October 26, 1961, was the fateful day, Bob Dylan signed for Columbia Records. Now, it’s part of history, cause of what happened next.
Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota, and grew up in the city of Hibbing. He was aware of music and a wider way of life from an early age. Dylan was constantly singing, and playing the guitar and piano, and was extremely passionate about music from an early age. He was influenced by folk singer Woody Guthrie and also by the early authors of the Beat Generation.
Even as a teenager, He participated in a number of bands, and as time went on, his passion for music grew, with an emphasis on American folk and blues music in particular. Dylan was on his way to becoming a folk musician. That’s when he cut his studies and headed off at the age of 19. After arriving in New York, he quickly learned how to write folk songs and started playing shows in Greenwich Village. Everyone was surprised by his performances. Dylan always worked his way and made something original, which was his own. He said,
“I always kind of wrote my own songs but I never really would play them. Nobody played their own songs, the only person I knew who really did it was Woody Guthrie. Then one day, I just wrote a song, and it was the first song I ever wrote, and it was ‘A Song for Woody Guthrie’. And I just felt like playing it one night and I played it. I just wanted a song to sing and there came a certain point where I couldn’t sing anything, I had to write what I wanted to sing because what I wanted to sing nobody else was writing, I couldn’t find that song someplace. If I could’ve I probably wouldn’t have ever started writing.”
Bob Dylan‘s originality was great enough to get him in touch with Columbia recording studio. Back then, John Hammond was the man in charge and he happened to be on during Dylan’s session. He was bought in with Carolyn Hester. John was more interested in social change, as he had returned from his service in World War II. Dylan’s originality had a chance at it.
About Dylan, John said, “Dylan was a born rebel, and I figured that you know, Dylan could capture an audience of kids that Columbia had lost years before.” Just like that Dylan was signed with Columbia. There, Dylan was also called, “Hammond’s Folly”. John recalled, “The vice president of Columbia Records said just right off, the most horrible thing he’d ever heard in his life, Hammond’s folly.”
John had a plan for Bob. Hammond recalled, “What I wanted to do with Bobby was just to get him to sound in the studio as natural, just as he was in person, and have that extraordinary personality come through. After all, he’s not a great harmonica player, and he’s not a great guitar player, and he’s not a great singer. He just happens to be an original. And I just wanted to have that originality come through.”
His debut album was not received well. It failed to chart in the US and was only popular among some folk circles in the UK. But, it was a good thing as it led Dylan to his future manager Albert Grossman. Albert became the manager and launched his career.
That’s when Dylan released his second studio album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It was released on May 27, 1963, and is regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time. It also features Dylan’s then-girlfriend, Susan Rotolo on the cover art. The album featured some of his greatest songs like ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ and ‘Girl from the North Country’. Since then, Bob has been in the music world for a very long time. From getting paid $2500 for his first album to having billions of fans who adore him, Dylan changed the way music works today.