The Inside Story Of The Rolling Thunder Revue as told by Rob Stoner: Part 3

Last year Martin Scorsese’s film, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, made its debut, briefly in selected cinemas and on Netflix. The film featured stunning live footage of Dylan during the 1975 concerts, but it also included segments that were complete fabrications. The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda tracked down band leader and bass player Rob Stoner to get the inside story of both the Rolling Thunder Revue – and the making of Scorsese’s film. Here is the third and final part of the interview.

If you missed part one, you can find it HERE. Part two is HERE.

For a quick update…The Rolling Thunder Revue was a series of concerts in late 1975 and early 1976 featuring Bob Dylan and a rag-tag bunch of supporting musicians. These included Roger McGuinn, Mick Ronson, T Bone Burnett, David Mansfield, Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and others. I was fortunate enough to catch a show, on November 17, 1975, in which Joni Mitchell made a guest appearance.

Many folks who saw Scorsese’s film were either confused or angered by the fabrications presented, including myself. Click here to read the review I published on The 13th Floor after seeing the film.

Click here to listen to the interview with Rob Stoner:

All of this first-hand information about Rollling Thunder is fascinating, but it still doesn’t really shine a light on what makes Dylan, Dylan. Rob Stoner attempts to explain.

RS: Well, he’s not like other people. He’s… I’ve never met a human being like him, man. He’s like… super smart – he’s a fuckin’ genius. He’s definitely the smartest person I ever met. He’s um… because of that, he’s kinda lonely. Because he can’t relate to a lot of people. So therefore, he’s a little impatient with the rest of the world, because he’s operating on a whole other level from other people. And he has an incredible amount of… I mean, this special quality imbues him with a charisma that is unique. I mean, when the guy’s just like, sitting in a room, there’s like a glow or some shit, an aura coming off him. I mean, he could be a regular guy, you know. He could sit down and share a beer with you if he knows you and shit, and he can even do that with strangers. I’ve seen him do that. But most of the time, he’s just like this guy who’s from another planet or something.

MD: That’s fantastic. And you stayed with him for a while. You and Steven Soles and David Mansfield continued…

RS: Yeah, we did another tour after the second Rolling Thunder Tour. We did this World Tour thing.

MD: The Live At Budokan thing came from that.

RS: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MD: And what was he like there? I mean, how was that different? It must’ve been tremendously different.

RS: Uh – by then, totally into… just – that was just… you know they call that the Alimony Tour? You remember that?

MD: Yep.

RS: Anyway, it’s been called that in the press. At that point, I mean, he had to come up with a lot of money. He had yet to really make any. The second Rolling Thunder tour was just to pay back all the money he lost on the first one, and so he had to come up with a lot of money. So he found himself a new manager, and he chose a manager, Jerry Weintraub, who also managed Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, all these big acts, big showbiz acts. And he figured, “Man, this is the business model I gotta go with.” So he signs with this guy, and takes his advice about what is the most profitable way for me to go out and exploit my name and make a lot of money. And Weintraub came up with the same formula that he used on those other acts I just mentioned, which is a slickly packaged, uniformed bands. You go out, you do your hits, you do it night after night after night, and just rake in the fucking money. Just maximum profit. And so that’s what that tour was about.

MD: I wonder what Weintraub thought after that, when he did his Christian rock thing.

RS: I’m sure he wasn’t very pleased.

MD:  I’m sure he wasn’t.

RS: And Bob – I’m tellin’ you – Bob never would’ve taken that indulgence, artistically, and business-like, had he not put a ton of money in the bank doing the fucking world tour first. He banked so much money going out and doing that for a year and a half, or whatever it was, that he could afford to do something uncommercial.

MD: Yeah. And have you seen Dylan perform recently at all?

RS: Yeah, a few times.

MD: What do you think of what he’s doing now?

RS: Ah, it’s a shame about his voice, man, but he does the best with what he can.

MD: Yeah. Pretty good band, though.

RS: Well, yeah. I mean, he can afford to hire the very best guys. Why should you hire anybody who’s not the best? Great gig.

MD: And, you of course, went on to do the thing with Robert Gordon and… well, I saw you – you’re playing with Gene Cornish from The Rascals, so –

RS: I was with Robert Gordon while I was still doing the Dylan gig. I mean, I started with Robert Gordon and Link Wray between Rolling Thunder tours. I never really stopped working with them. I mean, I took a couple of years off here and there, you know, when I had my solo albums out. I worked with various other bands, and you know – it’s all on my Facebook page, all the shit… I’ve got a million pictures of me, playing with a million bands. But you know, I just kept working, working, working. And I never stopped fucking working. I’m just a working musician, dude. A union stiff, you know.

MD: Well, I really appreciate you telling me all this stuff about  Rolling Thunder and Dylan, and hopefully that second version of the film will see the light of day so that we can catch all that interview footage in the can.

RS: Yeah, they definitely left the door open to make people curious about it.

MD: Yep. And everything else seems to be coming out, so it seems inevitable.

RS: They didn’t tell the story. The only real story they told, was the one that tells itself, namely the concert footage. It’s great.

MD: Yeah.

RS: The concert footage is so great, people are still gonna be hungry to see more of it and they got more of it in the can. And they might be interested to know what the real story was, and how the thing came to pass. And you know, they got the people’s interviews, man, so they can definitely cobble together a sequel. And as we know it’s all about the fucking money. Firstly, as Bob, he’s slows down – I’m sure he’s getting tired of slogging around on that Never-ending tour. I bet it feels like a fucking never-ending tour at this point.

MD: I’m sure it does.

RS: So if he gets – he’s gotta find some other sources of income. It ain’t gonna be record sales, we know that, so with streaming and shit. So therefore, I think this kind of documentary thing is gonna be scraping the bottom of the can, man. And see whatever he’s got in the fuckin’ can, and releasing it, to make money. I think it’s obvious that they wanna milk as many sequels out of this Rolling Thunder crap as they can. I’m sure they’ll do one of the Hard Rain – the story behind Hard Rain

MD: Oh yeah.

RS: Then they can do the World Tour… the Budokan thing… the never-ending… you know, they’re gonna milk this motherfucker…and Bob can continue to have an income stream.

MD: Well – I for one, being a fan, am quite happy to put up the money to keep Bob in his style that he’s been used to.

RS: Well, apparently you’re not alone, man. And that’s their business model. Because he ain’t gonna be doing this shit ‘til he’s 90. I mean, he’s running out of gas already.

MD: Yeah.

RS: I mean, for a guy his age, it’s amazing he can get up there and do that all over the world, night after night after night. But you know, hey, this guy – he’s fucking human.    

Rob Stoner is still gigging constantly, often with his old pal Robert Gordon. The 13th Floor thanks Rob Stoner for his time and for his candid comments.

Marty Duda