silver King, commonly known as white sage, the German Statice, favored in dried floral designs, the Globe Thistle, a perennial that produces metallic-blue blossoms with perfectly round flower heads, and the wonderfully named “Joe Pye/Pie Weed” which takes its name from a legendary Indian healer who used the plant to cure typhus fever in colonial America.

Yarrow and Tansy are two inhabitants of old-fashioned herb gardens, the names probably more familiar to Shakespearean scholars than today’s gardeners. The crushed leaves of Yarrow are an astringent, still used by herbalists to help heal cuts. Legend has it that the Achilles used it for healing his soldiers after battle. It is also said to reduce inflammation, increase perspiration and relieve indigestion.

“…and the Victoria’s Sorghum… I just made that one up (laughs)”.

Dylan obviously enjoyed having an audience with him when taping his Theme Time narrative: the sounds of laughter, off-stage voices, even a kitten meowing can be heard during several shows.

The identity of the person heard laughing in the background during some TTRH segments, including this one, is unknown. Candidates include Eddie Gorodetsky, who was reportedly with Dylan during the taping of many of the early shows, and Damian Rodriguez, a San Antonio-based musician and sound engineer who has quietly worked in the background on several major Bob Dylan projects, including Theme Time Radio Hour. Together with XM Radio engineer Rob Macomber and associate producer, “Sonny Webster,” Rodriguez was the third member of the composite who would later be credited as “Studio Engineer, Tex Carbone.”

Bob Dylan: Thomas Beecher said, “Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.” Anything that beautiful is going to inspire a lot of songs, and the next hour is gonna be chock-full of `em. We’re going to start things off with a Morning Glory of a song by the King of Western Swing… the man who pretty much invented it, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys doing his theme song, “The New San Antonio Rose.” A bridal potpourri.


“Thomas Beecher said…”

Most authorities cite Thomas Beecher’s sibling, the more famous Henry Ward Beecher, as the originator. Both Beechers were the brothers of the even more famous Harriet Beecher Stowe.

It’s interesting that Dylan mistakes Thomas for Henry, as even a casual web search on the quote brings up Henry Ward Beecher’s name. It’s likely that Dylan already knew the quote, was familiar with both Henry Ward and Thomas Beecher, and inadvertently used the wrong brother’s name on Theme Time when reciting the “Flowers are the sweetest things…” line from memory.

Thomas Beecher was a study in contradictions who would appeal to Gemini Bob Dylan. He was far more politically and socially conservative than his siblings. He opposed both abolition and the woman's rights movement, yet participated in the Underground Railroad and joined the Union army. While strongly against women’s emancipation, he publicly acknowledged his wife's role in running his parish, and accepted a woman as his own minister after he retired.

[Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys - “The New San Antonio Rose”]

Bob Dylan: Bob Wills and “The New San Antonio Rose.” It was called “The New San Antonio Rose” because he recorded a fiddle instrumental called “San Antonio Rose” eight years earlier.

Bob Dylan: Perhaps the most famous rose garden is the one in the West Wing area of the White House. It was established in 19 and 13 by Ellen Deweese [sic, actually “Loise”] Wilson, wife of Woodrow “Woody” Wilson.

Bob Dylan: Let’s move out of the Rose Garden for a second and move over to the boxwood border of the grass and go grazing with the Friends of Distinction. This song was written by South African trumpet player Hugh Masekela, but it became a big hit when it was recorded by The Friends of Distinction. “Grazin’ in the Grass.” “I can dig it, you can dig it.” We can all dig it. Let’s dig it together, shall we?

[The Friends of Distinction – “Grazin’ in the Grass”]

Bob Dylan: That was The Friends of Distinction, “Grazin’ in the Grass.” Speaking of grass, George Jones once had to drive down a freeway on his riding lawn mower. His wife, Tammy Wynette, was sick of his constant drinking. She emptied the house of liquor; she took away his car keys, and made him a virtual prisoner in an attempt to wean him off the booze. One afternoon, alone in the house, George wanted drink. The house was quite a distance from Nashville, too far to walk. So George hopped on the only vehicle he still had the keys to. You could see George heading down the side of the highway, going towards the liquor store on his riding lawnmower. Here’s George Jones with “A Good Year for the Roses.”

[George Jones -- “A Good Year for the Roses.”]


The “riding lawn mower” is the stuff of George Jones legend, told not only by Jones in his autobiography, “I Lived to Tell It All,” but also by Tammy Wynette in her autobiography, “Stand By Your Man.” Jones also parodied the incident in his “Honky Tonk Song.”

I saw those blue lights flashin'
Over my left shoulder
He walked right up and said,
"Get off that riding mower."
I said, "Sir, let me explain
Before you put me in the tank.
She took my keys away
And now she won't drive me to drink."

Whether George Jones ever rode a mower to the liquor store – or did so more than once, as Jones also tells the story about his first wife, Shirley Conley, rather than Tammy – it’s too good a story not to tell, whether true or not. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Bob Dylan: “I can hardly bear the sight of lipstick on the cigarette’s there in the ashtray.” “A Good Year for the Roses,” George Jones.

Bob Dylan: Robert Frost had something to say about roses in his poem called, “A Rose is a Rose.” It goes like this:

A rose is a rose
And was always a rose
But the theory now goes
That the apple’s a rose
And the pear is and so is
The plum, I suppose.

The dear only knows
What will next prove a rose
You, of course, are a rose
But were always a rose ~ Robert Frost, frosty poet.

Bob Dylan: ‘Course, Gertrude Stein took it one step further, with her immortal poem, “A rose is a rose is a rose.” And of course there is, “Roses are red, violets are blue. Some poems rhyme. This one doesn’t.”

Bob Dylan: Paul Clayton also has a song about roses. Paul has a lot of songs. He traveled all around the country collecting `em. During the Fifties, he made a collecting tour with Liam Clancy and together they found a whole bunch of blues, ballads and gospel music. I don’t know if this one was among `em, but it sure is a great song. All about young Bonaparte. Concerning the bonny bunch of roses. Paul Clayton.


“Paul has a lot of songs.”

Indeed, Paul did have a lot of songs. Clayton and Dylan were contemporaries in the Greenwich Village music scene during the early Sixties. Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” was based on a song Clayton had copyrighted, “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Ribbons When I’m Gone?” While from all reports, Clayton was flattered by Dylan’s appropriation, their respective publishers engaged in a legal battle over who was entitled to the royalties for Dylan’s version. A court eventually ruled that Clayton’s version was based on an even older song, “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone?” in the public domain.

“During the Fifties, he made a collecting tour with Liam Clancy and together they found a whole bunch of blues, ballads and gospel music. I don’t know if this one was among `em, but it sure is a great song.”

“Bonny Bunch of Roses” was collected by Clayton on that trip in the summer of 1956 and released on his 1957 album, "American Broadside Ballads in Popular Tradition."

[Paul Clayton – “The Bonny Bunch of Roses”]

Bob Dylan: That was Paul Clayton and “Bonny Bunch of Roses” on Theme Time Radio Hour.

Bob Dylan: Roses have been named after a lot of famous people. There’s the Cinderella Rose, the Cary Grant Rose. The General MacArthur Rose. Roses have been named after Judy Garland, Lady Diana, Snow White, Sir Lancelot, and Chevy Chase. However, the Himalayan Blue Poppy has nobody named after it.


“Roses have been named after a lot of famous people.”

The Chevy Chase rose was named after the Maryland community and not the comedian. While the Blue Poppy doesn’t have anyone named after it, and even isn’t a rose by any other name, it is associated with the Tibetan Buddhist goddess known as Green Tara, the Buddha of enlightened activity. Perhaps that was what earned the flower a TTRH shout-out, a poppy among a half-dozen roses.

Bob Dylan: Christopher Marlowe wrote in “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love”:

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys groves, hills and fields
Woods or steepy mountain yields

And we will sit upon the rocks
Seeing the Shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies
A cap of flowers and a kirtle
Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle

That’s how Christopher Marlowe said it. Kim Shattuck and her band, The Muffs have another way of putting it.


“That’s how Christopher Marlowe said it.”

Dylan appears to be reciting the first three stanzas of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” from memory. His version of the first stanza varies noticeably from the “official” version:

COME live with me and be my Love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dale and field,
And all the craggy mountains yield.

[The Muffs — “Laying on a Bed of Roses”]

Bob Dylan: That was the Muffs, raisin’ Cain and laying on a bed of roses on Theme Time Radio Hour where we’re talking about flowers. Maybe a little too much about roses. They’re not the only flowers, and we know that. There’s all sorts of flowers, and they’re all beautiful. As a matter of fact, here are some official state flowers:

Bob Dylan: For our friends in Alabama, you got the Camilla. In Alaska, we have the Forget-Me-Not. In Arkansas, it’s the Apple Blossom. California it’s the California Poppy. In Delaware, it’s the Peach Blossom. For our friends in Georgia, it’s the Cherokee Rose. In Minnesota, it’s the Pink-and-White Lady Slipper. Mississippi has the Magnolia. In Nebraska, it’s the Goldenrod. New Mexico of course has the Yucca Flower. In New Hampshire it’s the Purple Lilac and in Tennessee it’s the Iris. “Aloha!” to our friends in Hawaii where the official flower is…. the Pua aloalo. And of course in Wyoming, it’s the Indian Paintbrush.

[Commercial clip: “Surround your home with natural beauty. Add charm to your private world. Landscape for personalized luxury.”]

Bob Dylan: If I was born with the name, Lucius Venable Millinder, I would be happy with that. But he changed it to “Lucky” and fronted one of the swinginest bands that ever played. If nothing else, he was the man who introduced singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe to the American audience. But he made plenty of records on his own, and none of them swung better than this tribute to the fruit-bearing vine of the grape. Which only makes sense, ‘cause Lucky Millinder retired from music and spent his later years as a liquor salesman. Here’s Lucky Millinder, and his “Grape Vine.’ I wondered if he used this as his theme song?

[Lucky Millinder & His Orchestra – “The Grape Vine”]

Bob Dylan: Oooo, I’m starting to see pink elephants on that one. “Milk and honey are mighty fine, but I like the juice from the good grape vine.” Lucky Millinder, “The Grape Vine.”

[Duke Ellington & His Orchestra – “Tulip or Turnip?” (background)]

Bob Dylan: Here’s a song about some choices. “Tulip or turnip? Rosebud or rhubarb? Filet or plain beef stew?” This one’s by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra.

[Duke Ellington & His Orchestra – “Tulip or Turnip?”]

Bob Dylan: That was Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, featuring the great Ray Nance as vocalist. Ray was also a great trumpet player and one of the most famous jazz violinists.

Bob Dylan: The tulip was introduced to Europe in the middle of the 16th century, and soon became very popular in the Netherlands. It rapidly became a coveted luxury item and status symbol. A single bulb could cost as much as a thousand Dutch florins. By 1635, they were worth a hundred times as much. A sale of 40 bulbs was made for 100,000 florins. Just to give you an idea of how much that was a ton of butter only cost a hundred florins. And eight fat swine 240 florins. In February of 1637, tulip traders could no longer get these inflated prices. They began to sell and the bubble burst. It was worse than Black Friday, the stock market crash of 19 and 29. To this day economists use the phrase, “tulip mania” to refer to any large economic bubble. They might have been better off with turnips.


Our Host’s information about “tulip mania,” including the line about “eight fat swine” is taken almost verbatim from its Wikipedia article.

[End Part 1 transcript.  Part 2 to come]