Search: Paul Clayton


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The world of legendary folksinger Paul Clayton comes to life onstage as a musical Wikipedia page. When Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village in 1961, Paul Clayton was the most recorded young folk singer in America. A smitten Clayton took Dylan under his wing only to be left alone and heartbroken when Dylan rose to fame and fortune. Their tumultuous friendship wrought with plagiarism, betrayal, and unrequited love is beautifully explored in this folk-infused, myth-shattering new musical chronicling the life of the folk music legend and the music that influenced him.


Act I

We are introduced to Paul Clayton, who was the most recorded young folk singer in America when Bob Dylan arrived in Greenwich Village in 1961. He wants to tell his story since no one remembers him anymore or his relationship with young Bob Dylan. His life is presented in a Wikipedia page and a Computer Voice guides us through the stages of his life. As a popular young folk singer performing in clubs (“Shenandoah”) we catch him at his best singing and playing the roots music of America. We learn about his upbringing in the whaling city of New Bedford growing up with a family whose only connection was playing old time Scottish music together (“Braes Of Balquidder”). Not only was he a guitar, banjo, and dulcimer player, Paul also became a scholar with a Masters’ degree in Folklore Studies and spent time in the Virginia hills as a song-catcher recording rural performers (“Across The Blue Mountains”) for posterity. Bob Dylan admits to admiring Paul’s work and as they look back and argue about their relationship as friends and competing musicians we go back to those Greenwich Village days when it all started. Bob recounts hearing Paul for the first time playing with Dave Van Ronk and Carolyn Hester playing one his favorite songs, Paul’s one hit (“Gotta Travel On”). After Woody Guthrie, Bob worshipped Paul. After hearing Bob play and sing (“Baby Let Me Follow You Down”), Paul along with his “girlfriend” Carla Rotolo, the assistant to folk archivist Alan Lomax, invite Bob back to his apartment that night. But not before warning him about Albert Grossman, the money grabbing music manager who is signing up talent and grinding out elevator folk music. Paul, a closeted gay man, admits to the audience for him meeting Bob was love at first sight. To Paul’s dismay, at his apartment Bob meets and sparks to Carla’s younger sister Suze Rotolo, who will become Bob’s Greenwich Village girlfriend and grace the cover of his record albums. At Paul’s they have some fun with old murder ballads (“The TWA Sisters”) and then Paul plays for Bob his newest original composition (“Who Will Buy You Ribbons When I’m Gone”). In between making out with Suze, Bob studies the song and crashes on Paul’s couch that night. The next day they are all part of a demonstration at Washington Square Park to protest the city’s new ban on playing folk music on Sundays. The demonstration is led by venerable blues player, Rev. Gary Davis who leads them all in a spirited number (“12 Gates To The City”). With the riot police warning them to stop, they sing an even older folk song (“The Star Spangled Banner”) and the police move in and chaos ensues. Paul worried about Bob, searches and finds him on street corner auditioning for the hated Albert Grossman. Grossman wants to hear an original song and Bob plays his own “better” version of the “Ribbons” song Paul played for him earlier. Paul is shocked. Grossman likes Bob and the song and asks its title. Bob feeling Paul’s pressure replies, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”.

Act II

It’s a year later and Dave Van Ronk, Carla, Rev Gary and Paul are playing Monopoly in Paul’s apartment and discussing Bob’s mercurial rise in the music business. We learn he has signed with the dreaded Grossman and already is on his second album. Paul whom the others feel has been ripped off, is Bob’s biggest supporter although he remains uncredited on “Don’t Think Twice”. He adores Bob and feels a big part of his success and is content to be his friend while hoping one day to be more. The most bitter of the group is Dave who feels Bob has taken from all of them. Paul defends Bob thievery as part of the folk process they all have been party to. Rev. Gary is tired of their venting and leads them in a musical break (“Stones In My Passway”). Bob and Suze arrive and join in the song. With the others grabbing snacks Bob uncomfortable with his newfound celebrity, asks Paul to help him get away from New York where everyone wants something from him. Paul believes it may lead to a deeper relationship and takes Bob to his mountain home in Virginia. Bob hopes to also play a little club in Charlottesville and Paul is delighted. But then Paul discovers it is all a ruse to hide from Suze the fact that Bob is meeting Joan Baez there. They all sing together at the club (“House Carpenter”) but Paul feels the sting of being used. Back in New York, Paul’s friends worry about him. Bob tries to smooth things over after their publishing companies are involved in a suit over the authorship of “Don’t Think Twice” and offers Paul a trip across the country together to have some fun and play music. Paul is excited at the prospects. The 1964 cross country trip is recounted in song (“Talkin’ Bob Dylan Cross Country Blues”). The song ends in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. We learn from Dave Van Ronk a little rumor about the men going to a brothel where psychedelics lead to an all-night orgy. After that night, Paul is unceremoniously booted off the trip and out of Bob’s life. Paul doesn’t see or hear from Bob again until 1965, the night of the New York blackout. Bob and a famous English rocker Keith are stuck in the darkened, downtown confusion and seek refuge at Paul’s apartment. Paul is wary of Bob but soon after making music together (“Cocaine Blues”) and doing drugs, he falls back under Bob’s spell for the night. When the lights come on Bob makes promises to reconnect again but Paul never sees him again. With Bob out of his life and folk music giving way to folk rock, Paul is lost and in a downward spiral of more drugs and depression. In 1967, Paul takes his own life in his apartment, electrocuting himself in a bathtub with an electric guitar as the play ends. Paul himself gives the epilogue which leads to a rousing curtain call song by the whole cast (“This Land Is Your Land”) and a clap along, sing-along along version of a gospel standard (“This Train”).


A true tale of love, folk music and betrayal.

–Broadway World


Paul Clayton - Charismatic, flamboyant, late 20’s - mid 30’s gay, musician-scholar; Master degree in folk song. Guitar, dulcimer, autoharp, vocals.

Bob Dylan - Ten years younger than Paul, 18-25. Enigmatic, talented, ambitious. Guitar, electric guitar, harmonica, vocals.

The Ensemble:

Suze Rotolo – 18-Early 20’s. Bob Dylan’s idealistic, socially conscious girlfriend. Also playing; folk queen, Joan Baez, Young Marybird, and Chorus. Possible instruments: Guitar, fiddle, mandolin, vocals.

Dave Van Ronk – late 20’s-early 30’s. Bohemian, anti-establishment, folk-performer and Village original. Also playing; Paul’s father, Keith (English rocker), and Chorus. Guitar, vocals.

Carla Rotolo – 30’s- 40. Paul Clayton’s girlfriend, a cynical New Yorker. Also playing; folksinger Carolyn Hester, Paul’s mother, Marybird and Chorus. Possible instruments: Guitar, mandolin, vocals.

Rev. Gary Davis – 50’s Blind, seminal, African-American guitar player and teacher who hung downtown with the folkies while preaching uptown. A peaceful prescence among the chaos of their relationships. Also playing; Lawyer, Chorus. Guitar, slide guitar, vocals.

Setting: Greenwich Village in the early 1960’s, Washington Square Park, Paul’s apartments and various coffeehouses/clubs/bandstands/jam sessions in NYC and Virginia.

  1. Shenandoah
  2. Braes Of Balquideer
  3. Across The Blue Mountain
  4. Gotta Travel On
  5. Baby Let Me Follow You Down
  6. The TWA Sisters
  7. Who Will Buy You Ribbons
  8. Twelve Gates To The City
  9. Who’ll Buy You Ribbons/Don’t Think Twice
  10. Stones In My Passway/Corinna Corinna
  11. House Carpenter
  12. The Mermaid
  13. Talkin' Bob
  14. House Of The Rising Sun
  15. Cocaine/Cocaine Blues
  16. Who’ll Buy You Ribbons
  17. This Land Is Your Land
  18. Encore Song-This Train

Billing responsibilities, pertinent copyright information, and playwrights' biographies are available in the show rider that comes with your license agreement. To download the show rider for Search: Paul Clayton, click here.

“The star of the show is the music.” –Broad Street Review

“Mollin’s book moves briskly.” –Curtain Up

“This show will thrill boomers.” –The Martha’s Vineyard Times

Materials: Digital Materials are provided via email as downloadable PDF files for you to print in-house. All materials are yours to keep! No deposits, no returns.

Required production materials for Search: Paul Clayton:

  • Cast Scripts
  • Vocal Books
  • Director's Script
  • Stage Manager's Script
  • Orchestrations
  • Piano/Vocal Score


  • Acoustic Guitar
  • Harmonica

Production resources:

  • Projections