Great White Wonder

Things Twice

Released in 1969, the Great White Wonder is the first rock bootleg.
The cover and label of the original release are blank white, hence the name.
Collected here are a 1969 Rolling Stone article, posts on variations and the track list.

Compiled: October 12, 1996

Subject: "'New' Dylan Album Bootlegged in LA" (RS, 1969)
From: Ben Taylor (ptaylor@LAGUNA.DEMON.CO.UK)
Date: 1995/06/20

Title: 'New' Dylan Album Bootlegged in LA.
Source: "Rolling Stone".
Date: 20 September 1969.
Ref: page 5-6?
Author: Jerry Hopkins.


'New' Dylan Album Bootlegged in LA.
By Jerry Hopkins.

[Photo: "'The Great White Wonder' at Edwardsville".]

LOS ANGELES - More then 2,300 copies of "bootleg" Bob Dylan album are now being sold in Los Angeles in what may be the entertainment industry's first truly hip situation comedy.

The simply-produced package - 26 cuts on two plain unmarked discs, called "Great White Wonder" - was made from tapes never before released by Dylan or by his now rather miffed record label, Columbia.

Rather, it was collected, pressed and currently is being marketed by two young Los Angeles residents both of whom have long hair, a moderate case of the shakes (prompted by paranoia) and an amusing story to tell.

Before getting into the trials and tribulations of the city's only visible "Bootleggers," some statistics:

Nine of the songs are apparently from the "basement tape" made in the cellar of Dylan's upstate New York home more than 18 months ago, shortly before he went to Nashville to record "John Wesley Harding". On these, Dylan performs with what later became known as the Band from Big Pink.

Another 16 cuts - 12 of them songs, four of them brief rap sessions - are allegedly from a tape made December 22nd, 1961, in a Minneapolis hotel room. All these feature Dylan alone, with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, and if the date is correct, the tape was made before Dylan signed with Columbia.

The final cut, "Living the Blues," was taken direct from the television set when Dylan appeared on the Johnny Cash Show earlier this summer.

Effect of the album's "release" on the local record scene has been phenominal. Five radio stations - KCBS in Santa Barbara, KNAC in Long Beach, KRLA in Pasadena and KMET-FM and KPPC-FM in Los Angeles - immediately began playing the LP, thereby creating a demand that often far exceeded a shop's limited supply.

The supply line was ragged at best, largely because the two men behind the scheme (a third put up the initial money, the say) are the "exclusive distributors."

Not only that, "We don't have a car of our own," they say. "We have to borrow cars to take the records around."

Distribution has been further hamperered by the fact that they will not give their names, addresses or a telephone where they might be reached. This, for what they term "all the obvious reasons."

As a result, shops are charging whatever they think the traffic will bear. The two producers say they are wholesaling the package at $4.50 each ($4.25 apiece after the first 50), and shops are asking from $6.50 up. One store, The Psychedilic Supermarket in Hollywood - its name tells where it's owner is at - is even asking, and getting, $12.50 for the two-record set.

Amused and displeased spokesmen at Colombia [sic] (it depended who you spoke to), were aware copies of the basement tape were in circulation, had even been played on the air, but they did not have any warning that an LP like this would be marketed.

Columbia Records, contacted by phone, made this statement: "We consider the release of this record as an abuse of the integrity of a great artist. By releasing material without the knowledge or approval of Bob Dylan or Columbia Records, the sellers of this record are crassly depriving a great artist of the opportunity to perfect his performance to the point where he believes in their integrity and validity. They are at one time defaming the artist and defrauding his admirers. For these reasons, Columbia Records in cooperation with Bob Dylan's attorneys intends to take all legal steps to stop the distribution and sale of this album."

The two youthful bootlegger/entrepreneurs, meanwhile, continue to troop from shop to shop, wondering what will happen next. Several stores, described by one of the bootleggers as "stone chicken," have refused to carry the LP.

Some objected to the simple packaging - a white double sleeve with "Great White Wonder" rubber stamped in the upper righthand corner - they said, while others indicated they were afraid of how Columbia might react.

Those shops carrying the LP seem happy, though, with many reporting the album's arrival has had the same effect on business as a new Beatles or Stones LP might have: Business generally has picked up.

Of all the songs offered in the package, only three had previously been released by Dylan, and all were then in a different form. They are "See That My Grave is Swept Clean" and "Man of Constant Sorrow," both from his first album for Columbia, "Bob Dylan", and "Only a Hobo Talkin' Devil," from a broadside album, "Broadside Ballads, Volume 1, A Handful of Songs About Our Time," when Dylan was recording as Blind Boy Grunt.

Several other of the songs had been recorded by others, notably the Band, while still others are folk classics, but until this recorded collection appeared in all its unmarked splendor, Dylan versions of the material existed only on "secret" tapes.

Unfortunately, much of the recording quality is poor. (Although it is questionable whether comparisons of this sort can be made fairly when talking about "bootleg" material.) The tracks made with the Band, for example, sound as if run through a paper cup and string.

On other songs, however, the sound reproduction is quite good, and in most of the early material, Dylan even seems to be playing a freer, more imaginative acoustic guitar than he's been heard to pick any time recently.

Getting into specifics, and using the producers' numbering choise (which seems to be arbitrary at best), Side No. 1 contains six songs and two raps, all from the "hotel" or "Minneapolis" tape.

Songs are "Candy Man," Ramblin' Around," "Hezekiah," "No Home In This World Any More," "Abner Till" and "Lazarus." Some of the titles are, like the numbering of the sides, arbitrary; Dylan was in Europe and not available for assistance in identification.

In the first of the talking cuts on this side, Dylan offers some comment about photographs that had been taken recently - said they made him look like James Dean. They're both informal, but not very informative.

Side No. 2, the second made from the Minneapolis tape, begins with "Baby, Please Don't Go," then goes into a rap during which Pete Seeger asks Dylan how he writes his songs (the response is representative Dylan put-on), then into "Dink's Blues" and "See That My Grave Is Swept Clean." Next is a longer rap, titled "East Orange, New Jersey," all about how Dylan once didn't get paid in money, but chess men; it's a variation of a story told by Lee Hays of the Weavers (in which Lee said he got paid in furs) and probably several others as well. The final song on the side is "Man of Constant Sorrow."

Side No. 3 begins with an unfinished solo blues which might be called just that - "Unfinished Blues" - because it ends as abruptly as a San Francisco freeway, in mid-air. Next is "I Think I'll Stay All Night," recorded rather shabbily with the Band and "Only a Hobo Talkin' Devil," recorded alone. The last three cuts on the side also were recorded with the Band - "Kill Me Alive," "The Mighty Quinn" and "Wheels on Fire."

The first five songs on Side No. 4 are from the basement tape made with the Band - "I Shall Be Released," "Open the Door, Richard," "Too Much of Nothin'," "Take Care of Yourself" and "Tears of Rage." Again, the fidelity is weak. And the final cut is "Livin' the Blues," the song lifted from the Cash show and the song which, ironically, it is reported Columbia will release as Dylan's next "official" single.

The bootleggers, of course, plan no single releases. They do hint at producing more albums, though - however indefinite their plans may be, "due to existing circumstances." Since issuing this one, they say, they've been approached by a number of people with other "secret" tapes.

In the meantime, they're still struggling with their little "company's" first release and protecting their anonymity.

"What're your names?" I asked.

"Call me Patrick," said the one with the longest hair.

"Call me Vladimir," said the one with the bushiest sideburns.

"How do you spell Vladimir?"

"I don't konw, man. Make it Merlin."

Why did they do it?

"Bob Dylan is a heavy talent," Patrick said, "and he's got all those songs nobody's ever heard. We thought we'd take it upon ourselves to make this music available."

"Do you know what will happen if you get away with it?" I said. "Why, if John Mayall or anybody opens at the Whisky tonight, there'll be a live recording of it on the stands by the middle of next week."

Patrick and Vladimir/Merlin just grinned.


Ben Taylor

Subject: Great White Wonder LP found, but is it an original?
From: (Craig Jamieson)
Date: 1996/08/13

Exiled on Main Street ( wrote:

: This weekend, while stopping by my local record dealer to see how 
: their search for the Guitars Kissing and the Contemporary Fix was 
: going, the dealer pulled out a double LP in a plain white sleeve 
: with the words 'Great White Wonder'written on the cover in blue 
: magic marker. The cover also had 'by Rocky'. Could it be? Could 
: this really be an original copy of the legendary bootleg?
: Anybody have any ideas? And if it is an original, how much is it 
: really worth? The dealer played a couple of tracks for me and the 
: vinyl has been well cared for, although the cover did have a 
: little damage and had been taped up. 

:My VISA card is awaiting your opinions. :)
First, a record shop which does not stock Guitars Kissing should be reported to the local trading standards officer or equivalent, I think it is now considered illegal to open a record or CD shop without this title in stock in most parts of the civilized world, is it not?

Look for a new shop.

Great White Wonder came out in over twelve editions! We need much more detail, really tedious detail, to even guess if yours is the 1969 USA first release. We need detailed track listing, and clear indication of the order of the sides.

Though if you have no Great White Wonders I would certainly think you should buy the thing.

Does anyone have the differences between pressings and editions on a handy computer file?


Subject: Great White Wonder LP found, but is it an original?
From: TJV (
Date: 1996/08/13

		*	*	*
The original I have has a blue rubber stamp "Great White Wonder" on the cover. I saw a copy with the pinkish red stamp a few months ago (the store was askin' $100!) and it jogged my memory that when they first appeared here in Berkeley (and I seem to recall it was '68, but I could be wrong there) the local record store had both colors. It was confusing at the time because of the lack of labels, but the local rap had it that the records were the same (a trick to get us to buy two copies at the exhorbitant price of $5?) Further rumors had it that a version was released (sic) earlier on the east coast. I dunno.

"Highway 61 Interactive" does not include a cover with the rubber stamp.


Subject: Great White Wonder LP found, but is it an original?
From: (Dennis J Green)
Date: 1996/08/14

Well, I bought and have an original GWW. It was on the Philadelphia record store shelves September 1969. It had absolutely nothing on it: blank white labels, blank white sleeves, blank white cover, nothing on the shrink wrap. This bootleg was sold in most record shops. I found out about it by an ad in my college newspaper. This album actually charted. GWW was modeled after the Beatles white album but done to the extreme.

Subject: Great White Wonder LP found, but is it an original?
From: (PDSpencer)
Date: 1996/08/14

>The original I have has a blue rubber stamp "Great White Wonder" 
>on the cover. 
According to "Dub" quoted in Heylin's book "Bootleg", page 45: "I'm not sure how many we pressed originally, it was either 1,000 or 2,000, but the originals are just a white cover and a white label, there's nothing on them."

Apparently the next pressing they did had the stamp. So the unstamped one would be REALLY collectable. I have a completely blank version, but it's obviously a later knock-off, as it omits "I Shall Be Released" and changes the track order of one side. The sound quality is not as good as the original. There tons of these "pirated" copies that are probably not worth much (or shouldn't be). A dealer once tried to sell me what looked like a mint condition first pressing, which he claimed had been one of several hundred just discovered in a warehouse (this was in the 1980's). That sounded very suspect.

Anyway, all of that material has since appeared in better quality on other bootlegs. The only reason to get GWW is for its historical value. If it's not one of those original pressings you should pay less than $20 for it.

Subject: Great White Wonder LP found, but is it an original?
From: (DaveM39749)
Date: 1996/08/12

My copy is not directly at hand, but yes, the original pressings are as blank as you describe (thus the title). Does anybody remember what is written in the run-off grooves? That'd be the only REAL way to tell...unless you can find L.H.E. herself and get an affidavit.

Subject: boot help?
From: (Daniel Martin)
Date: 1995/05/18

		*	*	*

-- 2LP's GF 001-002-003-004 --

A1. Candy Man                             = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
A2. Ramblin' 'Round                           = MINNESOTA TAPES May 1961
A3. Black Cross                           = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
A4. I Ain't Got No Home In This           = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
      World Anymore 
A5. The Death Of Emmett Till       Broadside Show, WBAI FM, NYC May 1962
A6. Poor Lazarus                          = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
B1. Bob Dylan's New Orleans Rag    TIMES ... CHANGIN' sessions, Columbia
                                      studios, NYC, uncomplete Aug. 1963
B2. If You Gotta Go, Go Now         = BOOTLEG SERIES Vol. 2 15 Jan. 1965
B3. Sitting On A Barbed Wire Fence  = BOOTLEG SERIES Vol. 2 15 June 1965
B4. Only A Hobo                     = BOOTLEG SERIES Vol. 1 12 Aug. 1963
B5. Quinn The Eskimo                 = GENUINE BASEMENT TAPES Vol. 2 \#1
      (The Mighty Quinn)
B6. This Wheel's On Fire = GENUINE BASEMENT TAPES Vol. 3 Apr.--Oct. 1967
C1. I Shall Be Released  = GENUINE BASEMENT TAPES Vol. 3 Apr.--Oct. 1967
C2. Open The Door, Homer             = GENUINE BASEMENT TAPES Vol. 2 \#1 
C3. Too Much Of Nothing              = GENUINE BASEMENT TAPES Vol. 2 \#2 
C4. Nothing Was Delivered           = GENUINE BASEMENT TAPES  Vol. 2 \#1 
C5. Tears Of Rage                   = GENUINE BASEMENT TAPES  Vol. 2 \#1 
C6. Living The Blues              Johnny Cash show, Nashville 1 May 1969
D1. Baby Please Don't Go                  = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
D2. Dink's Song                           = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
D3. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean       = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
D4. East Orange, N.J.                     = MINNESOTA TAPES 22 Dec. 1961
D5. Man Of Constant Sorrow                    = MINNESOTA TAPES May 1961

Subject: Re: John Birch Society Blues
From: John Howells (
Date: 1996/05/13

Harvey Bojarsky wrote:
> On Fri, 10 May 1996  ANDREW MULLINS  wrote:
> >Anyone know anything about this? Saw it in a store yesterday.
> >It's a vinyl bootleg with "John Birch Society Blues" stamped in the upper
> >right top corner of the white album cover.  Other than that there's no
> >markings and no indications of tracks or sources anywhere, not even on
> >the record.
> >
> >Any info on tracklist, source, and quality would be much appreciated.
> Assuming that it's the classic boot from the 60s, the track list is as
> follows (parenthetical titles are as printed on the label):
> Mixed Up Confusion
> East Laredo Blues (Piano Instrumental)
> I'll Keep It With Mine
> Talkin' John Birch Society Blues ( John Birch Society Blues)
> Who Killed Davey Moore (live)
> Eternal Circle (Long Song)
> Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie (Ride Willie Ride)
> Can't Go Home This-A Way - 100 Miles
> Percy's Song (Turn To The Rain And The Wind)
> Corrina Corrina (Corina Corina)
> In The Evening When The Sun Goes Down
> Long John Gone
> The label reads:
> G.W.W.
> sings
> The John Birch Society Blues
> Silver lettering on a blue/green label.
> Matrix number on side A is 417 A
> Matrix number on side B is 417 B and 111 B
> (I'm trying, Craig, I'm trying)
> Haven't heard it in, oh, 20 years or so, but I remember really liking 
> it way back when unreleased stuff was just starting to circulate. I'm 
> not sure that it still would hold up, as some of the stuff has been 
> released by Sony, and better source tapes for most of this stuff have >surfaced.
> HB
Ah yes, one of the great bootlegs of all time. I believe this is the 2nd Dylan bootleg (after Great White Wonder) put out by the same guys, although Clinton Heylin mentions another extremely rare boot called "Flower" that appeared inbetween.

No matter. The original "John Birch Society" boot had a blank label and a rubber stamped title "GWW - John Birch Society Blues". The sound is spectacular. What's described above sounds like a later TMQ reissue. Sound quality is probably about the same.

Some of the material on this album is now officially available:

I'll Keep It With Mine (Biograph)
Rambling Gambling Wille (Bootleg Series)
Percy's Song (Biograph)

Eternal Circle is a different version than the one that now appears
on the Bootleg Series.

Mixed Up Confusion is a different (and better) version than on Biograph.
It was the original single.

Corrina Corrina is the b-side of the above single and a different
version than the one that appears on Freewheelin'.

Talkin' John Birch is the one that appeared on early pressings of
Freewheelin' and still remains unreleased.


                                                      John Howells

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