Bob Dylan's Roots in Minneapolis
Bob Dylan spent his late teen years gracing small Minneapolis stages, influencing many that participated in the Dinkytown folk scene. In 1959, Dinkytown (neighborhood near the University of Minnesota) pulsed with youthful energy, creative exploration and rejection of the status-quo, which inspired Dylan (as he writes in Chronicles Vol. 1) to "trade in his electric guitar for an acoustic, and begin surveying the depths of roots music, both new and old..."
Dylan's musical journey as the American troubadour began in Minneapolis, where he followed the legacy of other Minnesota musicians, reminding us all that there are no second acts in this thing called life. Live young, be restless and explore the open road!
Noteworthy Bob Dylan Minneapolis-Area Destinations:
1. Kaleidoscopic "The Times They Are A-Changin'," Mural
5th and Hennepin, Downtown Minneapolis
Three eras of Dylan in a kaleidoscopic mural painted by Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra, titled, "The Times They Are A-Changin'." Located on the corner of 5th Street and Hennepin Avenue, Kobra captured Dylan through three distictive periods in his life: from a young man serenading Dinkytown coffee shops to restless folk star to the the mysterious troubadour we know today. The mural was painted in Kobra's quintessential, vibrant geometric style. Kobra and his team of five created the 160-foot marvel in two short weeks in 2015. Kobra sincerely hopes that Bob Dylan will travel to see and enjoy the piece as much as he does.
2. Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity House
915 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis
Dylan pledged to the Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity on the University of Minnesota campus before flunking out of school in 1960. According to childhood friend, Dick Cohn, Dylan would be coming home for the night when other students were getting ready for class. He soon became bored with confinments of the fraternity house and moved on to a small apartment in Dinkytown. Building is now the home of Alpha Chi Omega.
3. Gray's Drugstore
Dylan lived in a Dinkytown apartment upstairs by the back alley. Cohn remembers people sleeping on the floor and listening to records. At the time, Dinkytown was the center of the folk music scene for Minnesotans. Building is now the site of the Loring Bar & Restaurant.
4. 10 O’Clock Scholar
Corner of 5th ST and 14th Ave. SE Minneapolis
Dylan performed here often and developed his skils into an independent Minneapolis folkie. Spider John Koerner, a staple folk musician on the Minneapolis scene also played here often. Dylan mentioned Koerner in his autobiography, Chronicles and would refer to him as an early influencer of his work. Koerner mentioned to The Miami News Times in 2000, "We were all goofy, you know. We were thinkers and drinkers and artists and players, and Dylan was one of us. He was another guy."
Dylan, named Robert Zimmerman at the time, was inspired to change his name before performing at the Scholar, "I just made up the name one night before I was going on at the Scholar (a coffeehouse near the University of Minnesota)," says Dylan, who legally changed his name in the early '60s in New York City. "Ask Dave Lee (who ran the Scholar)." (Star Tribune, 1986) Building no longer exists.
5. Purple Onion
722 N. Snelling Ave., ST. Paul
The Purple Onion was a pizza joint where Dylan performed. Building is now the site of a Hamline University bookstore.
6. Minneapolis Auditorium
Dylan performed at the Minneapolis Auditorium in 1965. This was his first return to Minneapolis since leaving years prior. "Like a Rolling Stone" came out early that year and catapulted Dylan as a rock superstar, claiming the #2 spot on the Billboard charts. Many dedicated folk fans were infuriated by Dylan going electric in his music. Building is now the site of the Minneapolis Convention Center.
"Folk purists booed Dylan at every stop of his subsequent tour – including his first official return to Minneapolis on November 5, 1965. His concert at the Minneapolis Auditorium attracted 9,000 people and received the expected mixed reviews. As was his custom at the time, Dylan pleased the folk lovers by playing the first half of the show on acoustic guitar, and infuriated them by playing the second half on electric guitar, backed by future members of The Band, guitarist Robbie Robertson and drummer Levon Helm".
- Rick Shefchik, University of Minnesota Press
7. Orfield Labs (Formerly Sound 80 Studio)
Sound80 Studio, now called Orfield Labs was home to several famous musicians including Bob Dylan, Dave Brubeck and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Dylan and some Minnesota musicians re-recorded half of his “Blood on the Tracks” album in December 1974. In 1980, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra made the first digital recording to be released commercially at Sound 80.
8. Orpheum Theatre
910 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
Bob Dylan and his brother David rescued the 1921 vaudeville-venue-turned-moviehouse in 1979. Dylan was known as the silent partner because of his vigorous touring schedule. The brothers sold the theater to the city in 1988. Dylan performed there for multiple nights in 1992 and 2014.
9. Saint Paul Civic Center (Now Home of The Xcel Energy Center)
On Halloween of 1978, Bob Dylan took the stage of the Civic Center on his "Alimony Tour." Many critics deem the idea for the Alimony Tour came from Dylan's nasty split with wife, Sara. According to Rolling Stone's, Andy Greene, "Bob Dylan's 1978 world tour is widely derided as one of the lowest moments of the songwriter's long career, a soulless, 114-date greatest hits revue with a bloated 11-piece band that seemed to be on loan from Neil Diamond or the recently-deceased Elvis Presley." The reviews did not hinder ticket sales in the Twin Cities as Dylan packed the Civic Center to the brim with excited fans. One of our very own staff here at Meet Minneapolis stood in line for 13 hours to snag tickets for this show.
10. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Now the Site of U.S. Bank Stadium)
Dylan hit the road with the Grateful Dead and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to perform at the first full-scale concert in the Metrodome. The Heartbreakers never knew what song Dylan was going to play next, they had to practice a plethora of tunes from Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams and a few Motown classics to be prepared to rock on cue, any song Dylan pulled out of his repertoire (Star Tribune, 1986). There were mixed reviews on sound quality in the Dome, but Dylan was acknowledged to capture the audience with wit, charm and charismatic chatter throughout the performance.