In February of 1962, less than a month before the release of his debut album, an obscure young folk singer named Bob Dylan recorded some songs and an interview for a local New York City radio show called Folksinger’s Choice.
The show was broadcast on WBAI and hosted by Cynthia Gooding, an established folk singer 17 years older than Dylan. As it happened, both Gooding and Dylan were native Minnesotans. Gooding had first met Dylan in Minneapolis in late 1959, not long after he graduated from high school.
As the interview gets rolling, the 20-year-old Dylan wastes little time before launching into some tall tales about his past. He says he moved to Minneapolis from South Dakota, because Minneapolis was “about the only place you didn’t have to go too far to find the Mississippi River.” Before that, he says, he traveled with a carnival, “off and on for about six years.” When Gooding asks whether that might have interfered with his schooling, Dylan doesn’t miss a beat. “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 says he wrote a song for the “elephant lady” in the carnival and called it “Won’t You Buy A Postcard?” But he quickly adds that he forgot how it went.
To follow along with the interview, click here to open the full transcript in a new window. And while you won’t hear Dylan’s ode to the elephant lady, if you listen to the complete one-hour program you will be treated to 11 songs from his early repertoire. They include several that Dylan wrote, along with some old folk and blues songs:
- “(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)