Bob Dylan, in the beginning

By Todd Leopold, CNN

Updated 11:54 AM ET, Thu October 15, 2015
01 tbt bob dylan RESTRICTED01 tbt bob dylan RESTRICTED
1 of 9
Today Bob Dylan is one of the most renowned figures in pop-music history -- a groundbreaking songwriter, a much-honored talent, an inscrutable persona. But in 1961 he was just a 19-year-old kid from Minnesota scrambling to make a living in New York's folk clubs. In September 1961, he posed for a portrait with his Gibson acoustic guitar -- around the time that Columbia Records scout John Hammond first met him at a rehearsal. Hammond signed Dylan at the end of September. Dylan's first album was six months away. Micahel Ochas Archives/Getty Images
That first record, 1962's "Bob Dylan," didn't sell much, but the young performer was already earning a reputation among musicians as a powerful talent. Dylan soaked up the hothouse atmosphere, learning classics and reshaping them in his image -- an image he was always aware of, even in the early days. John Cohen/Getty Images
In 1963, Dylan got the call performers dreamed about: an appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show," one of the most popular TV shows in the country. (A year later, Sullivan would introduce the Beatles.) At rehearsals, shown here, Dylan performed "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues." But some CBS brass, worried about controversy over the song's mockery of the right-wing John Birch Society, were nervous, and Dylan declined to perform something else. He never did appear on "Sullivan." CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Suddenly, Dylan became a name. He performed at the 1963 March on Washington; his song "Blowin' in the Wind" was covered by Peter, Paul & Mary and became a Top Five hit. He was in demand. He started retreating to Woodstock, New York, a haven for artists since the early 20th century and where his manager, Albert Grossman, had a home. Dylan is pictured here on a Triumph motorcycle behind the town's Cafe Espresso in 1964. Douglas R. Gilbert/Redferns/Getty Images
Dylan's early work was in more traditional folk and protest veins, but he started looking inward with 1964's "Another Side of Bob Dylan." His lyrics, in particular, became more imagistic. In early 1965, he started work on a new album, "Bringing It All Back Home." In some cases, the songs were accompanied by a full rock band. Dylan is shown here at the beginning of the "Back Home" sessions with guitarist Kenny Rankin, left, and other musicians at Columbia's Studio A in New York. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Electric Bob might not have thrilled his old folk fans, but it gave him a whole new audience -- one that took his 1965 song "Like a Rolling Stone" to No. 2 on the pop charts. In April 1966, Dylan embarked on a European tour that saw him visit Sweden, Denmark, France, Ireland and Great Britain. The dates were sometimes contentious. Jan Persson/Redferns/Getty Images
Many of the concerts were raucous affairs, with audience members yelling at Dylan and Dylan yelling back. (The Manchester, England, show was captured on "Live 1966: The 'Royal Albert Hall' Concert.") Dylan left for France on May 22; this photo shows him arriving at Le Bourget Airport in Paris. Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
Dylan performs at Paris' Olympia theater on May 24, 1966, his 25th birthday. He followed the Paris show with two shows in London. They would be the last live concerts he would do until he re-emerged at Britain's Isle of Wight Festival in 1969. KEYSTONE-FRANCE/Gamma-Keystone/Getty Images
He had reasons for getting out of the spotlight. He'd gotten married in late 1965 and wanted to spend time with his family; he also was in a motorcycle accident in July 1966 and needed time to recover. So he regrouped in Woodstock, playing with the backing musicians from his European tour -- a group that would become The Band. And he devoted himself, as Dylan does, to something new. Fifty years later, the tireless troubadour is still looking. After all, as he said in 1963, "There is nothing so stable as change." Elliott Landy/Redferns/Getty Images