It could easily be said that, on this day in 1961, Bob Dylan lit the fire beneath the bright flame that would become his career.
The legendary folk singer performed his first major gig in New York City on April 11, 1961, opening for iconic blues artist John Lee Hooker in Greenwich Village. Dylan, then 20, would go on to become a famous figure around the Greenwhich Village folk scene, mingling with the neighborhood's bohemian arts landscape and becoming synonymous with its folk music.
Dylan had arrived in New York just a few months prior to his gig at the famous Gerde's Folk City, which Rolling Stone named one of the top three music venues in the world, alongside Liverpool's Cavern Club, where The Beatles debuted in 1961, and New York's CBGB, which became a hot spot for rock bands like Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie. While Dylan's first gig didn't catapult him to stardom right away, it set in motion many of the steps the singer would take to achieve worldwide acclaim.
Dylan was reportedly staying at the Earle Hotel, now the popular Washington Square Hotel, for $19 a week. His setlist at Gerde's consisted of "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. Less than a week later, he would return to Gerde's to debut "Blowin' in the Wind."
From there Dylan would befriend Guthrie, his idol, and become an integral part of Lower Manhattan's music and arts scene. Dylan would go on to release his self-titled debut album the following year but would make a bigger splash with 1963's "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," which featured hit songs like "Blowin' in the Wind," "Girl from the North Country" and "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right."