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BOB JOHNSTON,
1932-2015

Bob Johnston, the legendary producer who uttered the famous phrase “Is it rolling, Bob?” during the sessions for Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, died last Friday (8/14) in a Nashville hospice at the age of 83.

Johnston’s sprawling, landmark-filled discography also includes Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, Self Portrait, and New Morning; Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin; Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme, Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate; The Byrds’ Dr. Byrds & Mr. Hyde; and Moby Grape’s Truly Fine Citizen. He made all of the above records while working as a staff producer for Columbia, which turned out to be an extremely fruitful gig.

In the introduction to his Johnston biography, Is It Rolling Bob?, SXSW co-founder Louis Black describes him as “one of the quieter legends in the music business. Reluctant to blow his own horn, he’s just as determinedly always undermined anyone else’s attempts to do the same… Johnston brought the technical brilliances needed for the sound the artist wanted, recruited the ideal musicians to capture it, and during the recording offered unending enthusiasm, support, expertise, and encouragement. He championed unique projects even when most other company executives were skeptical and continued to look after the albums even when they were finished and released.”

And in Bob Dylan Chronicles: Volume One, the bard wrote, "Johnston had fire in his eyes. He had that thing that some people call 'Momentum.' You could see it in his face and he shared that fire, that spirit. Columbia's leading folk and country producer, he was born one hundred years too late. He should have been wearing a wide cape, a plumed hat, and riding with his sword held high. Johnston disregarded any warning that might get in his way... Johnston lived on low country barbecue, and he was all charm."

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