Bob Dylan Sings Big Joe Williams (born October 16, 1903)

The way I think about the blues, comes from what I learned from Big Joe Williams. The blues is more than something to sit home and arrange. What made the real blues singers so great is that they were able to state all the problems they had; but at the same time, they were standing outside of them and could look at them. And in that way, they had them beat. What’s depressing today is that many young singers are trying to get inside the blues, forgetting that those older singers used them to get outside their troubles.
-Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan Liner Notes – 1963)

Joseph Lee “Big Joe” Williams (October 16, 1903 – December 17, 1982) was an American Delta blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, notable for the distinctive sound of his nine-string guitar. Performing over four decades, he recorded the songs “Baby Please Don’t Go”, “Crawlin’ King Snake” and “Peach Orchard Mama”, among many others.

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Baby Please Don’t Go

The Home Of Bonnie Beecher
Minneapolis, Minnesota
22 December 1961

WBAI Studios
New York City, New York
13 January 1962
Cynthia Gooding radio show.

Studio A
Columbia Recording Studios
New York City, New York
25 April 1962

Let’s also include a performance by Big Joe Williams & Bob Dylan

For a white kid to play with black blues singers-at their invitation-was all but unheard ofin 1961; for a white kid to play with this much soul and sheer ballsiness is still remarkable. Part of the reason is clearly that Williams really dug Dylan and encouraged him, gave him a lot of space. The rest of the story is that Dylan had a genius for the blues, as these recordings (especially “Wichita” and “Sitting on Top of the World“) reveal. It must have given Dylan a lot of confidence in himselfas an American musician to be so warmly embraced early in his career by the likes of Woody Guthrie, Victoria Spivey, and Big Joe Williams.
-Paul Williams (Bob Dylan – Performing Artist 1960-73)

Sittin On Top Of The World

Cue Recording Studios
New York City, New York
2 March 1962
Victoria Spivey recording session. Produced by Len Kunstadt & Victoria Spivey.

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-Egil

2 thoughts on “Bob Dylan Sings Big Joe Williams (born October 16, 1903)”

  1. The last two tracks mentioned above, ‘Big Joe, Dylan and Victoria’ and It’s Dangerous’ were released on ‘Three Kings and The Queen Vol.2’ in July 1972. Also impossible to find!

  2. Can somebody please upload to Youtube the other tracks from the Victoria Spivey album ‘Three Kings and a Queen’? Dylan played harmonica on about three other tracks further to ‘Sittin’ on top of the World’ with Big Joe Williams. These tracks are ‘Witchita’, ‘Big Joe, Dylan and Victoria’ and ‘It’s Dangerous’.
    Given its historical importance, it is hard to believe this album is so rare. It had a re-release on vinyl but is still difficult to find, or expensive to purchase online if a copy can be found.

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