Buck Baxter played guitar on the road with Dylan between 1992 and 1999.
“You hear all sorts of stories about Bob but all I can say is that he always treated me good. We weren’t close buddies or anything like that. It was always clear that I worked for him, but it was a good working relationship with a lot of respect. I never went to his house for Thanksgiving, or anything. I let him be and he let me be. Even on stage, he let you pretty much do your thing. You could play whatever you wanted within the framework of the set list and the songs.
I’ve made it a rule not to talk too much about him. He doesn’t like it and you have to respect his privacy. He’s an interesting cat, I’ll say that. But what he does when he’s not putting himself up there on stage is his business. I know people want to know what he eats for breakfast but I’ve never understood why anybody would find that stuff interesting. He’s just a regular guy, but there’s all kinds of crazy rumours and misinformation about him out there.
I first got to know him when I was playing with Steve Earle. We were supporting him on tour and he asked me to sit in with his band a few times. He was interested in steel guitar and he asked me to get him one, so I picked him one up in Nashville and gave him a few lessons. At the end of the tour, he asked for my phone number.
I never heard anything for the next two years. Then when he finally rang, he said ‘You’ve got to be here tomorrow because we’re leaving for a tour of Australia in three days’. That’s the way Bob is and I guess he knows it’s not likely you’re going to say ‘no’.
He’s special to play with because they’re such great songs. I already knew he was a great songwriter but the interesting thing was I got to like the songs more by playing them and hearing him sing them every night. And he kept it interesting by always changing the set list around so it was never the same. Sure I got sick of playing “All Along The Watchtower” night after night. But on the other hand, there are songs like “Tangled Up In Blue” that we played seven nights a week and I never got sick of at all.
I had a good seven or eight years with him, I learned a lot and by the time I left, I’d played more gigs with him than anybody except Tony Garnier. I’m not one for statistics and any of that stuff but when I see it on the Dylan websites and in the books about Bob that I played 700-and-something times with him, I’m proud of that. I can’t say that I ever thought of it as a ‘never-ending tour’, though. It was just playing gigs. And if you’re a working musician, that’s what you do, isn’t it?”
INTERVIEW: NIGEL WILLIAMSON
For the full story of Bob Dylan’s ‘Never Ending Tour’, get the December issue of Uncut, out now.