George Harrison Told Bob Dylan to Leave His Ego at the Front Door When Playing With The Traveling Wilburys

George Harrison and Bob Dylan were close. However, when George formed The Traveling Wilburys with Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Roy Orbison, he had to tell his friend to leave his ego at the front door. The supergroup was a safe space for the five legends to come together and record as equals. It was no problem; they were all in awe of each other.

George Harrison and Bob Dylan performing at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductions in 1988.
George Harrison and Bob Dylan | Richard Corkery/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The Traveling Wilburys formed when George Harrison needed Bob Dylan’s recording studio

George formed The Traveling Wilburys by accident. George told Count Down in 1990 that he was in a bit of a pickle after recording his 1987 album, Cloud Nine. In Europe, they wanted an extra song for a 12-inch single, and George was one song short.

He had to go to the studio the next day to write and record a song quickly. That night, he told his friends Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison all about it over dinner. George asked Lynne to help him, but Lynne didn’t know where to get a studio and engineer so quickly.

Orbison told the guys to call him when they started recording. Then, George remembered that Bob Dylan had a studio in his garage. He called Dylan and asked if they could use it.

Then, Tom Petty joined the group after George picked his guitar up from Petty’s house. When George and Lynne started writing the song, George thought it was silly having Orbison watching, so he asked him to sing on the new tune. George and Lynne first wrote the music, then the lyrics.

Looking around Dylan’s garage, George saw a box that said, “Handle With Care.” So, they formed the lyrics around that phrase. Then, George realized he had some of the best musicians with him. Why not get the whole crew to perform on the song?

George knew “Handle With Care” was too good for a European 12-inch. He kept hold of it until he decided to get everyone to record a whole album.

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George told Bob Dylan to check his ego at the door with the rest of the band

Fortunately, the supergroup was able to reconvene to record a whole album after working on “Handle With Care.” If the band formed by accident, it was only fitting they named it after a slang term George had for accidents in the studio.

According to Rolling Stone, George invented the word “Wilbury” while working on Cloud Nine with Jeff Lynne. When the faulty equipment caused recording errors in the studio, George always assured Lynne, “We’ll bury ’em in the mix.” Eventually, he shortened that to “Wilbury,” a slang term that described all mistakes or accidents.

The Traveling Wilburys had only nine days to record The Traveling Wilburys: Vol 1. So, George wanted to make sure that all five of them checked their egos at the front door, so they didn’t get in the way of recording. According to Tom Petty, George went up to Dylan and told him he wouldn’t get any special treatment just because he was Bob Dylan.

“When the Wilburys started, George was so reverent of Bob,” Petty said in the special edition of Rolling Stone, “Remembering George.” “At the end of the first day, he said, ‘We know that you’re Bob Dylan and everything, but we’re going to just treat you and talk to you like we would anybody else.’

“And Bob went, ‘Well great. Believe it or not, I’m in awe of you guys, and it’s the same for me.’ I said to George, ‘That is really amazing, how you said that to Bob.’ George goes, ‘I can say those sort of things. But you can’t.'”

The supergroup’s website reads: “The group was born: five guys with star stature in their own rights, but it was George who created this Wilbury environment where five stars could enjoy an ego-free collaboration. Everybody sang, everybody wrote, everybody produced — and had great fun doing so.”

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Dylan’s comments to Petty about the ex-Beatle

The “Mr. Tambourine Man” singer seemed to forget about leaving their egos at the door.

Petty told producer Rick Rubin something Dylan told him once George was out of earshot (per Vulture). “I have a funny story that Tom Petty told me,” Rubin said. “They were working on the Traveling Wilburys record and it was him, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison sitting together and working on a song.

“George got up to go to the bathroom or to step out the room to get a drink, and after he walked out Bob leaned over to Tom conspiratorially, seriously, not as a joke, and said, ‘You know, he was in the Beatles.'”

The Traveling Wilburys put their egos aside even more by adopting pseudonyms on both their albums. They called themselves Nelson Wilbury (George), Otis Wilbury (Lynne), Charlie T. Wilbury Jr. (Petty), Lefty Wilbury (Orbison), and Lucky Wilbury (Dylan).

George said they didn’t want anyone knowing who was on the album. Fans might buy the record only because it included the five together.

He told Count Down, “The idea of these famous people all trying to make a record-most of the records weren’t that good-doesn’t mean it’s going to be good if you just get these famous people together. I wanted to avoid that totally.”

Looking back, George always loved the work that the supergroup did. Petty said George considered himself a Wilbury for the rest of his life.

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