© 1998-2012 Roger A. Lee and History Guy
Media; Last Modified: 02.06.12
Dylan's First Album: "Bob Dylan," March,
Dylan--1st album by Bob Dylan,
released on March 19, 1962.
The chart below
shows the titles of the songs, in the
order they appeared on the record, the
writers of the songs, (note that Dylan
only wrote two of them), and the length of
the song in minutes and seconds (minutes:
seconds). For those who are unfamiliar
with old vinyl records, about half the
songs were on one side, and the record had
to be flipped over in order to hear the
rest of the songs. The two sides are
usually called "side one" and "side two."
or "A" Side and "B' Side.
"You're No Good"
"Talkin' New York"
"In My Time of Dyin'"
trad. arr. Dylan
"Man of Constant Sorrow"
trad. arr. Dylan
"Fixin' to Die"
trad. arr. Dylan
"Highway 51 Blues"
trad. arr. Dylan
"Baby, Let Me Follow You Down"
trad. arr. Reverend Gary
Davis, Eric von Schmidt, Dave Van
"House of the Risin' Sun"
trad. arr. Dylan
"Freight Train Blues"
Elizabeth Cotten, arr.
"Song to Woody"
"See That My Grave Is Kept
Blind Lemon Jefferson
Buy Bob Dylan's First Album
Review of Bob Dylan, from the New York
"Bob Dylan: A Distinctive Folk-Song
From the "New York Times," Friday,
September 29, 1961,
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
Resembling a cross between a choir
boy and a beatnik, Mr. Dylan has a
cherubic look and a mop of tousled hair
he partly covers with a Huck Finn black
corduroy cap. His clothes may need a
bit of tailoring, but when he works his
guitar, harmonica or piano and composes
new songs faster than he can remember
them, there is no doubt that he is
bursting at the seams with talent.
Mr. Dylan's voice is anything but
pretty. He is consciously trying to
recapture the rude beauty of a Southern
field hand musing in melody on his
porch. All the "husk and bark" are left
on his notes and searing intensities
pervades his songs.
Mr. Dylan is both comedian and
tragedian. Like a vaudeville actor on
the rural circuit, he offers a variety
of droll musical monologues: "Talking
Bear Mountain" lampoons the
overcrowding of an excursion boat,
"Talkin' New York" satirizes his
troubles in gaining recognition and
"Talking Havah Nageilah" burlesques the
folk-music craze and the singer
In his serious vein, Mr. Dylan seems
to be performing in a slow-motion film.
Elasticized phrases are drawn out until
you think they may snap. He rocks his
head and body, closes his eyes in
reverie and seems to be groping for a
word or a mood, then resolves the
tension benevolently by finding the
word and the mood.
Mr. Dylan's highly personalized
approach toward folk song is still
evolving. He has been sopping up
influences like a sponge. At times, the
drama he aims at is off-target
melodrama and his stylization threatens
to topple over as a mannered
But if not for every taste, his
music-making has the mask of
originality and inspiration, all the
more noteworthy for his youth. Mr.,
Dylan is the more noteworthy for his
youth. Mr. Dylan is vague about his
antecedents and birthplace, but it
matters less where he has been than
where he is going, and that would seem
to be straight up.
Notes from "Bob Dylan," by
Stacey Williams (printed with the album
Bob Dylan, 1962
Excitement has been running
high since the young man with a
guitar ambled into a Columbia
recording studio for two sessions in
November, 1961. For at only 20,
Dylan is the most unusual new talent
in American folk music.
His talent takes many forms. He
is one of the most compelling white
blues singers ever recorded. He is a
songwriter of exceptional facility
and cleverness. He is an uncommonly
skillful guitar player and harmonica
In less than one year in New
York, Bob Dylan has thrown the folk
crowd into an uproar. Ardent fans
have been shouting his praises.
Devotees have found in him the image
of a singing rebel, a musical
Chaplin tramp, a young Woody
Guthrie, or a composite of some of
the best country blues singers.
A good deal of Dylan's
steel-string guitar work runs
strongly in the blues vein, although
he will vary it with country
configurations, Merle Travis picking
and other methods. Sometimes he
frets his instrument with the back
of a kitchen knife or even a metal
lipstick holder, giving it the
clangy virility of the primitive
country blues men. His pungent,
driving, witty harmonica is
sometimes used in the manner of
Walter Jacobs, who plays with the
Muddy Waters' band in Chicago, or
the evocative manner of Sonny
Another strong influence on Bob
Dylan was not a musician primarily,
although he has written music, but a
comedian -- Charlie Chaplin. After
seeing many Chaplin films, Dylan
found himself beginning to pick up
some of the gestures of the classic
tramp of silent films. Now as he
appears on the stage in a humorous
number, you can see Dylan nervously
tapping his hat, adjusting it, using
it as a prop, almost leaning on it,
as the Chaplin tramp did before
Yet despite his comic flair, Bob
Dylan has, for one so young, a
curious preoccupation with songs
about death. Although he is rarely
inarticulate, Dylan can't explain
the attraction of these songs,
beyond the power and emotional
wallop they give him, and which he
passes on to his listeners. It may
be that three years ago, when a
serious illness struck him, that he
got an indelible insight into what
those death-haunted blues men were
-- His Life and Times --
Bob Dylan was born in Duluth,
Minnesota, on May 24, 1941. After
living briefly in Sioux Falls, South
Dakota, and Gallup, New Mexico, he
graduated from high school in
Hibbing, Minnesota "way up by the
For six troubled months, Bob
attended the University of Minnesota
on a scholarship. But like so many
of the restless, questioning
students of his generation, the
formal confines of college couldn't
"I didn't agree with school," he
says. "I flunked out. I read a lot,
but not the required readings."
He remembers staying up all night
plowing through the philosophy of
Kant instead of reading "Living With
the Birds" for a science course.
"Mostly ," he summarizes his
college days, "I couldn't stay in
one place long enough."
Bob Dylan first came East in
February, 1961. His destination: the
Greystone Hospital in New Jersey.
His purpose: to visit the
long-ailing Woody Guthrie, singer,
ballad-maker and poet. It was the
beginning of a deep friendship
between the two. Although they were
separated by thirty years and two
generations, they were united by a
love of music, a kindred sense of
humor and a common view toward the
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. He fell in with Dave Van
Ronk and Jack Elliott, two of the
most dedicated musicians then
playing in Greenwich Village, and
swapped songs, ideas and stylistic
conceptions with them. He played at
the Gaslight Coffeehouse, and in
April, 1961, appeared opposite John
Lee Hooker, the blues singer, at
Gerde's Folk City. Word of Dylan's
talent began to grow, but in the
surcharged atmosphere of rivalry
that has crept into the folk-music
world, so did envy. His "Talkin' New
York" is a musical comment on his
reception in New York.
Recalling his first professional
music job, Bob says:
"I never thought I would shoot
lightning through the sky in the
In 1959, in Central City,
Colorado, he had that first job, in
rough and tumble striptease
"I was onstage for just a few
minutes with my folk songs. Then the
strippers would come on. The crowd
would yell for more stripping, but
they went off, and I'd come bouncing
back with my folky songs. As the
night got longer, the air got
heavier, the audience got drunker
and nastier, and I got sicker and
finally I got fired."
Bob Dylan started to sing and
play guitar when he was ten. Five to
six years later he wrote his first
song, dedicated to Brigitte Bardot.
All the time, he listened to
everything with both ears -- Hank
Williams, the late Jimmie Rodgers,
Jelly Roll Morton, Woody Guthrie,
Carl Perkins, early Elvis Presley. A
meeting with Mance Lipscomb, Texas
songster, left its mark on his work,
as did the blues recordings of
Rabbit Brown and Big Joe Williams.
He speaks worshipfully of the sense
of pace and timing the great blues
men had, and it has become a
trademark of his work already. His
speed at assimilating new styles and
digesting them is not the least
startling thing about Bob Dylan.
"I just want to keep on singing
and writing songs like I am doing
now. I just want to get along. I
don't think about making a million
dollars. If I had a lot of money
what would I do?" he asked himself,
closed his eyes, shifted the hat on
his head and smiled:
"I would buy a couple of
motorcycles, a few air-conditioners
and four or five couches."
-- His Songs --
The number that opens this album,
"You're No Good," was learned from
Jesse Fuller, the West coast singer.
Its vaudeville flair and
exaggeration are used to heighten
the mock anger of the lyrics.
"Talkin' New York" is a diary
note set to music. In May, 1961,
Dylan started to hitchhike West, not
overwhelmingly pleased at what he
had seen and experienced in New
York. At a truck stop along the
highway he started to scribble down
a few impressions of the city he
left behind. They were comic, but
tinged with a certain sarcastic
bite, very much in the Guthrie
Dylan had never sung "In My Time
of Dyin'" prior to this recording
session. He does not recall where he
first heard it. The guitar is
fretted with the lipstick holder he
borrowed from his girl, Susie
Rotolo, who sat devotedly and
wide-eyed through the recording
"Man of Constant Sorrow" is a
traditional Southern mountain folk
song of considerable popularity and
age, but probably never sung quite
in this fashion before.
"Fixin' to Die," which echoes the
spirit and some of the words of "In
My Time of Dyin'," was learned from
an old recording by Bukka White.
A traditional Scottish song is
the bare bones on which Dylan hangs
"Pretty Peggy-O." But the song has
lost its burr and acquired instead a
Texas accent, and a few new verses
and fillips by the singer.
A diesel-tempoed "Highway 51" is
of a type sung by the Everly
Brothers, partially rewritten by
Dylan. His guitar is tuned to an
open tuning and features a
particularly compelling vamping
figure. Similarly up tempo is his
version of "Gospel Plow," which
turns the old spiritual into a
virtually new song.
Eric Von Schmidt, a young artist
and blues singer from Boston, was
the source of "Baby, Let Me Follow
You Down." "House of the Risin' Sun"
is a traditional lament of a New
Orleans woman driven into
prostitution by poverty. Dylan
learned the song from the singing of
Dave Van Ronk: "I'd always known
'Risin' Sun' but never really knew I
knew it until I heard Dave sing it."
The singer's version of "Freight
Train Blues" was adapted from an old
disk by Roy Acuff.
"Song to Woody," is another
original by Bob Dylan, dedicated to
one of his greatest inspirations,
and written much in the musical
language of his idol.
Ending this album is the surging
power and tragedy of Blind Lemon
Jefferson's blues -- "See That My
Grave Is Kept Clean." The poignance
and passion of this simple song
reveals both the country blues
tradition -- and its newest voice,
Bob Dylan -- at their very
-- Stacey Williams
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