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Bob Dylan’s favourite songs about whiskey

Since 2006, Bob Dylan has been running a free-form radio show pleasingly known as the Theme Time Radio Hour. Each week, Bob chooses a theme and creates a playlist accordingly. The man himself has astonishingly varied taste, but combine that with the gargantuan record collection of Eddie Gorodetsky, and you’re on to a winner. Blending blues, folk, rockabilly, R&B, soul, bebop, rock-and-roll, country and pop, with chat and the odd listener phone call, Theme Time Radio Hour is possibly the most comforting thing in the known universe. Honestly, it’s like Garrison Keillor had a baby with Radio 4.

Bob introduces the show in his classic style, saying: “Hello, friends, and welcome back to Theme Time Radio Hour. I’m your host, Bob Dylan. To paraphrase Alexandre Dumas, in The Count of Monte Cristo, ‘I’m so delighted to see you here’. It makes me forget, for the moment, that all happiness is fleeting.”

Going on to introduce the theme of this week’s one-hour show, Dylan dropped in a subtle reference to one of his new business ventures:

“You may wonder what brings us back after so long, with an all-new episode of Themes, Dreams, and Schemes. Well, the answer is simple. Recently, I met some distillers and blenders, and together we cooked up our own brand of Tennessee bourbon, double barrel, and straight rye whiskey. Maybe you’ve read about it; it’s called ‘Heaven’s Door’. Now, I’m not going to pull your coat too much about it, because me telling you how good it is, is like trying to tickle yourself. It just doesn’t work. You have to taste it, then it speaks for itself. But, we all thought it might be a good idea to do an episode of Theme Time all about those various amber intoxicants.”

With the theme decided, Bob kicks off the show “on the quiet side”, with the surprisingly raucous: ‘A Quiet Whiskey’ by Wyonie Harris. Like many of the subsequent tracks, Harris’ song is not just related to whiskey by name, but by feeling. It captures the warmth of being in good company with a tumbler of the gold stuff. Dylan’s following choices continue that warmth, with songs like Willie Nelson’s ‘Whiskey Blues’ and ‘Whiskey Sununu Odia’ being notable highlights. Of the latter track, Dylan says: “Edmund Tagoe and Frank Essien there with a piece of world music from before you could take a course in it at the university.”

Throughout the next half an hour of the show, whiskey-infused tracks like ‘I’ve Been Drinking’ by Jeff Beck and ‘One Scotch, One Bourbon, One beer’ by Alfred Brown are dispersed by tit-bits of whiskey lore, as well as some of Dylan’s home-brewed jokes. There are nods to notable whiskey-pioneers, as well as to Van Morrison, Louis Armstrong, and of course Tom Waits. And, when Dylan begins playing Thin Lizzy’s ‘Whiskey In The Jar’, it becomes clear that the one thing which unites all forms of music is the pursuit of inebriation.

Dylan ends the show with a concise anecdote followed by a couple of beautifully scratchy records from Tuff Green and Hoyt Curtin, both of which perfectly capture the cloudy headedness which follows a night of hard drinking. Then, wrapping up in Dylan-esque style, our host ends with: “Heres a toast that Bill Cosby taught me: ‘Some ships are wooden ships and those ships shall sink. But the best ships are French ships, and to those ships, we drink.”

See the full list of and accompanying playlist, below.

Bob Dylan’s favourite songs about whiskey:

  1. ‘Quiet Whiskey’ – Wynonie Harris
  2. ‘If the River Was Whiskey’ – Charlie Poole
  3. ‘Whiskey River’ – Willie Nelson
  4. ‘Bottleneck Blues’ (excerpt) – Sylvester Weaver and Walter Beasley
  5. ‘Whiskey Sununu Odia’ – Edmund Tagoe and Frank Essien
  6. ‘He’s Got All the Whiskey’ – Bobby Charles
  7. ‘Good Whiskey (And a Bad Woman)’ – Timmie Rogers
  8. ‘The Whiskey Makes You Sweeter’ – Laura Cantrell
  9. ‘Drinking Again’ – Frank Sinatra
  10. ‘I’ve Been Drinking’ (excerpt) – Jeff Beck / Rod Stewart
  11. ‘Corn Whiskey’ – Jimmy Witherspoon
  12. ‘Ain’t That Whiskey Hot’ – Billie Harbert
  13. ‘One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer’ – Alfred Brown
  14. ‘Rye Whiskey’ – Harry Choates
  15. ‘Coming through the Rye’ – John C. Reilly
  16. ‘Coming Through the Rye’ – Julie London
  17. ‘Mountain Dew’ – The Stanley Brothers
  18. ‘Moonshine Whiskey’ – Van Morrison
  19. ‘Bourbon from Heaven’ (excerpt) – Dean Martin
  20. ‘Mack the Knife’ (excerpt ) – Louis Armstrong
  21. ‘Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)’ – Lotte Lenya
  22. ‘Jockey Full of Bourbon’ – Tom Waits
  23. ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ – George Jones
  24. ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ – Thin Lizzy
  25. ‘The Parting Glass’ – The Clancy Brothers
  26. ‘Hangover Blues’ – Byllye Williams
  27. ‘Tuff’ (excerpt) – Ace Cannon
  28. ‘Let’s Go to the Liquor Store’ – Tuff Green
  29. Top Cat’ (underscore) – Hoyt Curtin

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