[MUSIC: Maggie’s Farm]

CHUCK: It was Dylan's Declaration of Independence.

[MUSIC: Maggie’s Farm]

CHUCK: More than anything, it was that guitar played by Mike Bloomfield of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, loud and distorted, that disturbed to many in the audience that Sunday night. The founder of the Newport Folk Festival, George Wein remembers their reaction.

WEIN: People were shocked. And some of the pro sound people would be saying, after the fact that people were cheering for Dylan, and the sound. But in actuality, if people were cheering you couldn't hear them because they’d be blotted out by the boos for for the music that was happening. People really were upset.

CHUCK: I reached George Wein at his New York City apartment to talk about that long ago festival and to ask him what all the fuss was about. George Wein says you have to understand just what Bob Dylan meant to the folk music scene at the time.

WEIN: Dylan was such an idol at our Folk Festival: “Blowing in the wind” and all those wonderful songs that he wrote. He was part of the festival. If there were three leading figures, he was one of the leading figures. Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary. I mean, they were the people that established one of the great musical events in history.

CHUCK: And history was made again the night Dylan went electric, history and myth. What about the story that Pete Seeger grabbed an axe and charged off to sever the sound cables to put an end to the sonic blasphemy? Not so, says George Wein. 

WEIN: I don't know where that started. It was all jive. Pete was in a car just a few 100 yards from the stage. And I went back to see Pete he says, “George, can you do anything about that sound?” I says, “It’s too late Pete. There’s nothing we can do.”

CHUCK: That was Sunday night the last night of the festival, but there had already been tension throughout this 1965 Festival. I especially wanted to get George Wein’s take on a famous brawl that took place on Saturday between Albert Grossman who managed the Paul Butterfield blues band, and Alan Lomax, folklorist, musicologist and a main architect of the folk revival. Lomax had made some disparaging remarks on stage about the Butterfield band and Grossman was not pleased.

WEIN: Well, they came on stage and Grossman challenged him, “How could you say that? “The next thing I know I wasn't there. I heard all about it. They were rolling on the ground two big guys, two older guys, you know, middle aged guys, rolling on the ground fighting and swearing and yelling at each other. We had to break it up. I wasn't there. As I say that people around had to break it up. You talked about tensions. That was tense.

CHUCK: Ultimately, it was that recurring tension between the old and the new, and the old always gives away. George Wein, now almost 90 years old, sounds wistful as he recalls that July night in 1965 when Bob Dylan came off the stage after his electric set and was asked to go back out there to play something acoustic for the faithful who wanted their idol back. He did. But the tide had already turned.

WEIN: Bobby came off and I said Bobby, you got to go back and sing an acoustic song. He said I don't have a guitar. I turned around. I said anybody have a guitar for Dylan? And like in the Folk Festival, 20 guitars went up in the air. So Bobby did take a guitar and did go back and I think he sang It's All Over Now Baby Blue. But that basically is the story. He came off the stage and folk music was never the same again. Now the folk festival was never the same.

This story originally aired in July, 2015.