5 Fascinating Facts About Bob Dylan’s 1969 Country Album ‘Nashville Skyline’

Bob Dylan’s ninth studio album, Nashville Skyline, was released 55 years ago, on April 9, 1969. The album, which was recorded at Columbia Records’ Studio A in Nashville, featured the folk-rock legend fully embracing the country music genre.

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The album featured contributions from the same musicians who accompanied Dylan on his previous album, John Wesley Harding (1967)—drummer Kenny Buttrey, bassist/guitarist Charlie McCoy, and pedal steel guitarist Pete Drake—as well as from additional Nashville sessions players.

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Here are five interesting facts about Nashville Skyline in honor of its anniversary:

Dylan Changed His Vocal Style on the Album

Dylan was known for his uniquely abrasive vocal style, that could be described as a nasal whine. For Nashville Skyline, Dylan developed a throaty croon that many fans found more pleasing to the ear. In a 1969 interview, Dylan attributed the vocal change to temporarily quitting cigarettes.

“I tell you, you stop smoking those cigarettes, and you’ll be able to sing like Caruso,” he told the magazine.

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The album included the sexy country love ballad “Lay, Lady, Lay,” which reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. To date, it’s the 82-year-old singer/songwriter last song to break into the Top 10 of the chart.

According to Songfacts, Dylan had been asked to submit a song for inclusion in the acclaimed 1969 film Midnight Cowboy. He began writing “Lay Lady Lay” for the movie, but wasn’t able to complete it in time for it to be featured in the film.

Two other Nashville Skyline songs also were released as singles—“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and “I Threw It All Away.” Those tunes peaked at No. 50 and No. 84, respectively, on the Hot 100.

A Duet with His Friend Johnny Cash Leads Off the Album

During the Nashville Skyline sessions, Dylan recorded several duets with his friend, country legend Johnny Cash. Only one of the songs made it onto the album, though, a version of Dylan’s 1963 tune “Girl from the North Country.”

The track also featured the members of Cash’s longtime backing band the Tennessee Three—guitarist Bob Wootton, bassist Marshall Grant, and drummer W. S. Holland.

Cash also wrote a poem titled “Of Bob Dylan” that appeared on the back of the album cover.

In June 1969, Dylan appeared on the debut episode of Cash’s TV variety show and the two performed “Girl from the North Country” together.

Charlie Daniels Played on Nashville Skyline

The late Charlie Daniels became famous in the 1970s and ’80s as the fiddle-playing frontman of country-rockers the Charlie Daniels Band, best-known for the 1979 smash “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”

Earlier in his career, Daniels was an accomplished Nashville session musician adept at playing a variety of instruments.

On Nashville Skyline, Daniels played bass and guitar on various tracks. Dylan thought highly of Daniels’ skills, and in his 2004 memoir Chronicles: Volume One, he wrote, “When Charlie was around, something good would usually come out of the sessions.”

Daniels also played on Dylan’s next album, Self Portrait (1970).

Nashville Skyline Was a Successful Album in the U.S. and the U.K.

Nashville Skyline peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and reached No. 2 on the U.K. albums chart. The record was certified platinum by the RIAA for sales of more than 1 million copies in the U.S.

Nashville Skyline Track List:

  1. “Girl from the North Country” (duet with Johnny Cash)
  2. “Nashville Skyline Rag”
  3. “To Be Alone with You”
  4. “I Threw It All Away”
  5. “Peggy Day”
  6. “Lay Lady Lay”
  7. “One More Night”
  8. “Tell Me That It Isn’t True”
  9. “Country Pie”
  10. “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You”

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