The latest entry in Bob Dylan’s Bootleg Series, Vol. 15, is set to finally reveal one of the most historic unreleased collaborations in all of music. Out November 1st, the collection includes material from Dylan and Johnny Cash’s first and only recording session in February 1969. Today, we get our first sample of those legendary tapes with an early take on “Wanted Man”.
“Wanted Man” became famous as the opening track on Cash’s live At San Quentin LP, and he would go on to record a proper studio version some years later. However, Dylan actually penned the song, giving it to The Man in Black just a week before the San Quentin show. In this newly unearthed demo, we get to hear Dylan and Cash — along with rockabilly guitarist Carl Perkins — taking their first crack at the tune.
Before they get into it, Cash’s wife, June Carter Cash, can be heard reminding her husband to ask Dylan about “Wanted Man”. “Honey, I don’t want to interrupt your train of thought, but be sure that Bob puts the melody to that song, that ‘Wanted Man’. You forgot the melody,” she says.
Melody isn’t the only thing Cash forgot. After trading verses, Dylan and Cash head into the chorus, during which the latter clearly forgets the geographical lyrics. He chuckles and stumbles through the words, jokingly improvising places like Little Rock, Duluth, and — my personal favorite — Bangor, Maine. Hearing the two iconic songwriters laughing together in such a relaxed and personable manner while recording what will become a landmark song is truly something unique.
Take a listen below via a music video shared by Dylan’s archivist.
Bob Dylan (Featuring Johnny Cash) — Travelin’ Thru, 1967–1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 15 was previously previewed with an early take on “I Pity the Poor Immigrants”. The three-disc collection will feature over 20 tracks from the Dylan/Cash sessions, alongside outtakes from Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline, as well as audio of his performance on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969. Pre-orders are going on now.