The University of Tulsa’s Institute for Bob Dylan Studies is researching and recording exciting new findings concerning an unopened bag of Bob Dylan fan mail from 1966.
Sean Latham, a professor of English and the director of the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies, worked with Nathan Blue (BA ’20), an English MA candidate working at the institute, to produce a short video about the new fan mail research for the virtual Pop Con 2020.
Latham said what was listed as a “U.S. Postal Service Bag” on the inventory list for the archives caught his eye as soon as he learned the archive was coming to Tulsa. The mailbag, once it arrived, was not eye-catching, according to Latham, but its mysterious contents certainly were.
“That bag contained an unknown number of fan-written letters from 1966 that had somehow found their way to Woodstock,” noted Latham. “It was covered in mold and mildew, but still held the promise of excitement.”
Working with Blue, Latham began to study the letters to see what secrets they contained about fandom, taste culture and even the nature of Dylan’s fans. This research is unlike anything that has been conducted before, diving into an array of notes from Dylan fans written during the year he rocketed to fame.
“These fans wrote to express their love of his music, request autographs or even share their own poetry and lyrics,” Latham explained. “Some of the letters are deeply personal, while others show the international reach of Dylan’s music, which was impressive even in 1966.”
Blue, who completed a bachelor’s degree in English at TU and was involved with the Tulsa Undergraduate Research Challenge program, carefully read through the letters and charted each fan’s gender, location and reason for writing. Blue noted that, as someone who has grown up in a digital age where fans can “take out their iPhone and tweet at their favorite artist,” seeing these letters from 1966 was special because of the amount of time and effort that went into crafting each one.
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