The legacy of Bob Dylan now has a Wauwatosa twist.
A two-sided page of handwritten lyrics about Wisconsin was recently up for auction in Los Angeles. In the never-recorded words Dylan references the cities of Milwaukee, Madison and Wauwatosa.
"It could be that he was remembering traveling through Wisconsin," Dylan expert and Harvard Professor Richard F. Thomas said. "When he went to New York City near the end of 1960 he was in Madison."
Wow Wow Toaster
The Tosa reference is seen in the words "Wow Wow Toaster" next to what appears to be "Wauwatosa" written with a line through it.
Thomas speculated Dylan likely had passed through Wauwatosa or saw the name on a sign and liked the way it sounded. He said he had never heard that Dylan had lived in Wauwatosa.
When he traveled to and from New York, Dylan would often hitchhike and that would take him through the Dairy State. Thomas said Dylan did live in Wisconsin for a time and often played in Madison prior to becoming a bigger star.
"You have to be careful with Dylan lyrics," Thomas said. "He had an absurdist sense of things and that was reflected in his writing. I can see him making that up as he wrote the whole song out."
As proof of his point, Thomas referred to a set of lyrics Dylan wrote where he talked about going back to Rome, and Thomas said he had never lived there, either.
Lyrics up for auction
The lyrics sheet was up for auction by Nate D. Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles. The minimum bid was set at $30,000 and the auction closed March 30 without a submitted bid. The item is currently available for purchase at the minimum bid amount plus a 25 percent buyer's premium. Those interested in bidding may call 310-440-2982 or go to natesanders.com.
"Dylan pens a song about Wisconsin, where he lived in late 1960 before moving to New York, and also where he spent time as a teenager at summer camp," the auction house said. "The lyrics were given by Dylan to Peter Crago, a musician with whom Dylan briefly lived in New York in 1961."
Thomas said when it's stated Dylan was "living with someone" he simply was sleeping on someone's couch. He said he does believe the song is about the state of Wisconsin and Dylan's mindset at the time he wrote down the lyrics.
"At this point as a writer, Dylan had received his contract with Columbia a few months before," Thomas said. "Stuff was coming to him constantly and he was writing one song after another."
Thomas teaches a class about Dylan at Harvard every four years and is currently finishing a book on the singer called "Why Dylan Matters."
The Sanders auction house transcribed the handwritten lyrics. Thomas said he interprets the last verse a little differently than the auction house due to his familiarity with Dylan's preference for eight-line verses. The auction house version is below:
''Bob Dylan - 11/20/61 / N.Y.C
1. Wisconson is the dairy state
I guess you all know well
I was in Wow Wow Toaster there
The truth to you I'll tell
It's milk & cheese & cream
I've known 'em all my days
I'm going back to my hometown I'm leaving rightaways
2. I'm a heading out Wisconson ways
2000 miles to go
Madison, Milwakee set's my heart aglow
I'm a coming to that dairy state
My heart's a beating fast
I'll jerk my banjo gently there
And twiddle my mustache
3. There's thoughts I left there long ago
One a coming now it seems
I'll tune my banjo than the hills
And feast on milk and cream
And stamp my foot all thru the grass
And never know a care
My homes in Wow Wow Toaster
And I'm a going there''
(The song continues on the verso:)
"1. These people with you city ways
Are driving me insane to drink
My home's in Wisconson it's a better place I think
I've been in California
My home's in Wisconson
And I'm gonna own the town''