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(Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons)


The moment a 20-year-old Bob Dylan took over a New York City radio show and became a star

We’re dipping into the Far Out vault to revisit one of Bob Dylan’s earliest landmark moments. The legend of Bob Dylan is so gargantuan that it can become hard to pinpoint exactly when he went from Robert Zimmerman to the Bob Dylan. But, if we had to take a guess, we’d say it was in February of 1962 on a New York City radio show. In fact, this New York City radio show.

The local show was called Folksinger’s Choice and welcomed a wealth of musical talent in its time. One such talent was a young and obscure folk singer by the name of Bob Dylan who was welcomed into the WBAI broadcast a few weeks before his self-titled debut LP landed. It was a moment that would cement his growing esteem.

Joined on the radio show by host Cynthia Gooding, the experienced singer and broadcaster guided the then-20-year-old Bob Dylan through a quite astounding piece of candid radio that signalled the singer was a star. It not only dabbled with music but his humble beginnings too.

The pair had, in fact, known each other for some years prior to the interview. Both Minnesotans, Gooding and Dylan had first met in Minneapolis in late 1959 shortly after the latter had graduated high school. It makes the exaggerated stories of his origins that Dylan tells all the more interesting, knowing that at least to some degree, Gooding was smirking at Dylan from across the studio.

Opening up to the host, Dylan shares the dubious story that he once worked with a travelling carnival, “off and on for about six years”. Gooding, concerned about his schooling presses the young singer, who, sharp-witted as he is, quickly replies, “Well,” he says, “I skipped a bunch of things, and I didn’t go to school a bunch of years and I skipped this and that.”

He even goes on to claim he wrote a song for the “elephant lady” titled ‘Won’t You Buy A Postcard?’ but proclaims he forgot how it went. A likely story we think.

Dylan says he then moved to Minneapolis from South Dakota because the city was “about the only place you didn’t have to go too far to find the Mississippi River.” It completes a candid, humorous and entertaining interview. But that’s not all the singer did.

As well as proving he was a conversational match for anyone, despite his relatively small number of years on the planet, the freewheelin’ Bob Dylan also did a little of what he does best on the show—he sang. Eleven songs to be precise.

The expert songwriter chose some folk and blues classics as well as some of his self-penned songs to woo the local New York crowd.

At the time when the city was swelling with Greenwich folk singers and beat poets, this was a loud foghorn warning of the talent that was not only going to take over the New York bookshops and cafes but the whole world. This was Bob Dylan, then only 20 years old, becoming a star.

You can find a full transcript on the interview here

‘(I Heard That) Lonesome Whistle’ (Hank Williams/Jimmie Davis)
‘Fixin’ to Die’ (Bukka White)
‘Smokestack Lighning’ (Howlin’ Wolf)
‘Hard Travelin” (Woody Guthrie)
‘The Death of Emmett Till’ (Bob Dylan)
‘Standing on the Highway’ (Bob Dylan)
‘Roll on John’ (Rufus Crisp)
‘Stealin” (traditional)
‘It Makes a Long Time Man Feel Bad’ (traditional)
‘Baby, Please Don’t Go’ (Big Joe Williams)
‘Hard Times in New York Town’ (Bob Dylan)