OOPS–"Dylan Signs With MGM Records"

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As readers of this blog know, I’ve got a ton of respect for the late Ralph J. Gleason, the legendary music critic from the San Francisco Chronicle and co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine. Gleason was an early supporter and friend of Bob Dylan’s. But here’s Gleason’s column from the December 30, 1966 Chronicle where he really gets it wrong, announcing that Dylan has signed with MGM Records.

It has been known that Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, had negotiated with MGM for Dylan’s services–but I never knew it had been “announced” that Dylan had jumped ship. I’d guess this was information Gleason got from Grossman. Knowing Grossman’s reputation as a tough and canny negotiator, it’s entirely likely he gave Gleason this “exclusive” as a negotiating ploy to alarm Columbia Records into upping their offer for Dylan. Remember, Dylan was an extremely popular (and highly prestigious) artist Columbia could ill-afford to lose, having released his highly lauded “Blonde on Blonde” earlier in the year (Gleason has so much detail in terms of the deal, Dylan’s royalties, etc. that I think it unlikely this could come from anyone but Grossman.)

It’s interesting to note Gleason’s take on Dylan’s dissatisfaction with Columbia for the Freewheelin’/Talking John Birch Society contremps, the shipment of the “Positively 4th Street” single that mistakenly played “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window,” and the aborted “Bob Dylan In Concert” album–he certainly would have been in a position to know (for more on these, see the July 2007 entry below and www.searchingforagem.com, the ultimate Dylan discography site.)

It’s also interesting to see the that “the broken vertebrae” in Dylan’s neck (from the motorcycle crash) are “still tender enough to prevent him from hanging a guitar around his neck and performing” but that there are tentative plans for an April tour. Sure. You bet.

I’d like to thank my friend Gene Sculatti, a Dylan and Gleason scholar, for this article, which I’d never seen before. Gene had the good sense to clip this out of the Chronicle back in the day.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy new year, and in the next post we’ll talk in more depth about forensic document examination and the Peter McKenzie lawsuit.


According to several Dylan biographers, the story is accurate so far as it goes — but that the deal never went through because MGM decided not to sign off on the contract as negotiated. MGM was going through internal struggles at the time, and its higher-ups apparently decided the contract was too rich for its low-performing record label to afford.

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