Donnerstag, 10. Februar 2011

Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues (alternate lyrics, McKenzie manuscripts, Summer 1961)

Noel Stookey gave me the idea for the "Bear Mountain Song" I wrote it overnight but I wasn't there. Never sing it the same way twice because I never wrote it down.
Folklore Center flier, Oct-Nov 1961.

...on June 19, 1961, Stookey sat in the Gaslight reading the New York Herald Tribune, which contained an article about a Father's Day boat cruise up the Hudson River to Bear Mountain that had gone awry due to counterfeit tickets and overcrowding. 
Stookey showed the story to a recent acquaintance, a 20-year-old singer named Bobby Dylan who had arrived in New York from Minnesota the previous winter. "I remember handing him an article on the Bear Mountain thing," Stookey said, "and he brought a song back the next day. Astounding." The song was "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Disaster Blues," which Dylan wrote in the style of his idol, Woody Guthrie. Dylan was not at that point known as a songwriter, which made the composition all the more surprising. 
William Ruhlman, Peter, Paul and Mary -- The Early Years, 
Goldmine Online, 1996 (no longer retrievable).

The song had its origins in the pages of the New York Herald Tribune of June 19 [1961]. Dylan was sitting in the Gaslight with Noel Stookey who was just about to become Paul of Peter, Paul and Mary.
"Want to hear something funny?" Stookey asked.
A Harlem social club had chartered the Hudson Belle, for a Father's Day cruise up the Hudson to Bear Mountain. As the picnickers were crowding the pier... rumors (later confirmed) spread that about a thousand counterfeit tickets had been sold around town and that those families with fake tickets would not be permitted aboard. The boat docked a couple of hours late and there was a mad scramble to get aboard and a good deal of panic and fighting on all three decks. The cruise was called off and about a dozen people were taken to a hospital for treatment of their injuries. Dylan sat... with the story before him and quickly wrote his own version.

Anthony Scaduto, Bob Dylan, London 1973, pp. 80-81.

"McKenzie manuscripts," Summer 1961

First transcribed by Chris C. in "Isis", No. 45, Oct-Nov 1992.

Substantially different alternate lyrics (believed to be uncopyrighted)
to published version © 1962, 1965 by Duchess Music Corporation; renewed 1990, 1993 by MCA

I saw it advertised one day,
That the Bear Mountain Picnic was out this way.
Come along and take a trip,
We'll transport you there on a ship.

Bring the wife and kids, fun for all.

I ran down and got a ticket,
To this here Bear Mt. Picnic.
Little did I realise,
That I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Took the wife and kids down to the pier,
To see 6 thousand people there.
They all had tickets for the trip,
Oh its a pretty big ship.

Besides the more the merrier.

We all got in and what do you think,
The big boat started to sink.
More people kept piling on,
That old ship was a going down.

This ain't no way to start a picnic.

I lost sight of my kids and wife,
Never saw so many people in my life.
That ol boat sinking down in the water
6 thousand people fighting each other -- dogs barking etc.

Maybe we just better call off the picnic.

I was shoved down stumbled around,
All I could hear was a screaming sound.
From then on I don't remember no more,
I got knocked out & woke up on the shore.

As I got up and looked around,
There were people splattered about the ground.
Some were on land, some were afloat
Then I took one look at the boat.

Looked like the ghosts had come.

Feeling like I climbed out of my casket,
I grabbed hold of my picnic basket.
With my wife I started walking home,
Wishing I never got up that morn.

To hell with picnics.

So if you have a picnic that's up to you,
I don't care what you do.
But don't tell me I don't want to hear it,
Cause I lost all my picnic spirit.

Picnic in my bathroom.

Now it don't seem to me so very funny,
What some people will do for money.
There's a new gimmick everyday,
To take somebody's money away.

I think we oughta send all them people on a boat, send 'em up to Bear Mt.

Any copyrighted items are included here for "nonprofit educational purposes" (one of the criteria of "fair use", Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107) only.


John Greenway - Obvious Source of Dylan's Talking Blues (expanded article, originally published in 1996)

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