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Bringing It All Back Home

Take a peek inside the nation's unlikeliest Bob Dylan archive.

Grand Junction, on Colorado's Western Slope, has numerous claims to fame. It's the largest community between Denver and Salt Lake City and, thanks to uranium tailings that once were sprinkled across the area, the most radioactive, too. Additionally, the city boasts the state's only surviving Wienerschnitzel drive-through -- a point of pride if there ever was one. But for serious fans of poetic folk rock the world over, it's best remembered as the location of Rolling Tomes, a publishing house and one-stop online shopping place for anything and everything having to do with a graying Minnesotan named Bob Dylan.

On the surface, the connection between Dylan and this smallish metropolis makes little sense. The city holds no special significance in his career and has never been a bastion for Dylan zealots; the Charlie Daniels Band is more Grand Junction's speed. No wonder, then, that Dylan, who's performed in practically every nook and cranny of these United States during his four decades or so in the public eye, is only now getting around to playing this particular burg. He and his band are slated to plug in at the local fairground on August 31 -- three days before Daniels headlines at the same venue.

Mick McCuistion, who runs Rolling Tomes with his wife, Laurie, admits that he had nothing to do with persuading the former Robert Zimmerman to visit his adopted hometown. Because his company produces a quarterly magazine (On the Tracks), a newsletter (Series of Dreams) and an annual merchandise catalogue, as well as issuing Bob-related books, he's had regular dealings with Dylan's office over the years -- but he has never met the object of his affection. As a result, he says, "we didn't know anything about the concert until someone called us on the phone" shortly before the date was officially confirmed. And while McCuistion is pleased by the tour's routing, he's equally happy that Dylan is appearing anywhere these days, especially given a 1997 medical crisis that might have silenced him for good.

Bob's back pages: On the Tracks is a quarterly fan magazine published by Grand Junction's Rolling Tomes.
Bob's back pages: On the Tracks is a quarterly fan magazine published by Grand Junction's Rolling Tomes.

"It's great that he's still going on and on," McCuistion declares. "And we don't want him to stop."

If McCuistion were more interested in profits than music, he might sing a different tune, since Dylan's demise would likely increase the value of his jaw-dropping array of oddities. The Rolling Tomes Web site, www.b-dylan.com, lists a cross section of his memorabilia, much of it exceedingly rare. Consider a ticket for an April 1962 concert emblazoned with the name "Bob Dillon" that McCuistion stumbled upon: "We're getting offers of close to $1,000 for it," he notes. The price is potentially even higher for an original U.S. pressing of 1963's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan: The LP features four songs that aren't listed on the cover or the label, the sort of factory error that makes collectors salivate. McCuistion, who's accepting bids on this baby as well, points out that other copies of the album have been priced as high as $12,000.

Fortunately, many of his curiosities sport more reasonable tags. They include:

• A Bob Dylan shopping bag from 1995, issued as part of a promotion for Highway 61 Interactive, a Dylan-oriented CD-ROM that was shipped with a subscription card to On the Tracks: $20.

Paul Silhan's The Lippo Tiptoe, a CD featuring four Dylan parodies heard on Rush Limbaugh's radio show: $15.95.

• A mobile promoting the release of Dylan's 1975 masterwork Blood on the Tracks: $90.

• A U.S. Postal Service display that hypes a new Babe Ruth stamp with the Dylanesque slogan "Collect Our Stamps, Babe": $75.

• A postcard-size photo of the auditorium at Minnesota's Hibbing High School, which Dylan attended: $3.

In all, McCuistion estimates that he has over 9,000 items in stock, most of which he has squirreled away in his nondescript abode on the Redlands, a modestly upscale area just outside Grand Junction proper. He and Laurie moved to the area in 1985 after deciding to sell an auto body shop they owned in California, where they'd met and married. Their original destination was Colorado Springs, but they stopped in Grand Junction on the way and decided it was as good a place as any to put down roots.

In the beginning, Mick, who's in his forties, had no specific plans beyond living off the body shop profits for as long as he could. But he soon was spending much of his time trading and selling Dylan ephemera under the Rolling Tomes handle, as he'd already been doing on the side.

According to McCuistion, his mania for all things Dylan struck him during his late teens. "I was in college, and I was heavily into Neil Young -- I still like him a lot," McCuistion recalls. "And I liked Dylan, too; I had the Greatest Hits album and stuff like that. But then I saw this TV special of the Hard Rain tour, and that was it. The next day, I went out and bought a whole bunch of eight-track tapes, and once I sat down and listened to the lyrics, it just took over."

No kidding. Before long, he was spending most of his waking hours on his Dylan pursuits -- and after he came down with a partially debilitating ailment called Guillain-Barré syndrome in 1989, his commitment to Rolling Tomes only increased. Right now, he and Laurie have approximately 10,000 folks on their mailing list, a bit under half of whom subscribe to On the Tracks, which they began publishing in 1993. "Most of the subscribers are overseas -- all through Europe and Japan and Australia," McCuistion reveals. "He's really big over there."

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