Thursday, September 03, 2020

In which Bob Dylan goes ghost hunting with Steve Winwood

When Bob Dylan played Birmingham in 1996 with The Band, Steve Winwood and his brother Muff met him backstage before the concert.

Dylan told them he was really into ghosts, so Muff Winwood mentioned Witley Court. This derelict Worcestershire mansion was said to be haunted by its last owner, who could be seen walking the grounds with his dog.

And Dylan insisted they took him there after the show.

Muff Winwood takes up the tale:

After the gig they’d got the limos ready and so we just jumped into these limos – there we were in four bloody stretch Princess limos all driving out to Worcestershire at 12 o’clock at night! Well, we got to the place, so I jumped out and flagged all the limos down and I said, "Look, there’s somebody living in the gatehouse, so we’d better turn all the lights off and go in very quietly." So one by one, all these limos turned their lights off and drove carefully through the gates and up the long, long drive to where the house was. We got all the limos up there without anybody in the gatehouse knowing.

And out poured Dylan and the band and girlfriends and hangers on and we started wandering around. The house looked absolutely magnificent – it was a clear night with a great moon and everything, and Dylan was just absolutely knocked sideways by it, just enraptured by it. And of course the classic happened…

We said, "Let’s be very quiet, let’s see what we can hear." And in the mists there were these old statues in the garden that had got ivy growing all over them and they looked really eerie ... and somewhere a dog barked!

Now this is likely to happen in the countryside in Worcestershire at gone midnight, but Dylan is convinced that he’s heard the ghost of the dog! He was like a kid! He amazed me because I looked up to this great man, but he’d just keep running up to you grabbing you by the arm, saying, "This is unbelievable! This is fantastic!" Really child-like enjoyment of the whole thing. It was great fun.

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