A few years have passed since Bob Dylan packed up his hopes and dreams of being a freewheelin’ troubadour and made his way to New York and the singer had made short work of making a name for himself.
Soon enough Dylan was finding guest spots in the smoky coffee houses of Greenwich Village and had earned himself a reputation for his socially-conscious folk. By 1964, Dylan was three albums into his career and at a turning point.
On February 1st of that year, Dylan was invited on to CBC show Quest to perform a selection of songs from those records and cement his place at the pinnacle of the growing folk movement. It remains to this day one of the final moments Bob Dylan the folkie remained untainted by the charge of electricity.
The singer was still in complete adoration of his hero, Woody Guthrie, and therefore kept his clothing and setting meagre and humble. Singing in an old western bunkhouse, Dylan looks moulded in the image of Guthrie; dishevelled, dusted with American dirt and with deep-set eyes that flicker humanity. It was an image that was gaining Dylan an almost continuous stream of acclaim from across New York and beyond.
The performance on Quest was just another step toward Dylan’s folk domination. The show was produced by Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and ran between 1961 and 1964. It aimed to showcase a plethora of notable musicians, artists and literary icons and has seen some incredible acts grace its studio.
When Bob Dylan arrived in 1964, he was equipped with a six-song set capable of bringing any house down. The songs taken from his two recent records The Times They Are a-Changin’ and The Freewheelin’s Bob Dylan was a statement of Dylan’s comprehensive control of the genre. It was also a hint that he wasn’t yet artistically satisfied.
Only a few weeks later, America would see the invasion of the British band The Beatles and Bob Dylan would rent an electric guitar for the first time. It was the beginning of the end for the traditional folk sound of Bob Dylan but it was the start of something truly special. In 1965, Dylan would shock the Newport Folk Festival and ‘go electric’.
The video below remains therefore as the final footage of Bob Dylan as a pure folk hero. This is the Dylan of the very early salad days, the Dylan one might find at an open mic night in the dusky Greenwich night. A moment before he stopped being the people’s poet and became his own artist.
Watch Bob Dylan’s performance on ‘Quest’ from 1964.