On This Day: Bob Dylan Releases ‘Nashville Skyline’ Album in 1969

by Keeli Parkey

What is arguably one of Bob Dylan’s most memorable albums was released 52 years ago today (April 9, 2021). That album is “Nashville Skyline” and it includes several classic Dylan tracks. It also includes one of his most memorable duets.

This album was somewhat of a departure for Dylan. He was known as a folk singer and a rock ‘n’ roll artist. However, with “Nashville Skyline” he jumped into the sea of country music. And, we are all better for it.

According to a 2019 article by The Tennessean, what Bob Dylan did with this 1969 album is successfully merge those three genres. “Nashville Skyline” is an example of how country music, folk, and rock ‘n’ roll can lift one another up to create something great.

“That hybrid of folk and country and rock that he helped create during the ‘60s became a foundation for much of the music since then,” said Michael Gray in The Tennessean article. Gray was the senior museum editor at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum at the time.

According to a 2019 article by Rolling Stone, one of the qualities that made “Nashville Skyline” unique at the time was the change noticeable in Bob Dylan’s voice. The change was brought on by the legendary artist’s decision to stop smoking. It was also brought on by Dylan trying to change his voice to fit the new musical style he was developing. The publication described Dylan’s voice on the album as “a baritone country croon.”

Bob Dylan’s 1969 Album Includes ‘Lay Lady Lay,’ Among Other Famous Tracks

There are several great songs on “Nashville Skyline.”

One in which Bob Dylan’s voice really shines is the “Lay Lady Lay” track. This song became a Top 10 hit for the singer, according to TheBoot.com. Other singles released from the album were “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and “I Threw It All Away.”

Also included on the album was a memorable duet with Johnny Cash. He joined Dylan for a new version of the song “Girl From the North Country.” The song is a heartbreaker. And, Cash and Dylan’s vocals add the necessary emotion to make the song so memorable. They would record almost 20 songs together, according to Rolling Stone.

Cash and Dylan also shared a producer. That man was Bob Johnston. He was the producer on “Nashville Skyline,” according to Rolling Stone. Johnston also served as producer for Leonard Cohen and Simon & Garfunkel.

Interestingly, “Nashville Skyline” was recorded in four days, Rolling Stone also reported. Also, the song “Nashville Skyline Rag” was the very first instrumental track of Bob Dylan’s career.

Future Country Music Star Played Guitar on Dylan’s ‘Nashville Skyline’ Album

In addition to Johnny Cash, another country music legend worked on “Nashville Skyline.” That legend was Charlie Daniels, according to TheBoot.com. Daniels played guitar on the album. He got the gig after another guitarist was unavailable for a session.

After that session was complete, Daniels started to leave. According to TheBoot.com, Dylan noticed and asked Johnston why Daniels was leaving. The producer explained that the other musician was coming to work.

However, Dylan wasn’t having it. “I don’t want another guitar player. I want him,'” Daniels recalled, according to TheBoot.com. “It’s just unbelievable, I don’t know, almost surreal.”

Charlie Daniels wasn’t the only future star who helped on this 1969 Bob Dylan album. According to Rolling Stone, Kris Kristofferson “assisted” with percussion on “Lay Lady Lay.”

Apparently, Kristofferson worked in the studio where Dylan and others were working. And, in addition to his janitorial duties, he was tasked with holding cowbells and bongos for drummer Kenny Buttrey during the recording.