Bob Dylan’s 1964 Quest

In 1964 on the Toronto television show Quest, 23-year-old Bob Dylan performed several of his now-classic songs. At the time, he was promoting his latest album, The Times They Are a-Changin’ (1964). Quest was a regular series, initially called Q for Quest, that featured various artists and ran on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) network during 1961-1964.

In 1964, Robert Whitehead hosted the series. But for Dylan’s segment, the producers offered Dylan the entire 30 minutes for his music with no interviews. So Dylan performed throughout the show in a rustic cabin-like setting with various actors in the background. The music, though, is fantastic.

In the entire 30-minute program, Dylan performed “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” “Talkin’ World War III Blues,” “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” “Girl from the North Country,” “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” and “Restless Farewell.” The version of “Girl from the North Country” from this show appears on the DVD release of Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home (2005). [Update: The video of the entire show is no longer available, so below is the opening song of the show, “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”]

According to the TV Talkin’ website about Dylan’s early recorded performances, this Quest show is the earliest video of a full Dylan performance available. The TV Talkin’ website lists the date of the show as January 2, 1964, although that may be the date of the recording instead of the broadcast. Another website, Queens’ Film and Media, lists the date of the Dylan show as March 10, 1964, which is probably the broadcast date.

Dylan’s special episode was the last one executive producer Daryl Duke did before leaving the show. He went on to produce The Steve Allen Show, where Dylan would appear on February 25, 1964.

Reportedly, prior to these TV appearances, Dylan had appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in summer or late 1963. But no video survives of that appearance and nobody seems even to know what Dylan sang then. Fortunately, though, this Quest performance from the same period survives.

What is your favorite song in the segment? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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