Today in 1959…
A young kid named Robert Zimmerman, a greaser of sorts known for his long hair and black leather jackets, graduates from Hibbing High School in Hibbing, Minnesota…
Within a few years…
He would become a New York folksinger and change his name to Bob Dylan…!
Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman on May 24, 1941 in Duluth, and spent his first six years in that port city at the end of Lake Superior. The Zimmermans lived on the top floor a house, which was auctioned off on eBay in the Summer of 2001 for $94,600. When Dylan was in Kindergarten, his family moved to his mother's hometown of Hibbing, a mining town about 75 miles north of Duluth in the Mesabi iron ore range. After living briefly with relatives, they settled into a home on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 25th Street, where Dylan spent the remainder of his youth and high school years.
Dylan's father, Abe, helped run the family business in Hibbing, an electrical and appliance store on 5th Avenue, just off Howard Street. Bob Dylan's bar mitzvah party was held in the landmark Androy Hotel. One block east of the Androy, on Howard Street, is a Dylan-themed bar and restaurant called Zimmy's.
Hibbing High School is on 21st Street, a short walk up Seventh Avenue from the Zimmerman home. It is an impressive building, funded by the then-booming iron ore mines that put Hibbing on the map. The huge open pit mines--ugly gashes in the landscape--are now billed as tourist attractions, an ironic provincial twist that goes a long way toward summing up Dylan's ambivalent feelings about his hometown.
Dylan made some legendary early rock & roll performances in the high school's ornate auditorium in 1958 and 1959.
On January 31, 1959, during his senior year in high school, Dylan made a trip to Duluth to see Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Dion & the Belmonts. Two nights later, the three headliners gave their final show in Clear Lake, Iowa, and died in a plane crash. The Duluth concert was truly a star-crossed meeting of rock's two first eras. Dylan recalled the concert, and making eye contact with Buddy Holly, in his 1998 Grammy acceptance speech.
The Hibbing Public Library has a small Dylan exhibit (basically posters) in a basement meeting room. It is a well-meant but rather uninspired tribute, though an upgrade is in the works which will, in coming years, feature more of the library's extensive collection of Dylan-related books, recordings, photos and news articles.
Like Liverpool, Hibbing does not know quite what to make of its local hero. Indeed, the town seems more comfortable with the fact that it is the home of Roger Maris, Kevin McHale and the Greyhound bus line. That may be because Dylan left Hibbing as soon as he could and has returned only rarely. After graduating from high school, Dylan headed for the relative sophistication of the Twin Cities and enrolled in the University of Minnesota.
He didn't last long in college, but received a valuable education in Dinkytown, a student area near the university that was full of folk music clubs, record stores and knowledgeable musicians. He spent about 16 months in Minneapolis, literally reinventing himself as "Bob Dylan," before heading to New York. He arrived in Greenwich Village in January 1961. As the Man himself said, "Don't Look Back."