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Image courtesy of Nelson French.

Salute to Dylan artists to perform at Green Door

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The historic Green Door in Beaver Bay will be hosting a live concert on May 23 featuring Scarlet Rivera and Gene LaFond, both of whom have toured with Bob Dylan. On Saturday, May 17, over a dozen musicians from around Minnesota and the country will assemble at the Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth, kicking off the salute to the music of Bob Dylan weekend.

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Dylan has been credited by many for discovering Rivera’s talent through a chance meeting on a New York street. In 1975 he

invited Rivera to be a violinist for his Rolling Thunder Revue. Rivera eagerly accepted the invitation, joining notable musicians the likes of Joan Baez, along with Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Roger McGuinn of The Byrds. The talented caravan played 57 concerts across the U.S. and Canada.

“There was a star of destiny over my head as I walked to a rehearsal” Rivera explained. “A car pulled up and stopped and it was Bob Dylan.” She recalled that a short conversation ensued during which Dylan asked to hear her play.

“I got in his car and we drove a couple of blocks to his loft in the village where he played several songs that were never recorded, it was a test of my abilities,” Rivera said. Dylan did not provide a key, a chart or tell her anything about the song, he just asked her to join in. “We played together about 20 minutes when I noticed a slight smile on his face.” The night was just beginning for Rivera when Dylan asked her to accompany him to a nearby club.

“We got in his car and drove to a club called The Bottom Line where Muddy Waters was playing,” she recalled. Having no idea of what lay in store for her, Rivera said she sat anxiously as Dylan went to the stage after the band played its first song. The crowd erupted as the now-legendary artist stepped forward.

“He went to the microphone and said, ‘now I would like to introduce my violinist.’ It was then that I knew I was in,” Rivera said. Within two days she received a call from Dylan requesting her presence at Columbia Studio’s to record the album “Desire”.

“It was incredible pressure. I was performing in front of all the CBS executives,” she remembered. “We did the John Hammond special on live TV and I was recording an album! There was a large amount of trust placed in me to pull this off but I was prepared.”

Fate seemed bring LaFond into Dylan’s inner circle also. LaFond said that he met Dylan through a mutual friend, Larry Kegan.

“Larry and Bob were very close friends since high school. Larry suffered a paralyzing neck injury when he was 16 (but) when he felt up to it we would load up Larry’s handicapped equipped van and catch up with the Rolling Thunder tour. Bob would let us stay as his personal friends for as long as we could,” LaFond said.

LaFond is no stranger to the stage himself. While playing with the band, the Mere Mortals, he and Kegan were twice invited to play at Neil Young’s Bridge School Benefit Concert in San Francisco. LaFond said that he’s also opened for Dylan, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Kinky Friedman and has performed numerous sold out concerts in the midwest over the years.

He credits Silver Bay’s Nelson French for the opportunity to perform along the North Shore. Rivera agreed.

“Nelson is just an amazing guy. He gets more done than anyone I have ever met,” she said. “I told Nelson French I wanted to explore northeastern Minnesota and he made it possible.” The duet will also perform on Bob Dylan’s birthday, May 24, at the Gunflint Tavern in Grand Marais.

French encourages everyone to be a part of the fun and entertainment from Duluth to Grand Marais. “We are lucky to have these talented artists performing in our area; I invite everyone to come out and enjoy the performances,” he said.

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