Salute to Howie Wyeth’s Drumming with Dylan

SKF NOTE: I haven’t thought of it in awhile, but when I was managing editor at Modern Drummer magazine I wanted to write a feature story on The Drummers of Bob Dylan. At the time, the early 1980s, Jim Keltner was playing drums with Dylan in the studio and onstage.

One of my favorite characteristics of Bob Dylan, based on my listening to his albums, and seeing him perform on tv, was that he often changed how he presented his songs. He’d sing different lyrics. A ballad would be reborn as a reggae tune.

Because of his treatment of his songs, I imagined playing in Dylan’s band required a jazz spirit. Big ears and the ability and willingness to change in an instant. Keltner had that jazz spirit.

So did the drummer in Dylan’s band for his Rolling Thunder Review tour (1975-1976): Howie Wyeth. Earlier this week I was reminded of how much I liked Wyeth’s drumming when, for the first time in a long time, I listened to Dylan’s live Hard Rain album. Recorded during the Rolling Thunder Review tour, Wyeth goes for it right from the album’s opening tune, Maggie’s Farm.

Wyeth’s drums always sounded a bit boxy – but he sounds like he’s having fun, and his drums work perfect with Dylan and the rest of the band. When Wyeth lays into his Chinese cymbal, the sound is enormous. Listen to Howie’s cymbal crash on Hurricane, a song on Dylan’s Desire album.

Finally, you can enjoy Howie Wyeth on The Bootleg Series Vol. 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue.

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