“Bob says: ‘Where you from?’ I say, ‘Birmingham’. He goes, ‘Birmingham? How’s Ozzy!’”: the unlikely time Rob Halford met Bob Dylan, the man who gave Judas Priest their name

Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford and Bob Dylan
(Image credit: Ricciuti/Redferns/David Kahr/Press)

There’s a long list of bands who have taken their names from other bands’ songs. The Sisters Of Mercy were named after an old Leonard Cohen classic, Radiohead lifted their moniker from Talking Heads’ Radio Head,  Deep Purple borrowed the title of a 1930s big band number written by Peter DeRose, and Motörhead re-appropriated the title of Hawkwind’s Motorhead (the latter was written by Lemmy, so his old bandmates could hardly complain).

And then there’s Judas Priest. The future metal gods were founded in Birmingham in 1969, albeit with a completely different line-up to the one that would subsequently become famous. It was original bassist Brian ‘Bruno’ Stapenhill who came up with band’s name, inspired by the Bob Dylan song The Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest, taken from Dylan’s 1967 album John Wesley Harding.

Years later, Priest singer Rob Halford – who replaced original frontman Al Atkins in 1973 – recollected meeting  the man who inadvertently gave Priest their name and the brief that amusing conversation that took followed.

“I met Bob Dylan once, for about three minutes when [Halford’s solo band] Fight were doing a show at the Sony Studios,” Rob told Classic Rock in 2021. “One of the label people said: ‘Bob Dylan’s in the next room. Do you want to meet him?’ I’m like: [enthusiastically] ‘Yeah, who doesn’t want to meet Dylan?’

“So this guy takes me round to this room. And there’s Bob, he’s got five or six chicks hanging out with him. This record guy goes: ‘Bob, here’s somebody I’d like to introduce you to, it’s Rob Halford, he’s from the British heavy metal band Judas Priest.’ And Bob goes: [spot-on Dylan impression] ‘Heeeeey, what’s goin’ on? What’s happenin’?’ And I go: ‘Hey Bob, it’s really nice to meet you.’ “He goes: ‘Where ya from?’ and I say, ‘I’m from Birmingham.’ And he goes: ‘Birmingham? [pause]. How’s Ozzy doing?’ Then I was whisked off.”

Dylan has never publicly acknowledged the debt that the metal band owe him, though the legendary singer-songwriter reputedly lifted the name Judas Priest from a term apocryphally used by early TV and movie actors as a substitute for the exclamation “Jesus Christ!”.

Priest themselves are in the middle of a late career hot streak. Their 19th album, the acclaimed Invincible Shield, has just landed at Number 2 on the UK charts, their highest ever UK chart placing. They’re currently playing a UK tour in support of the album, with European and US dates following in April and May.



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