Tag Archives: Bob Dylan

Electric Dylan Crashes

Electric Dylan Crashes

Bringing It All Back Home

March 27, 1965: released Bringing It All Back Home, his fifth studio album. Recorded January 13–15, 1965 and produced by Tom Wilson.

It was 1965 and pop music, Dylan and the Beatles had suddenly created mature rock: lyrics that we had to think about, instrumentation with more than the standard structure, and permission to experiment.

The album’s cover photographed by Daniel Kramer featured Sally Grossman (wife of Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman) lounging in the background. There are also artifacts scattered around the room, including LPs by The Impressions (Keep on Pushing), Robert Johnson (King of the Delta Blues Singers), Ravi Shankar (India’s Master Musician), Lotte Lenya (Sings Berlin Theatre Songs by Kurt Weill) and Eric Von Schmidt (The Folk Blues of Eric Von Schmidt). Dylan had “met” Schmidt “one day in the green pastures of Harvard University” and would later mimic his album cover pose (tipping his hat) for his own Nashville Skyline four years later.

And the Far Out magazine site quotes Jerry Garcia about the Bringing It All Back Home album’s influence: “I never used to like Bob Dylan until he came out with electric music,” he once explained when noting a selection of his favourite albums of all time. “And I’m not sure why I like that more. I sure liked it a lot more. Boy, when Bringing It All Back Home came out. Yeah, lovely. Very fine guitar player. [Bruce Langhorne] It just all of a sudden had something going for it.” The guitarist continued, “Beautiful, mad stuff. And that turned us all on; we couldn’t believe it.”

April 12, 1965: The Byrds released their first single, Mr Tambourine Man. 

They will make their TV debut on NBC’s Hullabaloo on May 11 and their song become Billboard #1 on June 26.

Electric Dylan Crashes


May 8, 1965: while filming of what would become the documentary “Don’t Look Back“, Bob Dylan had the idea to make a short film of his song “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” featuring him standing in an alley next to London’s Savoy Hotel.

Dylan was simply surrounded by friends Allen Ginsberg and Bob Neuwirth, flipping giant cue cards with the lyrics of the song on them.

In a sense, one of the first “music videos,” it became an iconic rock moment. The cards were painted by Alan Price of The Animals and Joan Baez.

June 14, 1965: The Byrds release their second single, All I Really Want to Do, another Dylan composition. It will reach #40 on Billboard.

Electric Dylan Crashes

Like a Rolling Stone

Electric Dylan Crashes

June 15, 1965: Dylan recorded “Like a Rolling Stone” at Columbia Studios in NYC. Mike Bloomfield played lead guitar. Guest Al Kooper sneaks behind Hammond organ uninvited. Dylan and producer Tom Wilson disagree about the organ, but Dylan insists the instrument be brought forward in the mix.

Columbia released the single on July 20, It is considered by some to be the greatest rock and roll song ever.

Byrds promote Dylan

June 21, 1965: the Byrds’ debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man, marked the beginning of the folk-rock revolution. In just a few months, the Byrds had become a household name, with a #1 single and a smash-hit album that married the ringing guitars and back-beat of the British Invasion with the harmonies and lyrical depth of folk to create an entirely new sound.

Electric Dylan Crashes

Sara Lownds & Newport

Hi Lo Ha

In July 1965:  Dylan and Sara Lownds purchased eleven-room mansion in the Arts and Crafts Movement Colony of Byrdcliffe named Hi Lo Ha on Camelot Road one mile from Woodstock, NY.

Newport ’65

July 25, 1965: Dylan played Newport Folk Festival. Many in the audience booed his performance for playing an electric set with an impromptu band made up of Mike Bloomfield (guitar), Al Kooper (organ), Barry Goldberg (piano), Jerome Arnold (bass), and Sam Lay (drums)

Electric Dylan Crashes

1965 Touring

Forest Hills

August 28, 1965: from The College of Rock and Roll Facebook page: Dylan kicked off his tour at NYC’s Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. This show is legendary, and for anyone who doubts that 1965 audiences heaped great scorn on Bob Dylan and his electric crew, all they need to do is listen to a a tape of the concert to hear the audience’s point of view. There was so much hostility directed toward the stage that it’s frightening. Coming as it does after the shocking Newport appearance with members of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the audience for the Forest Hills show pretty much knew what to expect, and the majority showed extreme displeasure during the electric half.

The first set, which was acoustic, was very well received. The crowd was quiet and respectful for the 45 minute opening set, which followed a typical top-40 disk jockey introduction more appropriate for a Dave Clark Five concert than a Bob Dylan concert. This show featured the debut of “Desolation Row”, from the Highway 61 album which was yet to be released (only a few days away, in fact). It’s a great performance and it went over very well with the crowd, who laughed appreciatively at the lyrics. It must have been amazing to sit there and hear a brand new masterpiece like “Desolation Row”.

 After the well received acoustic half came to an end with “Mr. Tambourine Man”, the band set up for the second half. No doubt the crowd was gearing up for the hostility that was to follow. The crowd is so loud and belligerent at times that it becomes extremely hard to hear the music, but what can be heard is awesome. Levon lays down a muscular beat that drives the music forward and Robbie plays tough blues licks as only he can. Al Kooper pretty much plays the way only Al Kooper can.

The Hawks

September 24, 1965: Dylan kicks off a national tour in Austin, TX. The Hawks are his back up band. The electric songs are typically booed. Levon Helm, unable to deal with the constant booing, left the tour at the end of November and went to work as a deckhand on oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.


November 22, 1965:  during a break on his tour, Dylan married Sara Lownds in a secret ceremony on Long Island, NY. The only guests were manager Albert Grossman and a maid of honor for Sara.  A son, Jesse Byron Dylan, will be born on January 6, 1966.

Opines on drugs

Nat Hentoff had interviewed Bob Dylan in the fall of 1965. That interview appeared in the February issue of Playboy magazine. In it Hentoff asks Dylan: “…do you think that experimentation with such drugs [hallucinogenics] should be part of the growing up experience for a young person? Dylan responded: “I wouldn’t advise anybody to use drugs – certainly not the hard drugs; drugs are medicine. But opium and hash and pot – now, those things aren’t drugs; they just bend your mind a little. I think everybody’s mind should be bent once in a while. Not by LSD, though. LSD is medicine – a different kind of medicine. It makes you aware of the universe, so to speak; you realize how foolish objects are. But LSD is not for groovy people; it’s for mad, hateful people who want revenge. It’s for people who usually have heart attacks. They ought to use it at the Geneva Convention.”

Electric Dylan Crashes

Blonde on Blonde

Electric Dylan Crashes

Recorded Jan, Feb, and March, 1966, on May 16, 1966 Columbia released Blonde on Blonde, his 7th.

Dylan recorded the album in Nashville, against the strict wishes of manager Albert Grossman.

That Dylan would record there gave “permission” to other rock groups to follow in his footsteps and opened Nashville recording to a much wider range of musicians than the country groups that had dominated its studios until then.

The cover shows Dylan in front of a brick building, wearing a suede jacket and a black and white checkered scarf. The jacket is the same one he wore on his next two albums, John Wesley Harding and Nashville Skyline.

Photographer Jerry Schatzberg, described how the photo was taken: I wanted to find an interesting location outside of the studio. We went to the west side, where the Chelsea art galleries are now. At the time it was the meat packing district of New York and I liked the look of it. It was freezing and we were very cold. The frame he chose for the cover is blurred and out of focus. Of course everyone was trying to interpret the meaning, saying it must represent getting high on an LSD trip. It was none of the above; we were just cold and the two of us were shivering. There were other images that were sharp and in focus but, to his credit, Dylan liked that photograph.

Electric Dylan Crashes


July 29, 1966: Dylan was involved in a motorcycle accident. The seriousness of the accident is still unknown. Dylan’s biographers have written that the crash offered him the much-needed chance to escape from the pressures that had built up around him. Dylan confirmed this interpretation of the crash when he stated in his autobiography, “I had been in a motorcycle accident and I’d been hurt, but I recovered. Truth was that I wanted to get out of the rat race.” In the wake of his accident, Dylan withdrew from the public and, apart from a few select appearances, did not tour again for almost eight years.

Dylan stayed at the house of Dr Ed Thaler in Middletown, NY for 6 weeks following the accident as insurance for even more isolation.

Electric Dylan Crashes

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Bobby Zimmerman had been calling himself  Bob Dylan since the spring of 1958 and August 2, 1962 he legally changed his name to Bob Dylan. but even with the legal name change, he was not the Bob Dylan whose name all immediately recognized.

His talent was there. His stage presence there.

With Albert Grossman and Joan Baez adding themselves into the cocktail  THAT  Bob Dylan arose.

In 1966, though, Bob Dylan would came crashing down, both literally and figuratively.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Albert Grossman

August 30, 1962: Dylan and Albert Grossman signed a management agreement. It gave Grossman four years as Bob’s exclusive manager, with an option to extend the contract for a further three.

In September 1962: Dylan wrote A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall in the basement of the Village Gate, in a small apartment occupied by Chip Monck, later to become one of the most sought-after lighting directors in rock music and a voice associated with the Woodstock Festival.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

First single flops

December 14, 1962: Columbia Records released Bob Dylan’s first single: Mixed Up Confusion. It flopped.

In January 1963: back together with Suze Rotolo (who herself was back from a seven-month stay Italy–a deliberate escape from Dylan). The relationship was a strained one and one that Dylan was not true to.

Despite the increasing estrangement, in February 1963 Columbia staff photographer Don Hunstein photographed Dylan and Suze Rotolo for the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.

Hunstein recalled: “We went down to Dylan’s place on Fourth Street, just off Sixth Avenue, right in the heart of the Village. It was winter, dirty snow on the ground . . . Well, I can’t tell you why I did it, but I said, Just walk up and down the street. There wasn’t very much thought to it. It was late afternoon you can tell that the sun was low behind them. It must have been pretty uncomfortable, out there in the slush.”

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Last Thoughts

April 12, 1963: at New York’s Town Hall Bob Dylan recited “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,” a long evocation of old memories, a youth searching for himself by the railroad tracks, down the road, in fields and meadows, on the banks of streams, in the “trash can alleys.”

And, he says, somehow during that search Woody was his companion. There’s this book comin’ out, an’ they asked me to write something about Woody…Sort of like “What does Woody Guthrie mean to you?” in twenty-five words…

And I couldn’t do it — I wrote out five pages and… I have it here, it’s…Have it here by accident, actually… but I’d like to say this out loud…So… if you can sort of roll along with this thing here, this is called…

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Ed Sullivan walkout

May 12, 1963: the still unknown Dylan walked off the set of the “Ed Sullivan Show” (the country’s highest-rated variety show) after network censors rejected  “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” the song he planned on performing. The song was satirical talking-blues number skewering the ultra-conservative John Birch Society and its tendency to see covert members of an international Communist conspiracy behind every tree. Dylan had auditioned “John Birch” days earlier and had run through it for Ed Sullivan himself without any concern being raised. But during dress rehearsal on the day of the show, an executive from the CBS Standards and Practices department informed the show’s producers that they could not allow Dylan to go forward singing “John Birch.”

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Festivals & Rallies

May 17, 1963: the first Monterey Folk Festival took place over three days in Monterey, California. The festival featured Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Peter Paul and Mary. Baez, had a home in Carmel Highlands, was a huge star at the time, while Dylan was a still a newcomer making a name for himself.

Dylan was not treated kindly by that Monterey audience, who had come to see more traditional folks acts such as Peter, Paul and Mary (who ironically would have a hit that summer with Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”), the Weavers and the New Lost City Ramblers.

As described in the excellent book about that era, David Hajdu’s “Positively 4th Street,” “The Monterey audience, which was largely unfamiliar with Dylan’s style, responded poorly, talking loudly over his singing.”

“He went over very badly,” said Barbara Dane, the festival’s host, in Hajdu’s account. “He didn’t play very long, and it felt like he was on for an hour. I think people were laughing.” Even though he did three of his hardest-hitting protest songs, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Masters of War,” the response was so bad it prompted Baez to walk out unannounced and admonish the audience. “She wanted everyone to know, she said, that this young man had something to say,” Hajdu wrote. “He was singing about important issues, and he was speaking for her and everyone who wanted a better world. They should listen, she said — she ordered them, nearly:Listen!”

They performed Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” together, their voices an odd match, “salt pork and meringue,” but Hadju wrote, “the tension between their styles made their presence together all the more compelling.” They left the stage with “people cheering.”

Dylan Becomes Dylan
photo by Don Hunstein

May 27, 1963: released his second album, The Freewheelin Bob Dylan with the Suze/Bob album cover.

In a 2008 New York Times article Rotolo said: “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 on a coat. So I felt like an Italian sausage. Every time I look at that picture, I think I look fat.

In her memoir, A Freewheelin’ Time, Rotolo analyzed the significance of the cover image: It is one of those cultural markers that influenced the look of album covers precisely because of its casual down-home spontaneity and sensibility. Most album covers were carefully staged and controlled, to terrific effect on the Blue Note jazz album covers … and to not-so great-effect on the perfectly posed and clean-cut pop and folk albums. Whoever was responsible for choosing that particular photograph for The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan really had an eye for a new look.

Critic Janet Maslin summed up the iconic impact of the cover as “a photograph that inspired countless young men to hunch their shoulders, look distant, and let the girl do the clinging.

The album was an immediate success selling 10,000 copies a month

Greenwood, Mississippi

July 6, 1963: Dylan first performed “Only a Pawn in Their Game” at a voter registration rally in Greenwood, Mississippi. The song refers to the murder of Medgar Evers.

Bernice Johnson Reagon would later tell critic Robert Shelton that “‘Pawn’ was the very first song that showed the poor white was as victimized by discrimination as the poor black. The Greenwood people didn’t know that Pete [Seeger], Theo[dore Bikel] and Bobby [Dylan] were well known. (Seeger and Bikel were also present at the registration rally.) They were just happy to be getting support. But they really like Dylan down there in the cotton country.”

Also on this date, Peter, Paul and Mary’s cover of Dylan’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” reached #2 on Billboard with sales exceeding one million.

Newport 1963

Dylan Becomes Dylan

July 26 – 28, 1963: festival included Phil Ochs, Pete Seeger, and Joan Baez who introduced Dylan as her guest.

August 3, 1963: Dylan and Joan Baez, a couple, begin a tour together. She is the headline name, but Dylan is the star. The tour provided a huge boost to Dylan’s career.

Dylan Becomes Dylan


That same summer, manager Albert Grossman bought a house in Bearsville, NY near Woodstock. He converted space above the barn as a guest room for Dylan. Both he and Baez will be frequent visitors.

August 17, 1963: Peter, Paul, and Mary’s cover of “Blowin’ In the Wind” reached number two on the Billboard pop chart, with sales exceeding one million copies.

August 28, 1963: Martin Luther King, Jr delivered his I Have a Dream speech.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez will also perform, he “Only A Pawn In Their Game.”

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Sam Cooke

October 8, 1963: after hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”  earlier in the year, Sam Cooke was greatly moved that such a poignant song about racism in America could come from someone who was not black. While on tour in May and after speaking with sit-in demonstrators in Durham, North Carolina following a concert, Cooke returned to his tour bus and wrote the first draft of what would become “A Change Is Gonna Come“. The song also reflected much of Cooke’s own inner turmoil. Known for his polished image and light-hearted songs such as “You Send Me” and “Twistin’ the Night Away“, he had long felt the need to address the situation of discrimination and racism. However, his image and fears of losing his largely white fan base prevented him from doing so.

A Change Is Gonna’ Come,” very much a departure for Cooke, reflected two major incidents in his life. The first was the death of Cooke’s 18-month-old son, Vincent, who died of an accidental drowning in June of that year. The second major incident came this date when Cooke and his band tried to register at a “whites only” motel in Shreveport, Louisiana and were summarily arrested for disturbing the peace. Both incidents are represented in the weary tone and lyrics of the piece, especially the final verse: There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long/but now I think I’m able to carry on/It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come.

Cooke would not record the song until November 1964.

October 23, 1963: Dylan recorded ‘The Times They Are A-Changin‘ at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City. Dylan wrote the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the time, influenced by Irish and Scottish ballads.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Carnegie Hall

Dylan Becomes Dylan

October 26, 1963: Dylan gave a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall. His parents, Abe and Beatty Zimmerman came in from Hibbing, MN for the concert.

November 2 – December 6, 1963: Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Blowin’ In the Wind  is the Billboard #1 album. The best-known cover of Bob Dylan’s song. In the liner notes to Dylan’s original release, Nat Hentoff calls the song “a statement that maybe you can say to make yourself feel better… as if you were talking to yourself.” The song was written around the time that Suze Rotolo indefinitely prolonged her stay in Italy. The melody is based on an older song, “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Chickens When I’m Gone”. The melody was taught to Dylan by folksinger Paul Clayton, who had used the melody in his song “Who’s Gonna Buy Your Ribbons When I’m Gone?”

Newsweek mocks Dylan

November 4, 1963: the edition o fNewsweek carried an article that mocked Dylan’s self made image and pointed out that he had grown up in a middle class family in Hibbing, MN. The article showed him as a vain and self-promoting. “Why Dylan—he picked the name in admiration for Dylan Thomas—should bother to deny his past is a mystery. Perhaps he feels it would spoil the image he works so hard to cultivate—with his dress, with his talk, with the deliberately atrocious grammar and pronunciation in his songs”

Dylan mocks Paine

December 13, 1963: the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee gave Dylan the Tom Paine award. It was an honor given to a public figure that supported social justice. A drunk Dylan spoke without preparing and made fun of those present. He also said he could understand how Lee Harvey Oswald felt.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

The Times They Are a’Changin’

January 13, 1964: released his third album, The Times They Are a-Changin’  

Dylan had recorded it over six sessions between August 6 – October 31, 1963 at Columbia Studios, New York City.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

On the Road

February 3, 1964: Dylan, along with friends Victor Maymudes (his first road manager),  Pete Karman (Suze Rotolo’s request to keep an eye on Dylan), and Paul “Pablo” Clayton (his tune was appropriated by Dylan for “Don’t Think Twice.”

Though Dylan would play a few concerts on the trip, the main purpose of the trip was to imitate Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road.

Among the songs he wrote on the trip were: “Chimes of Freedom” and “Mr Tambourine Man”

Steve Allen Show

February 25, 1964: Dylan appeared on the Steve Allen Show. Dylan’s discomfort with interviews was easily seen and when asked about his song, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” Dylan’s response was to sing the song.

Mr Tambourine Man

June 9, 1964: during an evening session Bob Dylan recorded Mr. Tambourine Man at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City. This was the first session for the Another Side Of Bob Dylan, which saw Dylan recording fourteen original compositions that night. Ultimately, Mr Tambourine Man would not be included on the album.

In August, 1964: “I’m Going to Get My Baby Out of Jail” by Len Chandler & Bernice Johnson Reagon. Dylan “stole” the Len Chandler tune to accompany his “The Death of Emmett Till.”

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Another Side of Bob Dylan

August 8, 1964: released fourth album, Another Side of Bob Dylan. Became 1964’s 10th biggest selling album. Recorded:  June 9 (only!)

In Bob’s folk waltz “To Ramona,” you hear Bob Dylan acknowledge their [Dylan and Joan Baez] diverging lives for the first time in song. He sings about her idealism and how it will eventually lead to her downfall (“It grieves my heart, love/To see you tryin’ to be a part of/A world that just don’t exist”), her struggle to remain approachable and “common” whilel trying to keep her privacy (“I’ve heard you say many times/That you’re better ‘n no one/And no one is better ‘n you/If you really believe that/You know you have/Nothing to win and nothing to lose”) and his inability to help her in any of her struggles (“I’d forever talk to you/But soon my words/They would turn into a meaningless ring/For deep in my heart/I know there is no help I can bring”). When you listen to the song, you get to hear the struggles of being one of the most famous couples in the world. And beyond that, you hear first hand, the story of a couple growing apart.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Beatles Meet Dylan

August 28, 1964: The Beatles played a concert at New York’s Forest Hills Tennis Stadium. After the concert, the group was taken back to their suite at the city’s Hotel Delmonico. Journalist Al Aronowitz had came down from Woodstock, NY with his friend Bob Dylan, and brought him up to The Beatles hotel suite. John Lennon asked Dylan what he’d like to drink, and Dylan said “cheap wine.”

The Beatles offer Dylan their drug of choice which was speed. Dylan suggested marijuana, which the band while aware of had never tried. Hearing that they had never smoked pot, Dylan was quite surprised and said that he always thought the band sang “I get high” in their song “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” John corrected him, telling him that the phrase was “I can’t hide.”

Dylan lit up a joint and Lennon made Ringo smoke it first. Eventually each member of the band got his own. Paul was interested with the thoughts it produced and asked Mal Evans to follow him around with a notepad and take down everything he said.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Byrds Success Becomes Dylan’s Success

January 20, 1965:  The Byrds entered the studio to record “Mr Tambourine Man,” what would become the title track of their debut album and, incidentally, the only Bob Dylan song ever to reach #1 on the U.S. pop charts.

Aiming consciously for a vocal style in between Bob Dylan and John Lennon, Roger McGuinn sang lead, with Gene Clark and David Crosby providing the complex harmony that would, along with McGuinn’s jangly electric 12-string Rickenbacker guitar, form the basis of the Byrds’ trademark sound.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Dylan’s phenomenal success led to constant touring under the aegis of manager Albert Grossman.

Dylan would soon break away from his folk image, his acoustic image, and quit working on “Maggie’s Farm.”

The break would lead to an even more frenetic life. One that he will eventually and deliberately chose to leave.

Dylan Becomes Dylan

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

May 24, 1941: at 9:05 PM Beatty Zimmerman gave birth to a baby boy at St Mary’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota. Abe Zimmerman was the father.

In Hebrew the baby’s name was Shabtai Zisel ben Avraham. His everyday name was Robert Allen Zimmerman.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

Early musician

Golden Chords

March 1, 1958: Bob Dylan’s Golden Chords played at the National Guard Armory in Hibbing, MN. It was the first time he was paid to perform on Stage.

Spring 1958: Robert Zimmerman decided that his stage name will be Bob Dylan. While spelled like Dylan Thomas, a poet Robert Zimmerman read and liked,  as with many things in Bob Dylan’s history, the exact origin of the name remains unclear.

Folk hits mainstream

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

November 17, 1958: the Kingston Trio’s “Tom Dooley” hit #1 on the Billboard pop chart. While not a protest song, protest folk probably owed its commercial success to the Kingston Trio, three guys in crew cuts and candy-striped shirts who honed their act not in Greenwich Village cafes, but in the fraternities and sororities of Stanford University in the mid-1950s. Without the enormous profits that the Trio’s music generated for Capitol Records, it is unlikely that major-label companies would have given recording contracts to those who would challenge the status quo in the decade to come. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, for instance, may have owed their musical and political development to forerunners like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, but they probably owed their commercial viability to the Kingston Trio.

Buddy Holly

January 31, 1959: Dylan attended a Buddy Holly concert  in Duluth, MN. Holly was a big favorite of Dylan. He stood right at the stage and was sure that at a point during the concert Holly looked down and made eye contact. That Holly died only two days later made the event even more memorable.

Robert Zimmerman (Bob Dylan) in the 1959 Hibbing High School year book.

June 5, 1959: Dylan graduated from high school. One of his uncles left some records by Leadbelly. Dylan found the music and lyrics more meaningful than the songs he’d been covering and began to learn how to play folk music.


In March – April 1960: while a student at University of Minnesota, Dylan is introduced to  marijuana at parties held at the home of David Whitaker.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan


Mid-December 1960: Dylan left  Minnesota for New York. He will stop at a number of places along the way.

January 24, 1961: Dylan first arrived in New York City. He caught a subway down to Greenwich Village and to the Cafe Wha? in a flurry of snowflakes. It was hootenanny night and the place was half-empty. Dylan asked the owner, Manny Roth, if he could perform — and he did, playing a short set of Woody Guthrie songs. In the following weeks, Dylan would appear occasionally at the coffee-house, playing harmonica (“blowin’ my lungs out for a dollar a day” is how he put it in his early song, Talkin’ New York) behind Mark Spoelstra and Fred Neil, writer of Dolphins and Everybody’s Talkin’.


January 29, 1961: Dylan visits Woody Guthrie


Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

April 11, 1961: Dylan played his first solo live gig in New York City at Gerde’s Folk City, opening for John Lee Hooker.

April 24, 1961: Harry Belafonte recorded “Midnight Special”. Bob Dylan played harmonica on the recording. It was Dylan’s first official recording and he received a $50 session fee.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan


July 29, 1961: after seeing him play at a folk music day at the Riverside Church. Suze Rotolos became an enthusiastic fan. The Rotolos family lived above the Cafe Society Downtown, a little theatre in Greenwich Village. She lived with her mother, Mary, a widow, and her sister Carla, Above the Rotolos, on the fourth floor, lived Miki Isaacson, whose living room was a permanent crash pad for folk singers, including Dylan, who was pleased to be staying near Suze. The two soon became an item.

At about the time she met Dylan, Rotolo began working full time as a political activist in the office of the Congress of Racial Equality and the anti-nuclear group SANE. It was not until they met that Dylan’s writing began to address issues such as the civil rights movement and the threat of nuclear war.

Unfortunately the love affair was doomed thanks to Dylan’s many philandering escapades.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan


September 14, 1961: Dylan met John Hammond at a rehearsal session for Carolyn Hester at the apartment shared by Hester and her then-husband, Richard Fariña. Hester had invited Dylan to the session as a harmonica player and Hammond approved him as a session player after hearing him rehearse, with recommendations from his son, musician John P. Hammond, and from Liam Clancy.

September 26, 1961: Dylan started as opening act for the Greenbriar Boys. He stayed two weeks.

NYT praise

September 29, 1961: Robert Shelton of the New York Times reviewed Dylan’s Gerde’s performance. With the headline: A Distinctive Folk-Song Stylist, Shelton wrote, “A bright new face in folk music is appearing at Gerde’s Folk City. Although only 20 years old, Bob Dylan is one of the most distinctive stylists to play in a Manhattan cabaret in months.”

October 25, 1961: Dylan and Columbia Records drew up a contract. It was a 5-year contrct that gave Dylan a small advance against 4% royalties. Columbia would release one album and then decide whether he merited a second.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

November 4, 1961: Dylan played a concert at Carnegie Chapter Hall, a smaller room than the famous bigger room. There are varying reports on how many people attended the concert. The number ranges between 47 and 53, pretty much all friends and family.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan


November 20 and 22, 1961: Dylan recorded his first album at Columbia Records.

In mid-December 1961 Dylan moved into his first rented apartment in the middle of West Fourth Street, a tiny, scruffy place above Bruno’s Spaghetti Shop, and persuaded his girlfriend, Suze Rotolo, to move in with him.

In January 1962: Dylan wrote  “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues

March 11, 1962: Dylan played tunes on NYC radio station WBAI-FM. Mentions that he “stole” melody for “Death of Emmett Till” tune from Len Chandler.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

March 19, 1962: Dylan (20 years old) released first album: Bob Dylan.

Sold only 5,000 copies in its first year

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

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan

Blowin’ In the Wind

April 16, 1962: Dylan debuted his song “Blowin’ in the Wind” at Gerde’s Folk City in New York.

April 25, 1962: Dylan recorded ”Let Me Die in My Footsteps” a song  inspired by the construction of fallout shelters.

June 8, 1962: Suze Rotolo left for Europe and, in effect, left Bob Dylan. Often despondent missing her, he will write “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

July 9, 1962: Dylan recorded “Blowin’ In the Wind” A few weeks earlier when he performed it live he stated, “This here ain’t no protest song or anything like that, ’cause I don’t write no protest songs” while onstage at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village, talking about a song he claims to have written in just 10 minutes.

July 30,1962: “Blowin’ In the Wind” was copyrighted to M Witmark & Sons. Albert Grossman signed a deal the same day with Witmark giving Grossman 50% of of Witmark’s share of the publishing income generated by any songwriter he brought to the company. This agreement gave Grossman an even larger slice of Dylan’s profits in addition to Grossman’s management slice.

August 2, 1962: Robert Zimmerman changed his name to Bob Dylan.

For the next phase of Bob’s early history, see Dylan Becomes Dylan.

Zimmerman Becomes Dylan