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Robert Shelton

Robert Shelton

Robert Shelton was a music and film critic who died in 1995. He helped to launch the career of a then-unknown 20-year-old Bob Dylan in 1961, when Dylan was performing at Gerde's Folk City in the West Village, opening for the bluegrass act the Greenbriar Boys. Shelton's positive review in The New York Times brought crucial publicity to Dylan and led to a Columbia recording contract. For a decade (1958–1968), Shelton reviewed music, in particular folk music, but also pop and country music, becoming a friend of many of the artists and extending his influence beyond the pages of the Times. He reviewed the inaugural Newport Folk Festival (NFF) for The New York Times and The Nation and edited the program for the influential 1963 NFF under the pen name "Stacey Williams". He wrote album notes for several artists, including Bob Dylan's first album. During the early 1960s, Shelton co-edited a magazine, Hootenanny at the same time as his friend Linda Solomon edited a different magazine titled ABC-TV Hootenanny.

Shelton spent 20 years writing and rewriting his Dylan biography, No Direction Home, The Life and Music of Bob Dylan which was finally published in 1986, after years of arguments with publishers about the style and length of the work. Shelton's intention from the outset was to write a serious cultural study, not a showbiz biography; as a result, he later said his life's work had been "abridged over troubled waters". The title is taken from the lyric of Dylan's hit single 'Like a Rolling Stone'. The same title, No Direction Home, was used by Martin Scorsese for his 2005 documentary film about Dylan's career from the beginning to his motorcycle crash in 1966. Other books by Shelton include Electric Muse: The Story Of Folk Into Rock and The Face of Folk Music. An updated edition of this book, The Electric Muse Revisited, with new material by Robin Denselow, one of the original quartet of contributors, is scheduled for publication by Omnibus Press in May 2021. The folk music charity Square Roots Productions was midwife to the project.

In 1969 Shelton moved to the United Kingdom, living in Hampstead and Sydenham, and then (from 1982) in the South Coast town of Brighton, where he edited the Arts page of the Brighton Evening Argus, and then wrote – mostly about films – for a number of other publications up to his death. In 1996, Shelton's papers, and his collection of books, records and research material were donated to the Institute of Popular Music at the University of Liverpool.

44 articles

By Artist | By Date

List of articles in the library by date

Leon Bibb, Len Chandler, The Clancy Brothers, Don Crawford, Billy Faier, Weston Gavin, Carolyn Hester, Ram John Holder, Cisco Houston, Tommy Makem, Tom Paslé, Dick Rosmini, Molly Scott, Brother John Sellers, The Trade Winds, Dave Van Ronk, Beverly Wright: Folk Music Makes Mark on City's Night Life

Overview by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 17 November 1960

Art Form Flowers in the Coffeehouses and Plush Clubs Airs of Many Lands Presented by an Army of Talent ...

The Kingston Trio: Carnegie Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 24 November 1960

College Spirit of Kingston Trio Marks Carnegie Hall Programs ...

Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone: Carnegie Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 22 May 1961

TWO FOLK SINGERS PRESENT CONCERT ...

Bob Dylan, The Greenbriar Boys: The Greenbriar Boys, Bob Dylan: Gerde's Folk City, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 29 September 1961

Bob Dylan: A Distinctive Folk-Song Stylist 20-Year-Old Singer Is Bright New Face at Gerde's Club ...

Bill Anderson, Lester Flatt, Uncle Dave Macon, Jim Reeves, Earl Scruggs, Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams: Durable Formula for Grand Ole Opry

Report by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 26 November 1961

NASHVILLE, TENN. After thirty-five years of broadcasting, the grand old dinosaur of American radio, Grand Ole Opry, is as boisterously alive as ever. The show ...

Clara Ward et al: New Fields Found By Gospel Singers

Report by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 18 February 1962

Music Meeting Success in Night Clubs and Theatres ...

Maybelle Carter, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Tompall & the Glaser Brothers, Mac Wiseman: Johnny Cash, Maybelle Carter, George Jones, Mac Wiseman, the Glaser Brothers: Carnegie Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 11 May 1962

Troupe of Country Musicians Gives Program at Carnegie Hall ...

Charles Mingus: Charlie Mingus: Jazz Man Is Changing His Beat

Report and Interview by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 27 August 1962

Charlie Mingus at Work on Story of His Hard Times Bassist Is Planning to Leave U.S. and Write Symphony ...

The Faith Temple Choir, The Gospelaires, Mahalia Jackson, The Staple Singers: Staple Singers, Mahalia Jackson et al: Randalls Island, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 8 September 1962

GOSPEL FESTIVAL GETS UNDER WAY 3-Day Event Set for Randalls Island Begins a Little Late ...

Hoyt Axton, Joan Baez, Michael Brown, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Lynn Gold, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Ewan MacColl, Judy Mayhan, The New Christy Minstrels, Tom Paxton, Peter, Paul & Mary, Jean Redpath, The Rooftop Singers, Pete Seeger, The Weavers, Josh White: Folk albums of 1962: Fad To Staple — Disks Reflect 'Arrival' of Folk Music As Part of Country's Popular Arts

Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 28 April 1963

A LONGER perspective may revise the view, but it appears from a distance of a few months that 1962 was the year when the folk-music ...

Pete Seeger, The Weavers: The Weavers: Carnegie Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 3 May 1963

7 WEAVERS OFFER 'REUNION' CONCERT Alumni and Future Member Join Folk-Music Quartet ...

Sandy Bull, Stu Ramsay, Roger Sprung: Albums from Sandy Bull and more

Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 18 August 1963

A STRUMMER WITH MORE THAN THREE CHORDS ...

Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band: Bitter End, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 21 September 1963

Kweskin Quintet at Bitter End Puts Polish in the Ragtime Jug ...

Bob Dylan: Carnegie Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 28 October 1963

Folk Songs Draw Carnegie Cheers Bob Dylan Appears as an 'Angry Young' Recitalist ...

Dock Boggs, Mississippi John Hurt: Alumni Hall, New York University, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 14 December 1963

2 OLD-TIMERS SHARE FOLK-SONG PROGRAM ...

Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Beatles Backlash Spurs Modern Blues

Report by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 11 March 1965

Performers in 'Village' Influenced by Britons Paul Butterfield Band Stirs Excitement ...

Bob Dylan: Beneath the Festival's Razzle-Dazzle

Report by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 1 August 1965

THE RAZZLE-dazzle of last weekend's Newport Folk Festival should not eclipse the quiet, unflamboyant work of enrichening American folk culture that the festival makes possible. ...

The Animals, The Beatles, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, The Supremes: The Beatles Will Make the Scene Here Again, but the Scene Has Changed

Overview by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 11 August 1965

JOHN, PAUL, George and Ringo are bringing it all back home. That means the Beatles are returning to the United States. They will arrive Friday ...

Bob Dylan: Pop Singers and Song Writers Racing Down Bob Dylan's Road

Profile and Interview by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 27 August 1965

Musician's "Sound" Inspires a Variety of Entertainers in "Folk Rock" Idiom ...

Bob Dylan: Forest Hills Stadium, Forest Hills Stadium NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 30 August 1965

DYLAN CONQUERS UNRULY AUDIENCE Folk Singer Offers Works in'New Mood' at Forest Hills ...

Petula Clark Goes Midtown And Captivates Copa Patrons

Profile by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 16 October 1965

Petite Performer With Big Voice Demonstrates Why She's So Popular ...

Elizabeth Cotten: Domestic, 71, Sings Folk Songs Of Own Composition in Village

Profile by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 6 November 1965

Elizabeth Cotten, Who Wrote 'Freight Train' Performs With Guitar and Banjo ...

The Remains (Long-Haired Dropouts) to Be Seen

Profile by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 11 December 1965

FOUR BOSTON University undergraduates have decided to spend their junior year in rock 'n' roll. ...

Judy Collins: Carnegie Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 27 December 1965

Judy Collins Gives Folk-Song Concert ...

The Animals, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Byrds, Glen Campbell, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Richard and Mimi Fariña, The Lovin' Spoonful, Barry McGuire, P. F. Sloan, Sonny & Cher, The Spokesmen, The Surfaris, The Yardbirds: On Records: The Folk-Rock Rage

Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 30 January 1966

FOLK-ROCK, which mixes the simplicity of folk music with the frenetic rhythmic heat of the electrically amplified sound of rock 'n' roll, caused one of ...

Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Byrds, Bob Dylan, The Lovin' Spoonful, Simon & Garfunkel: A Symposium: Is Folk Rock Really 'White Rock'?

Letter by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 20 February 1966

TO THE EDITOR: ...

Woody Guthrie, Lightnin' Hopkins, Cisco Houston, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Dave Van Ronk: Albums from Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and more

Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 27 February 1966

An Old Folk Line On a New Label ...

Bert Jansch, Ewan MacColl, John Renbourn, The Stewarts of Blair, The Watersons: Britain's Folk Scene: 'Skiffle Craze' to Clubs in Pubs

Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 6 March 1966

LONDON — AN American visitor to Great Britain's folk-music community can only experience a sense of exhilaration at the liveliness, diversity and number of activities ...

Dionne Warwick, the Youngbloods: Rheingold Music Festival, Wollman Memorial Skating Rink, Central Park, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 2 July 1966

FESTIVAL IN PARK OPENS BRIGHTLY Overflow Audience at Rink Hears Dionne Warwick ...

The Mamas and The Papas, Simon & Garfunkel: The Mamas and the Papas, Simon and Garfunkel: Forest Hills Music Festival, Queens NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 8 August 1966

2 POP GROUPS HEARD BY 14,000 IN QUEENS ...

Chubby Checker, The Isley Brothers, Little Richard, Robert Parker, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, Sam & Dave, Billy Stewart, Joe Tex: Joe Tex, Little Richard, Robert Parker, the Isley Brothers et al: the Village Theater, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 15 August 1966

KEY TO THE BLUES IS SHOWMANSHIP Dancing and Costumes Add Dash to 30 Singing Acts ...

Otis Redding: Rheingold Music Festival, Central Park, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 18 August 1966

OTIS REDDING STARS IN 2 PARK CONCERTS ...

Janis Ian: Censors and the "New Reality"

Comment by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 25 September 1966

A FOLK-ROCK disk issued earlier this month which spotlights a shining new singing and song-writing talent, also throws some rays of light into the shadowy ...

The Byrds, Lothar and the Hand People: Village Gate, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 7 October 1966

Byrds Fuse Jazz, Rock 'n' Roll and Con Edison Group From Coast Brightens Electronic Entertainment at The Village Gate ...

Ian and Sylvia: Philharmonic Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 29 October 1966

IAN AND SYLVIA SING TASTEFUL PROGRAM ...

The Mothers Of Invention, Frank Zappa: Frank Zappa: "Son of Suzy Creamcheese"

Profile and Interview by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 25 December 1966

  THE MOST original new group to simmer out of the steaming rock 'n' roll underground in the last hour and one-half is an audacious crew ...

Spanky & Our Gang: Spanky and Our Gang Building Clubhouse at Top of Pops Tree

Profile by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 6 May 1967

FROM THE overcrowded forest of pop vocal groups, a gifted new quartet seems clearly about to rise into a Sequoialike prominence. ...

Tim Buckley: Garrick Theater, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 14 November 1967

BLUES-ROCK BAG SUNG BY BUCKLEY California Tenor Enlivens a Quiet Monday 'Village' ...

Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly, Traffic: Traffic, Blue Cheer, Iron Butterfly: Fillmore East, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 27 April 1968

Traffic, a British Trio, Flows With Subtlety at Fillmore East ...

Jeff Beck, Grateful Dead, The Seventh Sons: Grateful Dead, Jeff Beck Group, the Seventh Sons: Fillmore East, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 16 June 1968

JEFF BECK GROUP CHEERED IN DEBUT British Pop Singers Delight Fillmore East Audience ...

Joni Mitchell, Jerry Jeff Walker: Jerry Jeff Walker, Joni Mitchell: Singer-Songwriters Are Making a Comeback

Profile by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 5 July 1968

Developing Trend Indicated at the Bitter End by Jerry Walker and Joni Mitchell ...

Big Maybelle, Arthur Conley, B.B. King, Sam & Dave, Stevie Wonder: Stevie Wonder, Sam & Dave, Arthur Conley, B.B. King, Big Maybelle: Downing Stadium, Randalls Island, NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 2 September 1968

Top Pop Concert Draws Only 2,000 To Randalls Island ...

The Drifters, Aretha Franklin: Aretha Franklin, the Drifters: Philharmonic Hall, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 14 October 1968

ARETHA FRANKLIN IN TWIN CONCERTS ...

James Brown, Count Basie, Ramsey Lewis: James Brown, the Count Basie Orchestra, Ramsey Lewis Trio: Madison Square Garden, New York NY

Live Review by Robert Shelton, The New York Times, 23 November 1968

James Brown Scores Knockout With Soul Music at the Garden ...

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