On May 12, 1976, Bob Dylan‘s Rolling Thunder Revue played a gig at the Municipal Auditorium in Austin, Texas, that left little historical mark. Newspaper clippings from the week reveal that furious fans protested with signs outside the hall (“Boycott Rolling Thunder Ripoff”) when they learned plans for separate early and late shows were scuttled at the last minute, creating a general admission melee where seat assignments were suddenly meaningless. But it’s one of the few shows from the 57-date Rolling Thunder Revue that never surfaced in the collector community as either an audience recording or soundboard tape.
That changed just a couple of weeks ago when Ray Padgett, author of the 2023 book Pledging My Time: Conversations with Bob Dylan Band Members and operator of the indispensable Dylan fan site Flagging Down the Double E’s, posted a soundboard tape of the show alongside a recording of the April 29, 1976, Rolling Thunder Revue at Expo Hall in Mobile, Alabama that’s a huge sonic upgrade over the mono audience recording already out there. Check out both shows right here.
The recordings come from the collection of David Hendel, who is the front house sound mixer on the second half of the Rolling Thunder Revue. Padgett first became aware of Hendel when he came across an anonymous comment on the setlist.fm entry for the Austin concert. “I was the audio engineer for this portion of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour,” it read. “While I do not have a complete setlist for both the Mobile, AL and Austin, TX shows, I do have tapes of both shows. However, the songs have been combined into a single tape, so I don’t know which song was performed at which venue.”
Padgett tracked down the commenter, learned it was Hendel, and interviewed him on his website. “I was cheap, so I didn’t have a lot of cassettes,” Hendel said. “I would just tape certain shows. A lot of times, I was mixing the sound and wasn’t really paying attention to the tape, so sometimes the tape would run out in the middle of the song, and I wouldn’t notice it till that song was over. ‘Oops, I forgot to flip the tape.’ Most of it was for my enjoyment. Very few of the bands that I worked with actually wanted to hear any tapes of shows.”
Working alongside Dylan experts Les Kokay, Ian Woodward, and Mitch Blank, Padgett managed to figure out which tracks on Hendel’s tape came from Mobile and which ones came from Austin. As Hendel explained, he didn’t capture the full concerts. But there’s well over an hour each from both shows.
Highlights from the Austin gig include a country-tinged “I Want You,” an emotional “You’re a Big Girl Now,” a furious “Idiot Wind,” and a grand finale of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” where he’s joined on vocals by Rogan McGuinn of the Byrds. Joan Baez accompanies Dylan on “Blown’ In The Wind,” “Railroad Boy, “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos),” and “I Pity The Poor Immigrant.”
The Hard Rain television special was filmed 11 days after the Austin concert in Fort Collins, Colorado. And the Hard Rain live LP mixes songs from Fort Collins with the cuts from a May 16, 1976 gig in Fort Worth, Texas. But Dylan’s team has yet to release any other songs from the 1976 tour. That’ll likely change in 2026 when a quirk in European copyright law will force them to release what they have or lose the recordings to the public domain.
Sadly, that is unlikely to include the mythical Salt Lake City finale of the Rolling Thunder Revue. Fans have been frantically trying to track down a recording of that show for years, which featured the only known live versions of “Black Diamond Bay” and “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts,” but it has yet to surface anywhere, and isn’t in the Dylan vault. The discovery of Hendel’s Austin tape should give fans hope that it’s out in the world somewhere.