Themes from Bob Dylan’s Philosophy of Modern Song

Fred Bals
9 min readSep 18, 2022

Part 2 — On the Road Again with a Natural-Born Eastman

August 1947. New York. Milt Gabler’s Commodore Record Shop on 42nd Street. photo: William Gottlieb. Colorized 2019 by Marie-Lou Chantel.

Above, the back cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Philosophy of Modern Song,” back in the day when men were men, record stores were record stores, and the smell of vinyl and cardboard permeated the New York City air.

The man reaching for a record is Jack Crystal, father of Billy Crystal, manager of the Commodore Record Shop, a mecca for jazz enthusiasts, musicians, and record collectors. The photo was taken in 1947 during Crystal’s 15-year tenure as manager.

“The Philosophy of Modern Song” is slated for release in November 2022, but its Table of Contents was leaked by photo in August. Here’s the second in my series on songs found in that Table of Contents, this one about the Memphis Jug Band’s “On the Road Again, with a brief detour to Stephen Foster’s “Nelly was a Lady.”

On the Road Again (1928) Memphis Jug Band

“The Memphis Jug Band’s “Peaches in the Springtime” is a sweet and juicy record, recorded back in the ’20s. I know it seems like a long time ago, but you have to remember this: a lot of rock ‘n roll bands discovered jug band music in the ’60s, which was as far away from these records as we are from those records of the ‘60s… Time flies.” ~ Bob Dylan, Theme Time Radio Hour

There are several “On the Road Again” songs, ranging from the one that Canned Heat played in their Woodstock set, to Willie Nelson’s classic about road touring, to the Grateful Dead’s heavily bowdlerized version of the Memphis Jug Band’s original. Even Bob Dylan has an “On the Road Again” in his repertoire, a minor song he recorded for “Bringing It All Back Home,” and which might be a nod to Will Shade’s and Jab “J.B.” Jones’ composition. As the solid folkie he was in the early ‘60s, Dylan can also be heard covering the Memphis Jug Band’s “K.C. Moan” and “Stealin’” on various bootlegs. Many moons later he would play two of their songs on Theme Time Radio Hour.

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Fred Bals

Corporate Storyteller. Tech enthusiast. Mini Cooper fanboy. One-time chronicler of Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour. Husband of Peggy. Human of Lily Rose.