It was an album of Folk music.
It premiered the work of a 20-year-old musician that the LP’s liner notes proclaimed to be “one of the most compelling white blues singers ever recorded,” “a songwriter of exceptional facility and cleverness,” “an uncommonly skillful guitar player and harmonica player” and “the most unusual new talent in American folk music.”
It was released by Columbia Records 50 years ago today, on March 19, 1962.
It was the result of two, 3-hour recording sessions held the previous November at Columbia’s Studio A in New York City. The total cost to Columbia Records for these recording sessions was $402.
It contained 13 songs: six “traditional” songs (including “Man Of Constant Sorrow,” “Pretty Peggy-O” and “House Of The Rising Sun”), five “cover” songs (including the album opening “You’re No Good” by Jesse Fuller and the album closing “See That Me Grave Is Kept Clean” by Blind Lemon Jefferson) and two original songs: “Talkin’ New York” and “Song To Woody.”
It was produced by John Hammond (Columbia’s esteemed director of talent acquisition) and featured liner notes by New York Times music critic Robert Shelton, writing under the pseudonym “Stacey Williams.”
It sold only 5,000 copies in the first year after its release, causing one Columbia Records executive to refer to the young musician as “Hammond’s Folly.”
It was Bob Dylan’s first album.