Bob Dylan, "Minnesota Tapes"

Recorded May and December 1961


In 1959, Robert Zimmerman left Hibbing and enrolled at the University of Minnesota. In 1961, Bob Dylan left Minnesota and traveled to New York City to visit his ailing idol, Woody Guthrie. In 1962, Bob Dylan was released. It was an unremarkable album by a remarkable singer-songwriter. Dylan began performing and recording his own songs, and soon his genius and lyrical prowess were known the world over. And the rest, as they say, is history--rock 'n roll history.   However, there is more to the story of Bob Dylan's early years than that. With Bob Dylan, there is always more to the story. Before the first album, after meeting his ailing idol, Bob Dylan found himself back in Minnesota. While there, he recorded many folk and blues standards in home recording sessions. [Many were recorded by Tony Glover at Dylan's girlfriend, Bonnie Beecher's apartment. In the Scorcese film, No Direction Home, Tony Glover, sitting on a train, reminisces about how much Dylan had changed in just "a couple of months." Before, he left Minneapolis, Glover says, he was just average--5 or 6 other guys were doing the same thing. As Paul Nelson said, he was "just ordinary. Not the best, not the worst." What the songs on the Minnesota Tape show is just HOW MUCH material Dylan had aborbed. In May he recorded some 25 tracks and by December, added another 26. Clearly he was listening and learning.] Some may consider what came from those sessions unremarkable. Other people, besides the original performers, had done these songs and were doing these songs in the cafes in New York City and beyond. And some would argue (especially those who were performing them) that some people were doing them better than this Midwestern boy who idolized Woody Guthrie. Yet these recordings are remarkable. They show a young man's amazing ability to take material not his own and give it a distinct interpretation all his own. Whether it be the humorous How Did O or Car Car or the emotive takes on This Land is Your Land and Pastures of Plenty, this young singer from the country they call the Midwest demonstrated quite unconsciously and effortlessly the raw talent inherent within him. It wouldn't be long after these songs were recorded that the world would know of the genius of Bob Dylan. If you need further proof of that talent, these early recordings serve as further evidence. If you are convinced of Bob Dylan's genius, they serve as a great glimpse into his early days. Either way, listen and enjoy. You could always do a lot worse than listen to a Bob Dylan recording. But you can rarely do much better. That's my opinion. I may be right or wrong.

Adapted from:

1. Ramblin Round                                               

2. Death Don't Have No Mercy                  

3. It's Hard to Be Blind                                    

4. This Train Is Bound for Glory         

5. Harmonica solo                  

6. Talking Fish Blues                  

7. Pastures Of Plenty (Woody Guthrie)                  

8. Railroad Bill                                             

9. Will the Circle Be Unbroken                  

10. Man of Constant Sorrow                  

11. Pretty Polly                                    

12. Railroad Boy                                             

13. James Alley Blues                  

14.  Bonnie, Why'd You Cut My Hair         

15. This Land Is Your Land                  

16. Two Trains Running                  

17. Wild Mountain Thyme                  

18. How Did O (Woody Guthrie)

19. Car Car (Woody Guthrie)

20. Don't You Push Me Down (Woody Guthrie)

21. Come See (Woody Guthrie)

22. I Want It Now (Woody Guthrie)

23. San Francisco Bay Blues (Jesse Fuller)

24. A Long Time Growing

25. Devilish Mary (Bess Lomax Hawes)

                                    (Recorded May 1961)

26. Candy Man (Rev. Gary Davis)

27. Baby Please Don't Go (Big Joe Williams)

28. Hard Times in New York Town (original)

29. Stealin' (Memphis Jug Band))

30. Po' Lazarus

31. I Ain't Got no Home (Woody Guthrie)

32. It's Hard to be Blind (Rev. Gary Davis)

33. Dink's Song (John and Alan Lomax)

34. Man of Constant Sorrow

35. The Story of East Orange, New Jersey (original)

36. Naomi Wise

37. Wade in the Water

38. I was young when I left home

39. In the evening (Leroy Carr)

40. Baby Let Me Follow You Down (Eric von Schmidt)

41. Sally Gal (Woody Guthrie)

42. Gospel Plow

43. Long John

44. Cocaine

45. VD Blues (Woody Guthrie)

46. VD Waltz (Woody Guthrie)

47. VD City (Woody Guthrie)

48. VD Gunner's Blues (Woody Guthrie)

49. See that My Grave is Kept Clean (Blind Lemon Jefferson)

50. Ramblin' Round (Woody Guthrie)

51. Black Cross (Lord Buckley)

                                    (Recorded December 1961)