Category Archives: Bob Dylan

Freewheelin Bob Dylan

Freewheelin Bob Dylan

Released May 27, 1963
Freewheelin Bob Dylan
photo by Don Hunstein
“I’ll let you be in my dream, if you let me be in yours.”

Now we all know Bob Dylan. We have heard the songs on his first album, Bob Dylan. We may know that he only wrote two of that album’s 13 songs: “Talkin’ New York” and “Song to Woody.”  His premier album an iconic moment in American history

We didn’t realize it at the time. We probably didn’t buy it either. The album sold about 2,500 copies its first year.

Freewheelin Bob Dylan

Times Changed

The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan changed that story. Other than “Corina Corina,” Dylan wrote all its songs and as funny as “Talkin’ New York” may have been and as touching “Song to Woody” was,  Freewheelin’  showed Dylan’s genius blooming.

The album, produced by John H Hammond, has a minimalist sound that concentrates our listening to Dylan’s lyrics. To note the personnel is important nonetheless:

  • Bob Dylan – guitar, harmonica, keyboards, vocals
  • Howie Collins – guitar
  • Leonard Gaskin – bass guitar
  • Bruce Langhorne – guitar
  • Herb Lovelle – drums
  • Dick Wellstood – piano

Each of these musicians deserve separate recognition. A personal favorite is Bruce Langhorne, the inspiration for Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man.”  (follow above link)

Freewheelin Bob Dylan


Side One

  1. Blowin’ In the Wind
  2. Girl from the North Country
  3. Masters of War
  4. Down the Highway
  5. Bob Dyan’s Blues
  6. A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall
Side 2

  1. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right
  2. Bob Dylan’s Dream
  3. Oxford Town
  4. Talkin’ World War III Blues
  5. Corrina, Corrina
  6. Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance
  7. I Shall Be Free
Freewheelin Bob Dylan

Don Hunstein

As memorable as each of the album’s songs is, Don Hunstein‘s cover photo is equally so. Hunstein first began as an amateur photographer while in the Air Force and stationed in Europe. His interest became a hobby and after returning to the US and living in New York City, his hobby became a profession. As with so much in life, his timing was serendipitous.

Rock and roll was in a growth spurt and Hunstein landed a job at Columbia Records. Also lucky for Hunstein, Columbia recognized Hunstein’s talent and had him take pictures not just for albums, but of artists while recording. In their casual most human moments.

That is what he re-created for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Though posed, the photo presents Dylan and Suze Rotolo, his then girlfriend, as if in a candid moment.

Freewheelin Bob Dylan
another photo that same day also by Don Hunstein
Freewheelin Bob Dylan

Suze’s Take

In a 2008 NY Times article, Rotolo said of the photo, “He wore a very thin jacket, because image was all. Our apartment was always cold, so I had a sweater on, plus I borrowed one of his big, bulky sweaters. On top of that I put a coat. So I felt like an Italian sausage. Every time I look at that picture, I think I look fat.”

Freewheelin Bob Dylan
photos by Don Hunstein
Freewheelin Bob Dylan

Temporary change

Freewheelin’ was more than a moment. It was a prediction. Dylan would record two more albums in its style before going rogue in 1965 and quitting work on Maggie’s farm. That choice changed the American music scene as much as any single event in the history of American music and in many cases, 20th century Western civilization.

Though Dylan may have been referring to the human tendency toward violence when he sang…

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?

Freewheelin Bob Dylan
Pro and Con

The words turned out to be a prediction of Dylan’s change of artistic direction. Many fans hated 1965 because of that change.

Decades later, we can list dozens of songs we’d not have with us if it weren’t for that change and Dylan’s freewheelin’ attitude.

As Stephen Thomas Eriwine writes in his All Music reviewIt’s hard to overestimate the importance of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, the record that firmly established Dylan as an unparalleled songwriter, one of considerable skill, imagination, and vision. 

Freewheelin Bob Dylan
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Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

It was 1965. Bob Dylan had gone electric, had just brought it all back home, and he weren’t gonna’ work on Maggie’s farm no more.

The Beatles had crawled off to sleep in the bath were ready for new horizons, too. By the end of 1965 they would release the Dylan-influenced Rubber Soul, an album that would inspire more musical changes that blossomed into such things as Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds.

April 12, 1965

But on April 12, 1965 the Byrds released the single, Mr Tambourine Man. The song had appeared on Dylan’s Bringing It… album. The first cut on side two.

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man
45 of record

The Bringing It… album cover is the one with Dylan sitting in what appeared to be a someone’s living room surrounded by lots of items for fans to stare at and discuss. It also had a long-legged woman lounging red-dressed. Cigarette in hand. Sally Grossman, the wife of Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman.

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

The living room was the second home of Albert and Sally. The place in a little artsy town in Ulster County, NY called Woodstock. In four years a couple of hippies would hatch the idea for a recording studio there. That’s another story for another time.

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

Wrecking Crew

The Byrds had recorded Mr Tambourine Man on January 20, 1965 at Columbia Studios in Hollywood. Like many LA bands, the musicianship was not as strong as the session men available and Roger McGuinn was the only Byrd to actually play on that recording.  The players had the nickname of the Wrecking Crew and included including Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (bass), Jerry Cole (guitar), and Leon Russell (electric piano). Roger McGuinn, David Crosby and Gene Clark sang. 

Byrds Mr Tambourine Man

Folk Rock

Columbia Records released the “Mr. Tambourine Man” single on April 12, 1965 and on June 26 it became Billboard’s #1 song. McGuinn’s jangly electric 12-string Rickenbacker guitar was part of the song’s hook and formed the Byrds’ trademark sound.

Folk-rock had been born thanks to Bob Dylan and the Byrds.

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Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Happy Anniversary
Released on March 19, 1962
“You’re No Good” (Jesse Fuller) 
Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Dylan arrives

Bob Dylan had arrived in New York City on January 24, 1961 and visited his hero Woody Guthrie on the 29th.

John Hammond’s liner notes on the back of Dylan’s first album state:  “The young man from the provinces began to make friends very quickly in New York, all the while continuing, as he has since he was ten, to assimilate musical ideas from everyone he met, every record he heard.”

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Dylan plays

On April 11 Dylan played his first major gig in New York City, opening for bluesman John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City.

He played harmonica on a Harry Belafonte’s “Midnight Special” thus receiving his first money for as a recorded musician.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

More Friends, More Shows

He met Suze Rotolos. Albert Grossman became his manager.

On September 29, 1961, Robert Shelton of the New York Times wrote of Dylan that he was, “A bright new face in folk music… Although only 20 years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months.” 

He’d played Carnegie Chapter Hall.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album

Bob Dylan

And then he recorded his first album: Bob Dylan.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album
album cover

It sold 5,000 copies in the first year.

Here is it’s track list and notice how few songs this supreme song writer and future Nobel Prize winner wrote for this album:

Side one               

  1. “You’re No Good”  (Jesse Fuller)
  2. “Talkin’ New York”
  3. “In My Time of Dyin'”  arr. Dylan
  4. “Man of Constant Sorrow”  arr. Dylan
  5. “Fixin’ to Die”  (Bukka White)
  6. “Pretty Peggy-O” arr. Dylan
  7. “Highway 51” (Curtis Jones)
Side two               

  1. “Gospel Plow”  arr. Dylan
  2. “Baby, Let Me Follow You Down”  arr. Eric von Schmidt
  3. “House of the Risin’ Sun”  arr. Dave Van Ronk
  4. “Freight Train Blues”  (Roy Acuff)
  5. “Song to Woody”
  6.  “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean”  (Blind Lemon Jefferson)

That number would be two: Talkin’ New York and Song to Woody.

The All Music site sums it up wellBob Dylan’s first album is a lot like the debut albums by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones — a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it in the genre, but similarly eclipsed by the artist’s own subsequent efforts.

Bob Dylan Bob Dylan album
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