Blues guitar legend Warren Haynes looked back on the opportunity he had to perform live with Bob Dylan. Calling himself “the hugest fan” of the singer, Warren discussed this in a recent visit to the Dipped in Tone podcast where he was asked to recall some of his favorite collaborations of all time.
After mentioning some of the performances with other big names, Haynes looked back on getting the chance to play with Dylan and said (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs)
“I think the first time I sat in with Bob Dylan was a very special thing for me just because I’m the hugest fan. I’ve played with Bob a few times, but the very first time when we did ‘All Along the Watchtower’ and ‘Highway 61,’ I was just, like, on another planet.”
When the interviewer asked him whether it’s true that “you really have to be on your toes playing with Bob Dylan,” Warren replied:
“Well, I was planning on being on my toes anyway. Just because I was as nervous as possible playing with Dylan.”
To elaborate further, Haynes looked back on what it’s actually like to play with Bob on the stage:
“One of the guys — maybe [guitarist] Charlie Sexton — said to me, ‘Look, Bob’s going to look at you when it’s time to solo, start solo, and then he’s going to play with you, but don’t get spooked. That doesn’t mean he wants you to stop. He just wants to play along with you.'”
“I’m like, ‘Okay,’ and that’s exactly what happened. He gave me the nod, I started soloing. And he got right up in my face and was like soloing with me at the same time. And I was just like, ‘Wow, this is surreal.'”
“But it was amazing. It was what those moments are supposed to be.”
Going more into it, Haynes recalled this odd occasion of Dylan showing Haynes how his legendary hit song “All Along the Watchtower” goes in front of 20,000 people. He continued:
“The really uncanny thing, for me, was that we were at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, it was sold out and there’s 20,000 people. And as I walked out on stage, Bob comes up to me, to show me how ‘All Along the Watchtower’ goes, just in case I don’t know.”
“And I was like… Part of me was just thinking, ‘Is this a test or a joke?’ Like, if I don’t know ‘All Along the Watchtower,’ what am I doing here? But if he was trying to see my reaction, whatever it was, it was really a sweet gesture in the way that ‘Just in case you never heard this song before, this is how it goes.’ [Laughs]”
Although it’s not easy to point out when this exact show took place, it’s likely that we’re talking about November 1999 as some concert reviews of the time seem to point out.
Going more into the matter, Warren Haynes was also asked whether he still gets the “butterflies” before going out there on the stage. The blues legend confirms that this still happens:
“Yeah, I don’t think that ever goes away. You get used to it. And I think it’s good. I think it’s like an athlete about to go on the field for a game, there’s this anxious energy that motivates you that, without it, I don’t think he would be in the right headspace, really. Sometimes I wish it was amped down a little bit. But for the most part, I think it’s a necessary thing.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Haynes discussed getting the chance to play with some bands live at the last minute and how he deals with not knowing full songs in those cases. After sharing some of his experiences, Warren revealed that his favorite band of all time is Miles Davis Quintet because they were incredibly skilled in improvisation and coming up with stuff on the spot:
“But my favorite band of all time is the Miles Davis Quintet with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, and Tony Williams, and Ron Carter, which is odd for a guitar player because they didn’t have guitar.”
“But the ultimate improv to me is that band. When you hear one musician play something and then take a breath and see what somebody else is going to play in the space.”
The lineup that Haynes is mentioning here worked between 1964 and 1968 and was also known as the Second Great Quintet. He continued:
“And that’s how they know what they’re going to play next. Nobody knows what they’re going to do until they listen to how someone responds to what they just did. That’s my favorite way of approaching improv. And I think once you kind of get bitten by that bug, you’d never go back.”
At the moment, Warren Haynes is promoting Gov’t Mule’s new album “Peace… Like a River” which came out in June this year. Apart from that, Gov’t Mule also parted ways with their longtime bassist Jorgen Carlsson recently and have now hired Kevin Scott.