On July 10 Dylan performed in St.Paul, Minnesota - where Dylan once lived in Dinkytown - and in amongst a largely predictable set, he sang Suzie Baby', the song on the A-side of Bobby Vee's first single, issued in 1959, back when Vee was a wannabe Buddy Holly, and very young.

Dylan sang Suzie Baby' because Bobby Vee, now age 70, was in the audience. Intoducing this one-off cover, Dylan said:

I used to live here, and then I left ... I've shared the stage with everyone from Mick Jagger to Madonna, but the most beautiful person I've ever been on stage with is Bobby Vee. He used to sing a song called Suzie Baby' ...Please show your appreciation ... with a round of applause. We’re gonna try and do this song, like I’ve done it with him before once or twice.'

They met up again that night, and Vee's great-niece snapped the moment:

I was lucky enough to meet Mr. V myself, at the Dylan Symposium at the University of Minnesota in March 2007. He signed my own hardback copy of The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia right alongside his entry in it, and I told him I'd seen him perform at Liverpool Empire in the early 1960s, when he was topping a bill that featured a charismatic 16-year-old Tony Orlando and the wonderful Clarence Frogman Henry - and I was surprised and pleased when he told me he'd been speaking to Clarence just a few weeks earlier.

Here's that entry from my Encyclopedia:

Vee, Bobby [1943 - ]

Robert Thomas Velline was born in Fargo, North Dakota on April 30, 1943, and grew up via rockabilly to be a teenage pop star. By the time Bob Dylan was ‘making it’ in 1963, Vee, two years younger, was already struggling to hold on to pop stardom.
     Dylan played piano in Bobby Vee’s band for a very brief period in 1959. Vee has told the story many times, as here:
     After we recorded Suzie Baby, we started getting out and we were a rhythm band with guitar, bass and drums. My brother Bill played lead guitar and I played rhythm guitar and we would switch round from time to time. We were looking for a piano player… as we had seen Jerry Lee Lewis as the opening act on a country show and he just tore it up… Bill was in a record shop called Sam’s Record Land in Fargo and this guy approached him and introduced himself as Elston Gunn...and said that he had got off the road with Conway Twitty as his piano player. Bill was blown away. He took him to the radio station where there was a piano and he rocked out pretty good in the key of C and we thought we would give him a try.
     He hadn’t played with Conway Twitty. Conway Twitty had been in the area and Dylan had seen him in Duluth a couple of nights earlier and then he came down to Fargo and was working as a busboy at the Red Apple Café. It was not meant to be, he didn’t have a piano and we didn’t have enough money to buy him one. He stuck around a couple of days and then he headed off to Minneapolis and then went to Greenwich Village where he became Bob Dylan. He came through my hometown about five years ago and I saw him then. I was amazed at how much he remembered as that was such a small slice of his life. He even remembered where my dad worked.’
     Dylan’s comments on Vee in Chronicles Volume One add little to this account, but he recalls that he used the great pseudonym Elston Gunn at the time, says that he and this old friend and fellow performer… had a lot in common, even though our paths would take such different directions’, and acknowledges that he was a great rockabilly singer’ before he crossed over’ to become a pop star. But though Dylan recalls that they saw each when Bob was singing in folk clubs and Vee was on the top of the heap’ at the Paramount in Brooklyn with an array of other stars, he gives no account of the more recent visit that so impressed Vee.

UPDATE: You might think from the photograph above that Bobby V certainly looks his two years younger than Bobby D, but sadly he isn't as healthy as he seems. On April 30 last year, his 69th birthday, he announced on his website that he had Alzheimer's.

[Bob Dylan Encyclopedia footnotes: Bobby Vee quoted from undated interview by Spencer Leigh in Baby, That Is Rock and Roll: American Pop 1954-1963, p.137. Bob Dylan: Chronicles Volume One, pp.78-80.]


  1. Not a huge deal, but the quote above is not accurate. I was at the show in the front, and I also transcribed Bob's words from a good recording. No real change in concept, but I have already seen it written as above a few times, and it's just not correct. Here's the actual quote:

    “Thank you everyone, thank you friends. I lived here a while back, and since that time I’ve played all over the world with all kinds of people. And everybody from uh, Mick Jagger and Madonna, and uh, everybody in there in between. I’ve been on the stage with most of those people, but the most beautiful [might actually say “meaningful”] person I’ve ever been on a stage with was a man who’s here tonight, who used to sing a song called Suzie Baby. I want to say Bobby Vee’s actually here tonight and maybe you can show your appreciation with just a round of applause. So we’re going to try to do this song like I, I’ve done it with him before one or twice . . .”

  2. Many thanks. I'm grateful for your correction, and others will be too.

  3. Anonymous15 July, 2013

    Rambling Gambling Gordon

    Neither ‘beautiful’ nor ‘meaningful’ seems appropriate, but then again he may have used either just to be contrary. The very idea of Dylan saying anything is ‘meaningful’ strikes me as very funny.

    Anyway, it’s a warm and touching tribute.

  4. I think the important point is the respect that Bob Dylan shows towards fellow musicians which he illustrates time after time at concerts like this.

  5. Anonymous16 July, 2013

    Hi, one more quick correction. Dinkytown is in Minneapolis.

  6. Anonymous17 July, 2013

    Gordon: not "appropriate" to whom?

    -- Glenn

  7. Anonymous17 July, 2013

    Rambling Gambling Gordon

    If he did say ‘beautiful’ then it was simply a term of high praise for Vee as a singer, but used like that it harks back to mushy hippy talk, which Dylan (if we forget for a moment the ubiquitous ‘man’ in Don’t Look Back) has never indulged in. If it was ‘meaningful’ then he was surely pulling everyone’s leg. A person? Meaningful?

  8. I was there. He did say "beautiful" and he seemed pretty emotional as he sang the song. If you don't understand how a person could be called beautiful without being "mushy hippy talk," I feel sorry for you.