By Josef Siebert
Bob Dylan will return to Ravinia this summer, appearing for the first time since his debut at the 102-year-old festival one rainy night in June 1964. Ravinia announced details of its 2016 season, which features over 140 events between June 2 and Sept. 11, on Wednesday.
Billed as Robert Dylan for his Ravinia debut, the folk singer was near the beginning of his career and performed alone onstage with a borrowed guitar in a near-rainout. One legendary career later, he returns with his band and Mavis Staples on June 24.
The Chicago Tribune’s and Chicago Sun-Times’s archives yield no review of the 1964 show but a blog on the Ravinia Festival’s website includes a first-hand account of the show by David Lauterstein, 68, who was attending Highland Park High School at the time.
“Right after the concert began, rain began pouring down and Dylan called for everyone on the lawn to come in out of the rain and under the bandshell to stay dry,” reads Lauterstein’s account. “During his third song, Dylan broke a string. He yelled out, ‘Anyone out there have a string or a guitar?’”
Lauterstein did, a Martin Dreadnought that Dylan played for the rest of the performance. “Everyone asks if I still have that guitar. Absolutely not…like most beatnik folkies in those days, we sold some very nice guitars for rent money!” said Lauterstein during a Facebook conversation Wednesday. Lauterstein now runs a massage school in Austin, Texas.
Ravinia’s 2016 season also features concerts by Paul Simon, Chris Cornell, and Bonnie Raitt as well as Hollywood Vampires, a band including shock-rocker Alice Cooper, actor Johnny Depp, and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry. The season’s extensive classical music offerings include the return of former longtime Ravinia music director James Levine, who conducts a Mahler symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; a visit by Yo-Yo Ma and movie showings featuring a live orchestral performance of each movie’s score.
Billed as the country’s oldest outdoor music festival, Ravinia’s North Shore grounds feature a 3,400-seat covered pavilion as well as expansive lawns where visitors can lay out a blanket and enjoy a picnic meal. Tickets start at $10 for lawn admissions to Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances, and can range up to $169 for a pavilion seat to the Dylan show. Check Ravinia.org for details.