Producer of Dylan and Johnny Cash dies at 83

Published: August 18, 2015
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Bob Johnston (R) produced famous albums such as  Bob Dylan’s (L) Blonde on Blonde. PHOTO: FILE

Bob Johnston (R) produced famous albums such as Bob Dylan’s (L) Blonde on Blonde. PHOTO: FILE

TENN / NASHVILLE: Bob Johnston, who produced Bob Dylan’s celebrated Blonde on Blonde album and Johnny Cash’s live At Folsom Prison in a career spanning more than 50 years, has died at age 83.

The producer died on Friday in a Nashville hospice, said Charlie McCoy, a veteran studio musician who often worked with him.

Johnston worked with Dylan on several albums in Nashville, most notably Blonde on Blonde. The 1966 album’s opening track, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, achieved notoriety for its repeated phrase ‘Everybody must get stoned’.

Rolling Stone magazine ranks Blonde on Blonde as the ninth greatest album of all time.

McCoy, 74, said Johnston’s priority was making sure musicians had fun. The music, including Rainy Day Women, reflected that, he said.

“All that noise you hear on it, it was happening as he recorded. He wanted us to have a party. We were shouting and screaming the whole time,” said McCoy, who played the trumpet and more in countless sessions for Johnston.

Johnston had been working with Dylan in New York in 1965 and the young singer/songwriter’s appearance in Tennessee spurred interest in Nashville and created opportunities for younger musicians, as top session players were already booked solid, said McCoy.

“After he brought Dylan here, the floodgates were opened,” said McCoy in an interview. “There suddenly was a need for more studios and more musicians.”

Johnston also produced Simon and Garfunkel’s hit 1966 album Sounds of Silence, and worked with other musicians including Leonard Cohen, the Byrds, Flatt and Scruggs and Marty Robbins. 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 19th, 2015.

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