Eric Von Schmidt
Bob Dylan Eric Von Schmidt Handbill, 1965
First printing, lithograph, excellent
Unframed dimensions: 9 1/2" tall x 5 1/2" wide
An original first-printing Bob Dylan/Joan Baez paper advertising flyer for their joint spring 1965 tour that was withdrawn shortly after getting initial use. The late folksinger and respected artist Eric Von Schmidt designed this popular Toulouse-Lautrec-inspired concert piece. This specimen remains unused, with no printing in the blank white space up above.
Throughout 1963 and '64, Dylan and Baez had been known informally as "the king and queen of folk music," which they would dismiss of course, but which would be hard to argue. Von Schmidt's design reflected this, with its very Greenwich Village feel and acoustic-folkie ethos. The design turned out to be a bit anachronistic, however, as Dylan had long since moved on to general singer-songwriter status, and even that would be short-lived when he turned into a full-fledged rock star a few months later.
This Von Schmidt artwork is estimated to have been used only for a few weeks, from about late February to late March of 1965. But on March 8, Columbia Records had released Dylan's hard-rocking single "Subterranean Homesick Blues," startling folk purists. And then on March 22 Dylan's electrified Bringing It All Back Home LP came out. The pop-music world would never be the same, let alone the folk world.
The rumor mill has always had it that Dylan didn't like this artwork, resulting in its extremely limited use. Some cite the fact that Dylan is portrayed as a pure Washington Square folkie, even wearing his 1962 corduroy cap; or perhaps his nose looked too big; or maybe he was perceived as being second-billed to Baez. Most likely of all is the plain & simple fact that he was right on the cusp of plugging in for good, and had just moved on.
Eric Von Schmidt was an American singer and guitarist, songwriter, painter and illustrator, and Grammy Award recipient. He was associated with the folk boom of the late 1950s and early 1960s and was a key part of the Cambridge folk music scene. As a singer and guitarist, he was considered to be the leading specialist in country blues in Cambridge at the time, the counterpart of Greenwich Village's Dave Van Ronk.
Bob Dylan wrote, “Of course we had heard about Eric Von Schmidt for many years. The name itself had become a password. Eventually, after standing in line to meet him, there it was – his doorstep, a rainy day, and he greeted his visitors, inviting them in. He was told how much they liked Grizzly Bear [a von Schmidt song] and he then invited the whole bunch to the club, where he was about to perform the thing live. "C'mon down to the club" he said – "I'm about to perform it live." We accepted the invitation. And that is what his record is. An invitation. An invitation to the glad, mad, sad, biting, exciting, frightening, crabby, happy, enlightening, hugging, chugging world of Eric Von Schmidt. For here is a man who can sing the bird off the wire and the rubber off the tire. He can separate the men from the boys and the note from the noise. The bridle from the saddle and the cow from the cattle. He can play the tune of the moon. The why of the sky and the commotion from the ocean. Yes he can.”