In 1953, Bob Dylan attended a Wisconsin summer camp where he made one of his longest-lasting friendships. Louis Kemp was another camper who remained close with Dylan in the years after he became famous. After years of friendship, Kemp decided to write a book about Dylan. He let one publishing deal fall through when they requested that Kemp include more details about Dylan’s private life from him, though.
Bob Dylan met his longtime friend Louis Kemp at summer camp
In 1953, Minnesota-born Dylan attended a summer camp in Wisconsin. Here, he met Kemp and another close friend, Larry Kegan. Kemp said they initially bonded because he and Kegan were some of the only campers who believed Dylan when he said he would become a famous musician.
“He was twelve years old and he had a guitar,” Kemp wrote in his book Dylan & Me: 50 Years of Adventures. “He would go around telling everybody that he was going to be a rock-and-roll star. I was eleven and I believed him. Even at that tender age, I could see that most of the other kids weren’t really buying it. None of them would say so to his face, but I could see them making comments and laughing behind his back, and it bugged me. Why didn’t they see what I saw?”
Of course, Kemp’s belief in Dylan was well-placed, even at that early age. Less than ten years later, Dylan had moved to New York and was beginning his quick rise to fame.
Bob Dylan’s friend didn’t want to share private details about the musician’s life
After decades of friendship with the musician, Kemp said that many publishers had approached him about writing a book. He turned people down for years.
“I had it in the back of my mind that one day I’d write my own book sharing all these stories that were so interesting and meaningful to me,” he told rolling stones in 2019. “But I always put it off.”
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Eventually, another friend convinced him to write the book. He agreed but refused to include personal details about Dylan’s life from him. The musician is notoriously private, and Kemp wanted to respect that. He even let a publishing deal fall through when they pushed for more intimate stories.
“They kept asking me to write about things that I didn’t think were pertinent,” he explained. “All the stories I’m willing to share in this book are stories that don’t violate our friendship. They are stories that show the human side of Bob. They make him look like one of the boys, which he always was to me.”
The two friends are no longer in close contact
Dylan and Kemp were close for decades but had a falling out after Kegan’s death in 2001. Kemp acknowledges that they’re no longer in frequent communication, but he doesn’t like to talk about why.
“We’re still friends, but we’re not in touch like we used to be,” he said. “It’s been over 10 years [since I’ve seen him in person]. [What happened] It’s not something that I would talk to anybody about. That’s between Bob and I.”