ALS signed “I, Me, Bob—161 West 4th Street Apt 3A,” one page both sides, 6 x 9, February 16, 1962, with the original 'The Normandie, San Juan, Puerto Rico' mailing envelope, addressed by Dylan who adds an arrow pointing to the return address and playfully writes: "That's me all right." Letter to blues musician and close friend Dave Glover, written roughly a month before the release of his self-titled debut album, Dylan begins with a mention of fellow musician and photographer John Cohen (spelling and grammar retained): “I saw and talked with John Cohn last night for a while—he seems to have some grand ol time in Minneapolice—…told him and talked & babbled all about me I guess—no difference I can see tho—.” Cohen took several photos of Dylan on his East Village rooftop shortly after the latter arrived in New York City.
Dylan glosses over the moody Greenwich Village weather before turning the subject to music and a forthcoming appearance by Big Joe Williams: “Work out a new tuning on the guitar you gotta hear it to believe it—Big Joe Williams start at Folk City next Tuesday for two weeks. So the Minor Flea or Bee or key or something like that somewhere huh? oh well what d'you want?—that's U of M'land out there and you can't expect too much you know—.” Williams provided a strong artistic influence on Dylan during his early NYC days, notably even encouraging Dylan to move away from singing traditional songs and to write his own music; a month after this letter was written, Dylan contributed harmonica and backup vocals to the album Three Kings and the Queen, accompanying Victoria Spivey and Big Joe Williams on a recording for Spivey Records.
Restless and eager to perform, Dylan notes that he busies himself the best way he knows how, and that he wouldn’t mind the company of a familiar face: “There aint much work around here now I aint workin, I'm writing a lot and bummin around—This here place we got got a couch in one room—I'd sure like to know when you're a comin'—...Times aren't too awful good anywhere right now—Rote a new song called The John Birch Paranoyd Blues—Dave Ray's still working down the Gaslight hole—times aint too good down there neither—.”
He implores his friend to visit and to “bring a piles load of money with you—fill yer trunk up—we can use for wood to burn when you get—wood's expensive as hell nowadays,” before closing with a quote from Woody Guthrie: “('Sometimes I feel like a piece a dirt walkin').” This particular quote appears to be unpublished, and was most likely gleaned from lyrics shown to Dylan by Guthrie’s wife, Marjorie, when Dylan visited their Rockwood Park home in Queens. In fine condition.
Dylan recorded ‘Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues’ during the first Freewheelin' Bob Dylan session at Columbia's Studio A on April 24, 1962. Two weeks before the record’s release, Dylan was set to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show and perform ‘Talkin’ John Birch,’ however, on the day of the show, CBS reps demanded he change the song, for fear of a potential defamation suit. Dylan refused and walked out, an all but unthinkable option given the coverage a spot on Ed Sullivan Show would have afforded him. In the long run, the expression ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ proved correct, and the controversial episode gave Dylan increased publicity and a new range of fans.
From the Tony Glover Collection.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.