Bob Dylan – Ghost hunting at Witley Court 1966

Bob Dylan at Witley Court 1966
Bob Dylan visited Witley Court 1966

 The legendary Bob Dylan went ghost hunting at Witley Court in the 1960’s. There are a couple of stories as to how the visit came about – we’ll leave you to decide which is the more likely on.

Bob Dylan says: “Stevie Winwood, he came to see us in Manchester. Last time we were in Manchester… That was 1966. Or was it Birmingham? His brother – he’s got a brother named Muff – Muff took us all out to see a haunted house, outside of Manchester, or Birmingham, one of those two. Or was it Newcastle? Something like that. We went out to see a haunted house, where a man and his dog was to have burned up in the thirteenth century. Boy, that place was spooky. That’s the last time I saw Stevie Winwood.”— Bob Dylan 29 November 1969. The Rolling Stone Interview with Jann Wenner, New York City, New York.

John Bauldie interviewed Muff Winwood for the full story on the ghostly expedition. The interview was reprinted in ‘Wanted man: in search of Bob Dylan‘.

“Dylan was playing in Birmingham with The Band on the famous face-slapping tour. I was in the Spencer Davis Group then, and he’d heard our records and when he came to Birmingham he wanted to meet us. We were going to the concert anyway, so we just met him backstage before the show…

Anyway, while we were backstage,  he was telling us how he was really into ghosts and he loved Britain because of the history and everything and he thought there’d be some wonderful ghosts around. And we knew of a very old massive house in Worcestershire,  near Kidderminster I think, that apart from a gatehouse,  which was occupied by a caretaker, was left abandoned. It had been burnt and left with all the rafters blackened. And we told him how the guy that had lived in the house had died with his dog, and how if you went there you could see him walking around with the dog. And he was absolutely fascinated with this story and he said, Listen, after the gig you’ve got to take me to this place! There was just me and my brother Steve, and I thought, Bloody hell!

But 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…”

Note: Mervyn “Muff” Winwood (born 15 June 1943, Erdington, Birmingham) is an English songwriter and record producer, and the older brother of Steve Winwood. Both were formerly members of the Spencer Davis Group in the 1960s, in which Muff Winwood played bass guitar. He produced the first Dire Straits album, Dire Straits (1978).

 

The second story was by Kevyn Gammond and published by the BBC as follows:

‘Kevyn Gammond has spent a lifetime rubbing shoulders with rock legends.As part of the music scene in Kidderminster in 1960’s he played in the legendary Band of Joy, alongside Robert Plant and John Bonham, who went on to conquer the world in Led Zeppelin.

 He also played with many other musicians who went on to form famous bands, including Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason, founder members with Steve Winwood of Traffic. A jam session with Capaldi and Mason at a Birmingham club led to a meeting with the legendary Bob Dylan, and a trip to a ruined stately home in Worcestershire to look for ghosts.

“I was in a group called The Shakedown, and Dave Mason and the gang used to come and jam at a club called The Elbow Room until about three in the morning. I think it was about the time of the first tour Dylan came over, in the mid sixties.”

“We were 17 or 18 and he was in his 20’s and he was a good pal of Steve Winwood. He turned up at the Elbow Room and we’d all been jamming – Dylan didn’t actually join in – and when we’d finished playing we all headed off to Witley Court to go ghost hunting.”

Kevin says they didn’t find any ghosts, but had a wild time looking for them. Forty years on he can still remember his encounter with the young Bob Dylan.

“From what I can remember he looked a bit like he did on that first album – the corduroy cap, sheepskin coat. He always had a kind of cherubic look.”

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