Mark Axelrod of the Minneapolis - St. Paul entertainment guide wrote in a
1979 article entitled, "Brother Bob Dylan: Mr Fraternity Man" :... "On
September 29th, 1959, Robert Allen Zimmerman, along with seventeen other
freshmen, became a pledge of Sigma Alpha Mu, a University of Minnesota
Jewish social fraternity." Axelrod talked to several former students who
had been pledges or actives in SAM during 1959-1960 and reported thoughts
and impressions about their pledge brother. A sampling of comments and
remarks in the article:
" ... short ... with a crew cut ... peach fuzz on his face ...looked like a
15 year old high school kid who hadn't matured very much. Frankly, the
impression I got of him, and which was shared by others, was that he was
sorta the kinda kid you always used to pick on in high school. You know,
the wimpy kid everyone used to make fun of."
"Though he tried to conform a little, conventionality wasn't in his blood."
"As the fall quarter continued, Dylan's style began to change. Originally,
the chinos gave way to jeans, penny loafers to boots, classes to
coffeehouses, and pledging to the wind. He wasn't openly defiant of the
actives, but neither was he considered a model pledge."
One active recalls: " ... even though he was considered a 'freak' of sorts,
the actives weren't any tougher on him than on any of the other pledges. I
was one of several people who were assigned to shape Zimmerman up." That
translated into helping him make better grades, wear the right clothes, and
fit it. "If I had reformed him, America would have lost one of its great
artists, and I would have cost his family millions."
"Get that no-talent pledge out of the house" - a disturbed active after
being interrupted by Dylan's piano playing during finals exam week.
"If you would have taken a vote in the SAM house in the Spring of 1960 as to
the likelihood of him succeeding at *anything* you wouldn't have gotten one
P.M. Clepper wrote in local St. Paul articles (circa 1965-1966) about early
Dylan history and traced Dylan's fashion moves: "At first he wore the
typical frat uniform, narrow lapeled suit and tie. Then he went into a
sports coat ... then a sweater ... then a work jacket. The creased pants
went. Baggy slacks. Jeans. The white shirt was replaced by a blue
workshirt, with the collar turned up. The polished shoes became dirty
tennis shoes, then army shoes, finally boots."
Few of his pledge brothers remember him being mistreated because he wasn't
more active in school and in the fraternity; however, many of the fraternity
brothers were themselves "philistines." Dylan's interests in music and
Bohemianism seemed "gauche" to them. Whatever pressure the actives might
have placed on Dylan to conform to fraternity standards, by the Spring of
1960, obviously wasn't taking hold.
Indeed, the Wimpy Kid had adopted other standards.
SAMMY, Bound for Glory.