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Gunnn, Elston

Early alias for Robert Zimmerman / Bob Dylan.

Subject: Elston Gunnn one more time
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 15:20:59 GMT

An oft-told tale told once more by Bobby Vee, interviewed in the
latest issue of Goldmine, on how the mere lack of a piano cost
Dylan the life- long security of a job with Vee's backing band,
the Shadows.

The Shadows briefly expanded to a quintet when the band added a
confident young pianist whose long-term future was even rosier
than Vee's.

"He was in the Fargo/Moorhead area.  He was working as a busboy
at a place called the Red Apple Cafe.  We didn't know that at the
time. Bill [Velline] was in a record shop in Fargo, Sam's Record
Land, and this guy came up to him and introduced himself as
Elston Gunnn--with three n's, G-U-N-N-N.

"He said he heard we were looking for a piano player, which we
were, and he said that he had just gotten off the road with
Conway Twitty. Bill was blown away.  'Man, how good can this be? 
This was as good as it gets!' And went over to the radio station
with him, over to KGFO, and there was this piano in the studio
and auditioned him on the piano.  He came back and he said, 'He
played pretty good in the key of C.' We didn't realize it at the
time, but that's all he could play in, was the key of C.  I-IV-V
in the key of C.

"So we hired him to come out.  And he was a neat guy.  He was
friendly.  I remember his dark, curly hair.  We bought him a
shirt to match ours and paid him 15 bucks a night, which was
about what we were making.  Went to pick him up for the show, and
he didn't have a piano. There weren't a lot of piano players in
our area anyway--there were mostly guitar players--but they had
the little Wurlitzer pianos, and we just assumed he had a piano. 
He didn't, of course.  We took him to the gig anyway, and there
was a piano there.  It was terribly out of tune. He sat and he
played that, and when he got lost he would come up and do
background parts and do Gene Vincent handclaps.  It was a trip!

"It was ill-fated.  I mean, it wasn't gonna work.  He didn't have
any money, and we didn't have any money.  The story is that I
fired him, but that certainly wasn't the case.  If we could have
put it together somehow, we sure would have.  We wished we could
have put it together.  He left and went on to Minneapolis and
enrolled at the University of Minnesota.  A couple of years later
I was in New York in Greenwich Village.  I was walking down the
street.  There was a record store there, and there was an album
in the front window.  And it said, 'Bob Dylan.'  And I thought to
myself, 'Looks a lot like Elston Gunnn!'

"I probably plugged into him on the second or third album, and
the stuff was really unusual.  It was so far removed from what I
was doing.  Not long after that, I started listening to his stuff
and really became a big fan."

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