"Gotta Travel On" is one of the 21 songs, which is interesting not only in terms of the SELF PORTRAIT and 1976 RTR use of this song, but also in its proximity, chronologically speaking, to "The Winter Dance Party", a reference to Buddy Holly, which I may explore further in the future.
"The Winter Dance Party" was the official name for the ill-fated package tour (Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper, Dion and the Belmonts and Frankie Sardo) through the Midwest in Jan/Feb 1959.
On Monday, Feb 2, 1959, after their tour bus breaking down for the umpteenth time, "The Winter Dance Party" only arrived at Clear Lake, Iowa, around 6 p.m. for their 8 p.m. show at the Surf Ballroom.
Buddy Holly, unnerved by the trouble with the tour bus, decided to charter a plane to fly from Mason City, Iowa (about 10 miles east of Clear Lake) to Moorhead, Minnesota, right after the Clear Lake show to get a day's rest and to have the stage costumes dry-cleaned in Moorhead before the Feb 3, 1959 show.
Upon relating his plan to Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings (members of Holly's band The Crickets), both agreed to fly with Holly and to share the expenses. Carroll Anderson, manager of the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, arranged a flight with pilot Roger Peterson of Dwyer's Flying Service in Mason City to depart at 0:30, Feb 3, 1959.
J. P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), nursing a cold, approached Waylon Jennings about his seat on the plane. Waylon agreed to let The Big Bopper fly and to ride the bus. Richie Valens also wanted to fly, flipped coins with Tommy Allsup, and won.
After the Clear Lake show, Carroll Anderson drove Holly, Valens and The Big Bopper to the Mason City airport where they arrived at 0:40, Feb 3, 1959. After paying $36 each, the three musicians boarded a four-seater Beechcraft Bonanza which took off shortly before 1 a.m.
Jerry Dwyer (owner of Dwyer's Flying Service) watched the plane take off and disappear, losing altitude about four miles from the airport. Attempts to radio the plane failed. At dawn, Feb 3, 1959, the plane was officially declared missing. Dwyer decided to fly out himself on another plane to search for the missing plane and found it crashed, with all persons aboard dead, at 9:35 a.m. in a cornfield approximately eight miles east of the Mason City airport.
Ben Taylor asked:
What is it that Ian Woodward found so interesting?
At his last show in Clear Lake, Buddy Holly opened with a solo electric version of Paul Clayton's "Gotta Travel On."
Billy Grammer's recording of this song (1958) was a top-ten hit in the country charts (and therefore probably known to Robert Allen Zimmerman...)
A new and lasting musical model emerged -- Buddy Holly. Bob began to imitate Holly's sweet, naive, almost childlike voice. The vocal quality of many Dylan recordings shows his debt to Buddy Holly....
Dylan and his mates could identify easily with Holly -- another small-town boy, young, slight, vulnerable. Imagine the excitement when Holly and musician Link Wray appeared at the Duluth Armory. (Dylan visited Wray in 1975, and told him: "Link, I was sitting in the front row when you and Buddy Holly were at Duluth, and you're as great now as you were then.")... Only three days after Dylan had seen him, Buddy Holly was dead....
Robert Shelton, No Direction Home, London, 1987, pp. 53-54.
IMO, it is highly likely that Buddy Holly opened that show with "Gotta Travel On" as well...
ADDITIONAL INFO (added Mar 7, 1998):
There was a curious footnote to Buddy Holly's death. The Fargo concert manager desperately searched for a fill-in act for Holly. He found two brothers, Sidney and Bill Velline, in nearby Moosehead, Minnesota. The twenty-five hundred kids who turned out to hear Buddy Holly heard the Velline brothers' band. The Vellines let their kid brother, Bobby, sit in.
Bobby Velline told the concert manager the band was called The Shadows -- a name the high-school sophomore had just invented. Bobby Velline, his name shortened to Bobby Vee, soon became the bandleader. With five hundred dollars saved up from a few dances, The Shadows cut four sides for the Soma label in Minneapolis. One of those sides, "Suzy Baby" featured Bobby Vee, singing like Holly.
The Shadows later searched around Fargo for a piano player. Someone suggested a kid who had spent the early summer of 1959 as a busboy at the Red Apple Café in Fargo. "There were very few rock piano players around," Vee told me in London in 1969. "We gave Bob Zimmerman a chance to work with us, and he played great -- in the key of C. His style was sort of like Jerry Lee Lewis. Bob worked two dances with us in Fargo. But we decided that we weren't really making enough money to cut in another member."
Bobby Vee's "Suzy Baby" went on to be a hit in the Midwest. Bobby Dylan came home one night in the rain on a bus from Fargo, but told no one but his family that his first professional chance had failed. He told [John] Bucklen and others that he was the star of the "Suzy Baby" record, and repeated the story in Minneapolis. No one took it too seriously, but no one could challenge it.
Robert Shelton, No Direction Home, London, 1987, pp. 54-55.