Dave Lambert had been a hero of mine ever since I left Chicago for New York in the forties, long before he’d begun the famous Lambert, Hendricks and Ross trio, when he was an arranger for Gene Krupa. While we were building a studio on 45th Street for fledgling-film company, Leacock Pennebaker, Bob Van Dyke, our audio genius, introduced me to Dave, and got him to help us finish it. Dave, it turned out, was a first rate carpenter. When it came up that he had an audition at RCA for a new group to record songs he had just written, we went along with him and filmed the session. RCA decided not to go for it, and wiped the tapes, so we stuck our unedited film up on a shelf and left it there.
Several months later, while helping someone fix a flat on the Merritt Parkway, Dave was hit by a car and killed. A few weeks later, Art D’Lugoff from the Village Gate called and said he’d heard we had a film of Dave and could he show it at the wake. Nick Proferes and I spent that night editing and got him a print the next day. A few days later a reporter from German TV who’d seen it, came around and asked if he could show the film in Germany since Lambert was so well known in Europe. We gave him our print and forgot about it. Then, letters started coming asking where to get the record. But there wasn’t any record, nor would there ever be one. All there was was this fifteen-minute film of a few incomplete rehearsals of songs that otherwise didn’t exist. It hit me that this was really what film should be doing, what I should be doing … recording people and music as a kind of popular history that might otherwise not exist. It was only a few weeks later that Albert Grossman walked into our office and asked if I was interested in making a film about his client, Bob Dylan.
D A Pennebaker
By D A Pennebaker 1964, 15 min., b&w