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From Muddy Waters to Billie Holiday: Bob Dylan's Thanksgiving playlist


Thanksgiving is a time for sharing, spending time with loved ones and practising the art of gratuity. Handing out presents to those you love is a feeling that is often greater than receiving and Bob Dylan’s a man who seemingly is a firm believer in this ideology. The greatest gift that he could offer is to share his thirst for music and that is exactly what he did when he collated his perfect ‘Thanksgiving Leftovers’ playlist.

Dylan once dedicated a whole episode of his rested Theme Time Radio Hour to this subject back in 2006. The radio show, aired on Sirius XM, was a weekly, one-hour programme which Dylan hosted and one that originally aired from May 2006 to April 2009. Coincidentally, the musician brought the show back to life earlier this year for a special one-off episode all about Whiskey. There have been 100 episodes of Theme Time Radio Hour and not one of them disappoints. Every episode is an eclectic, freeform mix of the music that Dylan loves from the world of blues, folk, rockabilly, R&B, soul, bebop, rock-and-roll, country and any other 45s he fancied spinning.

There was one condition though, each episode had to be centred on a specific theme. This could be something as mundane as ‘weather’, or abstract like ‘luck’ but the ‘Thanksgiving Leftovers’ episode is the most special from the bunch. Rather than seeing Dylan revisit songs from that remind him of this special time of the year, instead, these are tracks that Dylan had meant to play in other episodes but hadn’t got round to because of his wandering tongue. As leftovers go, this selection is even better than turkey.

It’s a mix-match of different themes that Dylan had previously covered in earlier episodes from his first series of Theme Time Radio Hour. The fact that the singer still felt the urge to make sure his audience heard these tracks shows exactly how much they mean to him and gives an insight into just how important the gift of music is to him.

At the start of the episode, he sets out the stall for the episode by playing Tampa Red & Big Maceo’s ‘Let Me Play With Your Poodle’, a number which doesn’t exactly provoke memories of the holiday season but that’s exactly the point. “On the Dog show, I must have brought in like 50 records,” Dylan explains to the listeners and yes, he did dedicate a whole episode to dogs. “We didn’t get a chance to play em all, so let me share a couple of ‘em with ya today on our Leftovers show. Tampa Red & Big Maceo wanna play with your poodle. They’re saying it’s your poodle dog, but I have my doubts. This was recorded for the Bluebird record label, and it’s a good example of what was known as the Bluebird Beat.”

Some highlights from the selection include the late Dinah Washington’s ‘Teach Me Tonight’ and she was a singer that Dylan remains absolutely full of superlatives for, telling his audience: “Dinah was one of the greatest of the jazz singers, and her throaty sass, soulful vocal dips, and end of the lyric growls make this version…an invitation that’s almost impossible to resist.”

Billy Wright’s ‘Let’s Be Friends’ also features and the late singer is another person that holds a special place in Dylan’s heart, noting: “Our next singer is a real character, and was a close friend of Little Richard. As a matter of fact, Richard credits him as being one of his biggest influences.”

The programme offers a window into the somewhat mysterious world surrounding Bob Dylan and the listener is given a peek behind the curtain to see what the man behind the facade is truly like. The largest takeaway from the radio programme is that one thing is central to Dylan’s existence and that is his love for music. The acclaimed singer-songwriter didn’t need to do the radio show for money or to stay relevant, his only motivation was the opportunity to share some of his favourite sounds with his fans.

Check out his choices and the full playlist, below.

Bob Dylan’s Thanksgiving Playlist

  • ‘Turkey In The Straw’ — Liberace (1952)
  • ‘Hallelujah, I’m A Bum’ — Harry McClintock (1926)
  • ‘Let Me Play With Your Poodle’ — Tampa Red & Big Maceo (1942)
  • ‘Yard Dog’ — Al Ferrier (1972)
  • ‘The Turkey Hop’ — The Robins with Johnny Otis Orchestra (1950)
  • ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ — Fats Waller (1934)
  • ‘Twelve Red Roses’ — Betty Harris (1966)
  • ‘Don’t Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes’ — Skeets McDonald (1952)
  • ‘Them There Eyes’ — Billie Holiday (1939)
  • ‘Angel Eyes’ — Jesse Belvin (1959)
  • ‘Gunslingers’ — Mighty Sparrow (1963)
  • ‘Let’s Be Friends’ — Billy Wright (1955)
  • ‘Whiskey Is The Devil (In Liquid Form)’ — The Bailes Brothers (1947)
  • ‘Teach Me Tonight’ — Dinah Washington (1954)
  • ‘Teacher Teacher’ — Rockpile (1980)
  • ‘Iodine In My Coffee’ — Muddy Waters (1952)
  • ‘You Eat Too Much’ — Harold Burrage (1956)
  • ‘Pie In The Sky’ — Cisco Houston (1960)