Musician Kevin Odegard's mission was to find a small acoustic guitar — one like the kind Joan Baez played — for an unnamed player who was recording in Minneapolis. Chris Weber, owner of the Podium in Dinkytown, had such an instrument on consignment. But he wouldn't loan the $1,000 guitar unless he accompanied it.
The recording artist: Bob Dylan. The session: "Blood on the Tracks" at Sound 80 in south Minneapolis. The date: Dec. 27, 1974.
Weber demonstrated the guitar for Dylan with an instrumental tune in a soundproof booth. The bard asked: "Do you have anything original?" Weber sang one of his own compositions. "That's really great," said Dylan. "Linda Ronstadt should do that."
Then Dylan taught one of his new songs, "Idiot Wind," to Weber, who in turn showed it to five other Minnesota musicians assembled to help rerecord an album Columbia Records thought was finished. With a Jan. 20 release date, the LP jackets were already printed without the names of the new players, who wound up playing on five of the 10 tunes.
"Chris was very proud of it," said Vanessa Weber, his wife of 47 years. Even though credits weren't added until 2018, "the real glory was having done it."
Weber, a Twin Cities acoustic guitar maven, died Jan. 27 in Concord, Calif., of complications of COPD. He was 73.
Born in Pasadena, Calif., Christopher J. Weber learned to play his older brother's guitar at 9. He moved to Minnesota to attend St. John's Preparatory School in Collegeville and studied theater at the University of Minnesota. Described by Odegard as "a dedicated folkie," he performed on the coffeehouse scene and clerked at the Podium, which sold sheet music and tobacco. Weber persuaded the owners to sell acoustic guitars.
"Chris was a really good salesman," said Minneapolis bassist Dick Kronick, who played with Weber in the group Quick Grits for 52 years. "He had a standard set of licks he'd demonstrate when some new kid would walk in and be drooling over the guitars."
Weber and his wife bought the Podium in 1974 and transformed it into a hangout for acoustic musicians.
"He did more than just open the doors and sell guitars," said distinguished picker Dakota Dave Hull. "You could see other musicians and play a tune with somebody and play guitars you couldn't afford. … They really were a community-oriented spot."
In 1987, with a national guitar chain moving into the Twin Cities, the Webers exited the Podium. (Someone bought it and later moved it to south Minneapolis before it was shuttered in 2017.) For several years, the couple sold real estate before moving to Northern California in 2007 to be near their children. But Weber couldn't be totally unplugged; he opened a guitar repair shop, fixing acoustic and electric instruments until his death.
Odegard believes Weber was the linchpin for the Minneapolis sessions of what many regard as Dylan's best album.
"Chris was the unsung hero," he said. "He didn't talk about it. He just went back to his day job, which was loving guitars. He loved the wood and steel of it all. … He was really a craftsman. I wouldn't even call him a merchant.
"The guitar is a healer. Chris knew that. All the people that came and went from the Podium, it was like going to a doctor's office because you'd always feel better when you left."
Weber is survived by his wife; their children Amanda, Luke and Bryan; seven grandchildren; sisters Jeannie and Margaret and brothers Bernard, Paul and Stephen. A service in Minnesota is pending for July 5, Weber's birthday.
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