Audio: Bob Dylan’s First Major New York Show – Gerde’s Folk City, April 1961

Bob Dylan, 1961

On April 11, 1961, Bob Dylan played his first major gig in New York. It was the first night of a two-week run opening for the great bluesman John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City in Greenwich Village.

It took some effort for Dylan to land the gig, according to Robert Shelton in his Dylan biography, “No Direction Home.”

Mike Porco ran the club and was open to new talent.

“When, in March 1961, one of [Mike Porco’s] regular customers, Mel Bailey, urged him to give Bobby Dylan a chance, Mike showed interest,” Shelton wrote. “He liked Bobby, but was afraid he was too young. … Mel and his wife Lillian, a dress designer, kept up their campaign, joned by the MacKenzies. If Mike booked Bobby, Eve MacKenzie promised to telephone everyone she knew in order to whip up business. Finally, Mike had a two-week opening for Bob beginning April 1 on a bill with John Lee Hooker… It was Bob’s first real job in New York a, and he was ecstatic.”

Dylan got to play five songs that first night. “House of the Rising Sun,” “Song to Woody,” “Talkin’ Hava Negeilah Blues,” and two others, identified only as “unknown Woody Guthrie song” and “a black blues,” according to New York magazine.

Dylan’s set was not recorded that night, but later that year, when he returned to Gerde’s in September, two songs were recorded and you can listen to them below, or if they won’t play for you, head directly to Grooveshark and search for them.

“San Francisco Bay Blues,” September 29, 1961, Gerde’s Folk City with Jim Kweskin:

San Francisco Bay Blues by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

“Railroading On The Great Divide,” September 29, 1961, Gerde’s Folk City (probably with Jim Kweskin):

The Great Divide by Bob Dylan on Grooveshark

– A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post –

3 thoughts on “Audio: Bob Dylan’s First Major New York Show – Gerde’s Folk City, April 1961

  1. Great find, thanks for sharing.
    Must’ve been hard, earning “a dollar a day”, but the young Bob surely must’ve been having fun doing his work … like he still has today.

  2. That was great to hear. I’m trying to find out who wrote, “Railroading on the Great Divide.” I know the Carters would sing it, but are they the authors? Thanks, great site.

  3. I was at Gerde’s Folk City in September, it was my first night out after the birth of my second child, and my first time to see Bob Dylan. How young we all were. I remember the evening very, very well.

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