I had just finished a great show at Nectars, in Burlington Vermont. Nectar’s was the spot. All the big hitters, small timers, artist neophytes and eclectics congregated there. The Spring Heeled Jacks and Phish were the main draws in the mid-90’s. I fronted the Jacks. After the show I was approached by Gary Lemieux. Gary is the Production Manager at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, and a good friend of my Dad. Gary indicated that they needed a “runner’ for the Dylan show the following day. A runner is a person that handles all the small miscellaneous errands that you and I take for granted. Dylan cannot simply go down to the quick stop to buy cigs or drop into a cafe. In most cases he would be inundated with questions, photo-ops and autographs. Needless to say I took the runner gig. It paid a $100 cash.
The next morning I picked up my credentials and was on my way. I had to report to the local hotel where Bob was staying. He stayed in the penthouse suite at the Sheraton. The moment of trepidation was surreal as I knocked on the door. A big dark haired man opened the door and stared at me. I stared back and started to introduce myself as he asked what I wanted. Once he knew my purpose he shook my hand and gave me a big smack on the shoulder. Victor Maymudes had eyes that saw the world. Let’s face it he ran with Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and Woody Gutherie. History says that it was Ramblin’ Jack Elliot that took Victor to New York and introduced him to “the kid,” who was in fact Bob Dylan.
Victor went on to work with and for Mr. Dylan for two plus decades serving as tour manager and wearing many other hats for Bob Dylan. He was tour manager for some of the biggest tours like Rolling Thunder and when Dylan and the Band cut trails everywhere. He was at the Monterey Pop Festival, with Dylan at the Pyramids in Europe, on the Never Ending Tour, there when Dylan posed for Andy Warhol, he built Bob’s Bus (and Neil Young’s and Waylon Jenning’s bus) Victor worked with and was friends of folks like Paul McCartney, Will Geere, Johnny Cash, Al Cooper, Aldous Huxley, William Borrows, Waylon Jennings, Hugh Romney (Wavy Gravy), George Harrison, Tom Petty, Joan Baez, the Mamas and the Papas, the Grateful Dead, The Beatles, The Band, Neil Young Willie Nelson, Paul Simon, Pete Seeger, Harry Dean Stanton to just mention a few. His tales and times with Woody Gutherie, Will Geere and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, who first introduced Victor to Bob Dylan, is the kind of story that not only movies are made of…but are stories of what history is made of – Bendford Standley.
Victor introduced me to Bob Dylan. We exchanged a simple pleasantry and he offered me a seat at a table he sat. Bob was reading the Burlington Free Press. He asked my how my morning was. Victor then asked me to do 3 things: 1) go buy some Drum Tobacco and rolling papers 2) pick up a menu at the best Indian Restaurant and 3) find an ounce of the best weed in Vermont (just kidding). He gave me three $100 dollar bills and walked me to the door. Before I left he said, “you are a man of means right?”. I replied absolutely. I returned with all three within a hour. Upon my return Victor asked me to start rolling cig-joints that “don’t resemble tooth picks”. Basically, don’t be a conservativist. I did my best to deliver. He insisted I keep the change.
The next 90 minutes I sat silently listening to these men talk about topics ranging from Morroco to Jimmy Page. I was fascinated by their conversation. Once in awhile they would ask me questions related to the Burlington area. I provided very short succinct answers. I was intimidated and awestruck as I chose my words carefully. Remember I didn’t have a smart phone let alone the internet to do some background work on Victor Maymudes. I had no idea who he was or what his role was. He just appeared to be Bob’s right hand man. I drove them back to the Flynn Theater, in a provided van. They had meet and greets set up with local people Bob Dylan had obviously befriended over the years. At this pointed I was under the direction of the business tour manager. I don’t remember his name but he was an asshole. As I walked the roadies dirty laundry to the laundromat I remember thinking that I had to get back in with Victor and Bob. I returned to the Flynn and was ordered, rather rudely, to assist other guys in setting up tables, drinking stations and catered food for the band and press.
I finished and quickly headed to the tour bus to find Bob and Victor. I knocked on the door and walked up the steps to see Bob and Victor relaxing. They both stared at me. I asked if there was anything they needed. Judging by the smell they were all set. The marijuana stench would best be described as recent. Victor asked me to sit down. As I sat, the the tour manager came in, and ordered me to go grab some pizzas for the roadies and staff. As I stood Victor grabbed my arm and told the manager to “call those in” because he needed me for a few errands. At that point I realized that Victor was the man. I felt accepted into this short lived fraternity. Again I just sat and listened to their discussions. Occasionally, people would come in for photos or chats with Dylan. I felt like a band member and Victor offered me a beer. I finally built up the courage to ask Bob Dylan some questions. Something along the lines of… It must be cool to tour around the world? What was the best show you played? Typical questions from a 23 year old that is incapable of formulating thought invoking words because of the company. Thinking back I felt like an idiot. It must’ve seemed liked a Chris Farley-Paul McCartney SNL skit. Bob Dylan responded very eloquently saying that he just returned from Asia where people are very inquisitive and ask a lot of questions. He also said most important answers come from questions you don’t ask. I took that as a hint to sit back and take it all it in. I should note that Dylan was very gentle and relaxed. He response to me was the not condescending at all. He is very small in stature but his iconic presence fills up a room. When I first saw him at the hotel he appeared to be not real. I’ve met famous people before but Dylan is a man of godlike sagacity. I remember staring at him a lot out of the corner of my eye, but it was Victor Maymudes who stole the day.
I sat with Victor during the soundcheck. We sat on the stage for the first 5-10 minutes and then we walked out to the soundboard for the final minutes of the soundcheck. I remember talking to Victor about the woodwork and decor in the Flynn Theater. He seemed very interested in the beauty of the setting. He made me feel welcome and part of something that was way beyond me. I drove the Dylan and Victor back to the hotel and returned to the theater. I ended up getting the pizzas by the way. I stared at the clock as I stood backstage talking with sound techs and engineers.
The show was brilliant! I chatted a few times with Victor in passing. He was playing host to a few folks who I never knew. Always greeted me with a smile and a smack on the back. He made you feel special.
I was with Bob Dylan that day but my memory ruminates the time spent with Victor Maymudes. Our paths crossed again at a Grateful Dead – Dylan show in Highgate Springs, Vermont. I introduced him to my Dad. Who I’ve told this story to a thousand times. He is a massive Dylan fan. Victor took us for a ride on his golf cart and dropped us off backstage. I never saw him again but I will never forget this man. He truly was….. one of kind.
Above all, Victor appreciated the value of music, the poetry in a well turned phrase. “Song is the ultimate respository of human civilization,” he maintained, “it’s a resting place for one heart and translates the soul of culture for all.”
Victor Maymudes the “Village” philosopher who as mentor, manager and friend guided Bob Dylan down the road from obscurity to icon in the early sixties, died peacefully on January 27th 2001 in UCLA Hospital, Santa Monica, California. On that journey he was protected and comforted by the presence and courage of his children Aerie Victoria and Jacob. He was sixty-five. (New York Times)