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Helstrom, Echo

Robert Zimmerman's girlfriend from the fall of 1957 to the fall of 1958 who subsequently suggested she was the subject of 'Girl from the North Country'.

Clinton Heylin:"Bob Dylan: Behind The Shades, a Biography"

at359@yfn.ysu.edu (David Todd) - from The Telegraph:

Hibbing girlfriend: subject of "Girl From the North Country" and maybe of "Hazel."


Date: Fri, 24 Mar 1995 22:34:24 -0500
From: JfryBlair (jfryblair@AOL.COM)
Subject: Re: Girl from the North Country

One vote for Suze here, one vote for Echo. It should be mentioned that the Telegraph article reprinted in the book Wanted Man opines (or refers to Robert Shelton's opinion) that Jaharana Romney, formerly Bonnie Beecher, wife of Hugh Romney, a.k.a. Wavy Gravy, was really the North Country Girl. And Suze is doubtful because it is so obviously a nostalgic, lost-love song...and Bob wasn't writing those for her for another year or so!! ;) ....or maybe :(

I vote for Echo because of Toby Thompson's gee-whizness when he met her in the book "Positively Main Street" completely convinced that it was she.

Let's ask Bob. Yeah right. The withering look such a query would elicit...freezes my soul to even imagine.


Date:    Tue, 25 Apr 1995 16:22:54 -0400
From:    U0A75@WVNVM.WVNET.EDU
Subject: Echo, Ellen & Mom

6161616161616161616161616161616161616161616161616161

Here's an article I found while cleaning out my closet!
Enjoy!!!!

--------------------begin article-----------------


HEY HEY WOODY GUTHRIE, AH WROTE YOU A SONG
by Toby Thompson
(from _US_, a Bantam Book published October 1969)

Frogs are singing this evening in the marsh outside my window at
Michael's Motel, a mile south of Hibbing on Highway 169.  The
Coleman gas furnace kicks on and off, a north country spring gale
rattles the storm door to my room, and I can see dirt swirling
around the top of a 250-foot-high iron ore dump only a short
field away.  Cars go by every five minutes or so.  Very fast, and
with loud, unmuffled whooshes.  I have neither radio nor T.V. to
break the pleasant monotony of frogs and cars.  Only
complementary copies of *Argosy* and *True* magazines.  "Finally
the Full Story: How the U.S. got Che Guevera."  For today's man,
field-equipped with busty broad, big car, bronze muscles, and
everywhere-hair.  But as for yesterday's...memories of something
different.  A strange collage: of marsh voices, howling wind,
highway sounds...and distant conversation.

                           ***
(in bold letters)...So Narcissus went on his cruel way, a scorner
of love.  But at last one of those he wounded prayed a prayer and
it was answered by the gods:  "May he who loves not others love
himself."  The great goddess Nemesis, which means righteous
anger, undertook to bring this about.  As Narcissus bent over a
clear pool for a drink and saw there his own reflection, on the
moment he fell in love with it.  "Now I know," he cried, "what
others have suffered from me, for I burn with love of my own
self--and yet how can I reach that loveliness I see mirrored in
the water?  But I cannot leave it.  Only death can set me free."
And so it happened.  He pined away, leaning perpetually over the
pool, fixed in a long gaze.  Echo was near him, but she could do
nothing; only when, dying, he called to his image, "Farewell--
farewell," she could repeat the words as a last goodbye to him.

They say that when his spirit crossed the river that encircles
the world of the dead, it leaned over the boat to catch a final
glimpse of itself in the water.  The nymphs he had scorned were
kind to him in death and sought his body to give it burial, but
they could not find it.  Where it had lain there was blossoming a
new and lovely flower, and they called it by his name, Narcissus.

                          -- Edith Hamilton, *Mythology*

                              ***

_Get Back, Lo-retta!  -- The Beatles_

"Turn that part up!" Echo squeals, as I ease onto Howard Street,
Hibbing's main drag.  "I love it when they break into that heavy
rhythm.  I once wrote a junior high school term paper on music
like that.  Colored jazz, with a big beat.  They wouldn't let me
write on rock and roll.  That wasn't a fit subject, my music
teacher said.  Oh, Hibbing is SO hokey."

Echo Star Helstrom, ash blonde, blue-eyed, and strikingly decked
out in knee-high white boots, black mini-dress and Austrian cape,
is back in Hibbing for the first time in many months.  Echo is a
booker for National General Pictures in Minneapolis now, but
Hibbing is her hometown.  Hibbing is where she was born, where
she was graduated from high school...and where she fell in love
with Robert Zimmerman.

"Bob was a lot luckier with his teachers.  He had that nice Mrs.
Peterson in music, for one thing, and that made all the
difference in the world.  The woman I had practically ruined my
life.  That whole eleventh grade when Bob and I went steady, he
had the music teachers snowed.  Nobody else could stand how he
sung or what he played especially the electric stuff, but people
like Mrs. Peterson and Bob's English teacher, Mr. Rolfzen, they
had a feeling.  Bob would play for anybody, anytime, and I guess
that enthusiasm made a difference, too.  He was such a sweet
convincer."

We find a place to park my car on Howard Street, and shiver on
across to the Garden Lounge.  When I visited Hibbing last fall,
the Garden Lounge was one of two places in town featuring live
rock.  If "live" is the word: Blue Velvet, Ventures, late-fifties
triple-twang.  Syrup rock.  By a red-blazered, tab-collared, go-
get-'em quartet that still broke sets with Bill Doggett's "Hold
it."  But tonight...what's this?  Sounds of hard rock drifting
through the smoke of old miners' cigars.  "Sunshine of Your Love"
blasting loose cobwebs of red iron ore and saloon perfume.  kids
with long hair, bellbottoms and ankle high boots on the
bandstand...and people tolerating it!  Dancing to it!

"I haven't heard anything like this in Hibbing since Bob and I
used to stay up late for Gatemouth Page's radio show from Little
Rock," Echo shouts in my ear.  "They never had groups like this
before."

We find a table, order, and sit back in awe of an Iron Butterfly
tune the band's just started.

"They couldn't be from HIBBING," I stammer.

"What do you mean, 'couldn't be from Hibbing?'" Echo laughs.
"BOB DYLAN's from Hibbing!"

                         ***
(in bold letters) "'Robert, you have green teeth,' my mother used
to say, and she would tell him either to go brush his teeth and
take a shower, or not come to the dinner table.  My mother was
the only person I ever knew who could make Bob mind.  And the
only one who could talk to him like that, and not make him mad.
Bob was an extremely headstrong young man...Would you like
something to drink, coffee, a beer?"

Ellen Baker disappears for a moment into a postered, pin-up
decorated kitchen at one end of the apartment she shares with her
husband in Minneapolis.  Here in the living room, book shelves
line the walls, supporting expressionistic knic-knacks, ash trays
of noble design, a poster-papered basket with real dollar bills
stuck in.

"I met Bob the first part of our freshman year together, here at
the University of Minnesota--at a friend's house, a fellow named
David Whittaker.  Bob was sitting over in the corner, with his
guitar I think, looking so cute and helpless.  David introduced
him to me as 'Bob Dylan,' too.  He was used to using that name
exclusively by then.  He didn't tell me his real name until much
later, when we'd become very good friends.  Bob didn't like that
'Zimmerman' at all.  Used to tell us 'Dylan' was his mother's
maiden name and that he preferred it to his father's.  Of course,
that wasn't true either, but we didn't care.  Bob had such an
imagination."

"Bob used to introduce himself to people by all sorts of
different names.  He was such a role-player.  I even heard him
say at a strange party once that he was Bobby Vee, you know, that
old rock and roll crooner.  People were saying, "Hey, that's
Bobby Vee!" and pointing and whispering all evening.  We laughed
about it later, but Bob was spooky about those things.  I think
he actually believed himself sometimes.

"My mother became very fond of him too, after she saw that his
interest in me was above board, and that his grooming and dress
didn't reflect some subterranean sloppiness.  And she was always
a sucker for strays.  I suppose Bob dined and slept at our house
on a fairly regular basis for over four months.  He hardly ever
seemed to have a place to live.  But he liked our house just
fine.  Besides having both my mother and me to charm, he had my
father's huge collection of bound folk music to peruse.  He'd sit
for hours leafing through old manuscripts, sheet music and folk
magazines.  Father had some old records, too.  Old 78's.  Not the
bluesy stuff Bob picked up later, but traditional things, sort of
A-minorish folky.  We'd listen to those all the time--songs like
'Those Brown Eyes' by Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie, and 'Go
Down You Murders.'  Bob would sing that one every time he'd have
too much to drink, over and over."

Ellen pauses, staring off into a cluttered, bookshelved corner.
I follow her eyes, and the space on the floor there looks very
empty indeed.

"I don't suppose he was doing any rock and roll at that point?"

"No, that was terribly out of fashion.  NOBODY in the folk set
did rock and roll.  They all did the same sort of stuff as Bob,
traditional ballads.  Nobody seemed to be writing any songs,
either.  Bob was fairly competent on the guitar, and would do his
own arrangements, but I don't think he was composing.  He was too
unsure of himself then.  Bob was extremely inarticulate unless he
had a guitar in his hands and was making love to you by singing,
or had some sort of hat on his head, any kind, or was drunk.
Then he'd sit there on the floor with his feet curled up
underneath him and be absolutely magnificent.  Strangers at
parties would ask, 'Who's that?' and people wouldn't let him
stop.  He'd just sit there playing and grinning...with those Hush
Puppies on."

"He wore HUSH PUPPIES?"

"Sure.  He pledged a fraternity too, did you know that?  Sigma
Alpha Mu, the Jewish house.  But he left fairly early in the
year.  THAT really wasn't his scene, even then.  Bob was serious
about his school work for a while, too.  At the very start.  He
tried hard, but...he finally decided he just wanted to play the
guitar and party.  I don't think Bob looked at a book after the
first month he was at the University.  College wasn't the reason
he hung around.  Minneapolis was the first big town Bob ever
lived in.  He'd NEVER admit to a stranger that he came from
Hibbing."

                         ***

"I was onstage for just a few minutes with my folkysongs.  Then
the strippers would come on.  The crowd would yell for more
stripping, but they went off and I'd come bouncing back with my
folkysongs.  As the night got longer, the air got heavier, the
audience got drunker and nastier, and I got sicker and finally I
got fired."
               -- liner notes to Bob Dylan's first album

Saturday afternoon, strolling up Howard Street with Echo.  Past
the old L&B, which is not a flower shop, Crippa's where Bob used
to buy records and guitar strings, and Collier's Barbecue, off on
a side street, now the R&S Cafe--closed, for rent.

"Right there, in that corner, is where Bob and his band used to
play.  Collier would let them come in on weekends, most anytime
they wanted to, and they'd move those booths away from the window
here, and face the back of the room.  They were so loud you could
hear them all the way up the block!  Bob always had his
amplifiers up too high.

"See that lampost?  Right in front of the Moose Lodge?  That's
where I first met Bob.  Well, it was in the L& B afterwards
really, but there on that corner was where I first noticed him.
How could I help it!  He was standing in the middle of the
sidewalk, playing the guitar and singing, and it must have been
ten o'clock at night.  He and the band had been rehearsing
upstairs in the Moose Lodge, and they were all going into the
L&B.  Oh, but look at it now...it's gone.  Why did they do THAT!"

Echo presses her nose against the window of the flower shop, and
points with a chubby finger, "That's where Bob came over to talk
with me, he and a friend.  My girlfriend and I were sitting there
all alone, and they just came over and sat down.  I suppose you
could say they were trying to pick us up, but I don't know.  Bob
looked so innocent and well-scrubbed I never even thought about
that.

"But he was SO cocky.  After we started going together, we'd walk
up Howard Street, just like you and I are doing now.  Bob in
those tight jeans he wore, with his hands squeezed into the
pockets as far as he could get them, and he'd drag me into
Crippa's or one of the other stores that sold records.  He'd walk
up to the clerk like that in those jeans and with that kooky
little grin, and ask for some records he KNEW they wouldn't have.
The clerk would say, 'Little Who?' or 'Fats What?' and Bob would
say, 'Well, how about such and such; or so and so's new one?'
He'd keep that up until the clerk was just about furious, and
then he'd put on his hurt look and we'd leave, ready to burst
from not laughing."

Echo giggles to herself at this, and we continue up Howard
Street, past Saturday afternoon crowds of shoppers, kids gunning
motors and screaming at each other from slick hot rods--and
Kitchen's Kitchenette, an archaic red calliope where she, Bob,
and everyone who grows up in Hibbing has, at one time or another,
bought candy bars, cotton candy, or ten-cent bags of popcorn.

"Down that street, Fifth Avenue, is where Bob's uncle's shop is.
Zimmerman's Furniture and Electric.  They're finally going out of
business, after almost twenty-five years.  Bob's father used to
make him do odd jobs around the shop.  He and this other fellow
sometimes would have to go out on a truck and repossess stuff.  I
think that's where Bob first started feeling sorry for poor
people.  These miners would come to town, find a house, buy
furniture on the credit their job promised them, and then got
laid off when a mind shut down.  Then Bob and his friend would
have to go over and take away all the stuff bought from
Zimmerman's.  Load it onto the truck and just leave.  Bob hated
that; used to dread it worse than anything."

                           ***

(in bold letters) "'That itinerant Jewish folksinger' is what a
number of my friends used to call Bob," Ellen Baker is saying.
'Not everyone was as taken with his charm as my family and I
were.  Bob had quite a few friends, don't get me wrong, but he
was extremely hard to get to know well.  Part of it was just
being inarticulate, but there was also a very definite streak of
cynicism in Bob.  He could be warm on the surface, but that tough
attitude a little way down always seemed to show through.  The
Jewish business was a good bit of it.  Bob wanted so much to be
one of the people he sang about.  I used to kid him by saying,
'How's the man of the soil today?'  He wanted to be that more
than anything else.  But how could he be a man of the soil with a
name like 'Zimmerman?'

"Those stories about Bob idolizing Woody Guthrie are true, too.
Bob talked about going East to meet Woody all the time.  He'd
say, 'we're gonna go see him, Ellen, pretty soon!'  I think it
was just about that time that Bob got a harmonica.  We'd be at a
party or someplace, and Bob would have been drinking to just past
that point, and somebody would say, 'Woody's outside, Bob.  Woody
wants to meet you.'  Bob's head would jerk up, and sometimes he'd
stumble outside screaming, 'I'm coming, Woody, I'm coming!'  I
never thought that was a very nice trick to play, but some of our
friends wouldn't have missed it for the world."

continued in PART TWO

                          ***


Who's Who