Mark Haslett's Blog
12:34 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Dylan's world includes Texas

The folks over at Slate decided to chart all the places mentioned in Bob Dylan's music, and of course, Texas is on the map.

That's the good news for Bob Dylan fans in Northeast Texas.

The bad news is that no Northeast Texas towns receive a mention. The closest places are Dallas and Shreveport, La. Perhaps we can can blame it on the lack of easy rhymes for "Emory" or "Mount Vernon."

The Mid-South is pretty well represented on the map, which isn't too surprising, considering the region's influence on the folk and blues music that formed the foundation for Dylan's work.

Dallas (and Fort Worth!) are mentioned in "If You Ever Go To Houston," from the 2009 "Together Through Life" album. Nine of the Lone Star State's total of 14 Dylan mentions are from two songs - that one and the obscure, 11-and-a-half-minute "Brownsville Girl," a cut from the 1986 release "Knocked Out Loaded" that evokes the spirit of Dylan's hallucinatory ballads from the mid-1960s.

Hardcore folkies might be a little surprised to learn that, despite Dylan's well-documented connection to Woody Guthrie, Dylan never covered Guthrie's "East Texas Red." Or, if he did, no recordings have been released.

Shreveport's mention occurs in a song Dylan wrote for Johnny Cash, "Wanted Man." Cash fans familiar with the San Quentin concert will recall the memorable couplet "Went to sleep in Shreveport, woke up in Abilene / Wondering why the hell I'm wanted at some town halfway between."

And to save you a visit to Mapquest...halfway between Shreveport and Abilene...that's Dallas. Exactly. I was mildly disappointed that it wasn't Grand Prairie. I like the idea of Cash being wanted in Grand Prairie.

Our neighbors in Oklahoma and Arkansas each got one mention - by state, not any particular city - in "Hard Times in New York Town" and "Gypsy Lou," respectively.

And as a final note - to those who know the haunting, retrospective "Red River Shore" from the 2006 release "The Bootleg Series Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs" - it's almost certain that the Red River in question is not our Red River. Up in Dylan's native north country, there's the Red River that runs along the North Dakota-Minnesota line. Chances are, if the old bard's flipping around through his back pages, that's where he's looking.