Knockin' on memory's door

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    Warwick - It was practically another lifetime. But the memories are still fresh in Jonathan Talbot's mind. He was a musician in the early 1960s in New York City. He met and worked with some of the best musicians folk music had to offer. He shared the bill with John Lee Hooker. He accompanied Bill Cosby's poetry. He was friends with Tom Paxton. But Talbot, a world-renowned artist who lives in Warwick, wasn't Talbot at that time. He had taken the stage name of Juan Moreno and began a career as a flamenco guitar player. Moreno was master of ceremonies for an open mic at the Café Wha?, a hip spot on MacDougall Street in 1960, when a young musician in a small, funky cap walked in. He was carrying a guitar case with a sticker on it that read, "This machine kills Fascists." The musician was Bob Dylan. The sticker was familiar to Moreno, who, as a kid, had read Woody Guthrie's autobiography. In it, was a picture of Guthrie with his guitar case that said "This machine kills Fascists." "Nobody really knew about the lefty side of Woody," said Talbot. Obviously, he and Dylan did. Moreno invited Dylan to come up and play. The Café Wha? was the first place Dylan had ever sung in the city. "I asked him what he was doing and where he was staying," Talbot recalled. "He said no place. I took him to my crash pad. There were just mattresses on the floor. I don't even know who was paying for the place. I gave him a place to stay." The two became friends. The next day he came back to Cafe Wha?. Talbot said he was just mesmerizing. "I was excited by his energy, his focus and talent," said Talbot. Months later, Moreno was leaving New York to go to Spain and was having a birthday party before he left. Dylan was there. He had written a song for Moreno. "In it is the line ‘You were first when I came here,'" said Talbot. He's not sure if he meant first to give him a place to stay, first to give him the opportunity to play, or first to recognize his talent. Whatever the case, Moreno was flattered and it has stayed with him all these years. There were many changes in Moreno's life. His life as Juan Moreno ended in 1963. His successful music career continued until 1970, when he decided to become a visual artist. He has built quite a career and a reputation worldwide with his art. He has written two books on the subject and his work hangs in some of the most well known galleries around the world. So knowing Bob Dylan certainly isn't the highlight of Talbot's life. His own accomplishments are more than most can hope for. But Morena was mentioned in Dylan's book, "Chronicles Volume One" (page 22) and it made Talbot happy. He hadn't bought the book when it first came out. He got a phone call from a friend who told him he was mentioned in the book. "I was hesitant to buy the book because it was a long time ago. No one wants to be forgotten," said Talbot. "I didn't want to read it to see if I made the cut. I was delighted to be remembered," he said . So, a few months back he is sitting at The Crystal Inn having dinner with his wife, Marsha. He looks over and sees Joe and Jason Grizzanti, father and son owners of the Warwick Valley Winery and the Talbots' neighbors. Talbot knew that both were big Dylan fans. He knew that they had a Dylan Festival at the winery for many years to celebrate Bob's birthday every Memorial Day weekend. So, he went over and told them his story. This Memorial Day Weekend will mark Talbot's first at the Dylan Fest. He plans to tell his story and play a song that he wrote for Bob. "Bob Dylan is the poet of my generation, if not the American poet of the century," said Talbot. "Perhaps I'll have something to add to the event. I'm an artist who had the good fortune to know one of the greatest musicians of our time; and the better fortune to occupy a corner of his memory." The Bob Dylan tribute at the Warwick Valley Winery kicks off at noon on Saturday, May 28. The music continues on both Sunday and Monday, also beginning at noon. Admission is $10 a day, $20 for the weekend. Children under 13 are $5. Moreno is scheduled to appear on Saturday and Monday.