NEW YORK (Reuters) - A “poem” purportedly written by a teenage Bob Dylan and up for auction at Christie’s is actually a song written by the late Canadian country singer Hank Snow, the auction house said on Wednesday.
Christie’s announced on Tuesday the sale of the hand-written poem believed to have been written in 1957 when Dylan was 16 and away at Jewish camp.
But Christie’s failed to detect that the words, with a few minor variations, matched those of a song previously recorded by Snow, who died in 1999 at age 85.
Reuters discovered the lyrics matched the Snow song when alerted by a reader. Reuters then informed the auction house.
“Additional information has come to our attention about the handwritten poem submitted by Bob Dylan to his camp newspaper, written when he was 16, entitled ‘Little Buddy.’ The words are in fact a revised version of lyrics of a Hank Snow song,” Christie’s said in a statement.
“This still remains among the earliest known handwritten lyrics of Bob Dylan and Christie’s is pleased to offer them in our Pop Culture auction on June 23.”
The manuscript had been expected to fetch $10,000 to $15,000.
Christie’s said Dylan, still using his given name Robert Zimmerman, signed the piece Bobby Zimmerman and submitted it to the Herzl Camp newspaper. The editor of the paper kept it for more than 50 years and recently donated it to Herzl Camp, a Jewish camp in Wisconsin, Christie’s said.
Written in blue ink on both sides of a single sheet of paper, it reads in part, “But I’ll meet my precious buddy up in the sky/ By a tiny narrow grave/ Where the willows sadly wave.” Those words and others match the Snow song.
The Hank Snow Country Music Center lists the “Little Buddy” lyrics and music as by Snow but does not provide a year. According to amazon.com, the song appeared on a compilation record “The Yodelling Ranger,” a box set of songs from 1936 to 1947. The fan site rocky-52.net says it was released in November 1948 as a 78 on RCA Victor.
Dylan’s management office had no immediate comment.
Born Clarence Eugene Snow in Nova Scotia in 1914, Snow quit school at 12 to work as a cabin boy on fishing schooners, according to the web site of The Hank Snow Country Music Center in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.
With that early income, he bought his first guitar and entertained crew and friends before getting his own radio show with a Halifax, Nova Scotia radio station in 1933.
There he changed his name to “Hank, The Yodelling Ranger” and played county fairs and local radio stations throughout Canada in the 30s and 40s.
Dylan, who was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in 1941, grew up in Minnesota and was known to be an eager young fan of many types of music including country. He went on to become a folk and rock legend and one of the greatest popular song-writers of all time.
Additional reporting by Nick Olivari, editing by Alan Elsner