One of the greatest misconceptions and misunderstandings about music in the 20th century is that Bob Dylan "went electric." This concept has become so central to "understanding" his myth and oeuvre that it is basic to rock and roll history. One of those commonly understood notions not questioned at all. Dylan went electric at Newport, someone yelled "Judas" during the tour with the Hawks and the next thing you know howling acid rock has ruined youth from here to Carnaby Street.
Only it is wrong...and like virtually everything we assume to be true, it doesn't hold up.
Want to know who REALLY went electric? Muddy Waters, and he did it when Bob Dylan was a toddler. It wasn't done to startle the establishment (another myth) it wasn't done to "create shockwaves in popular culture" and it certainly wasn't done to piss off Pete Seeger. It was done so Muddy could be HEARD. Chicago wasn't Clarksdale, Mississippi, and Mr. Waters wanted to be noticed in the loud, smoky juke joints of the south side of Chicago. So he plugged in and played, amplification simply being natural to any musician hoping to entertain a dancing crowd.
Know who else went electric? George Jones, the finest country singer alive. Among his earliest recordings were the tunes cut by one "Thumper" Jones. A shameless attempt to cash in on the Rockabilly scene, but again, a decade before Dylan supposedly gave the music world an electric shock to their ass.
And who else went electric? Dylan HIMSELF years before Dylan! Released as the b-side to Corrina, Corrina in 1962, Mixed-Up Confusion is a song written and recorded by Dylan with an electric band on November 14th 1962 during the sessions for his second LP. You can find it...and you can rock out to it, well before Peter, Paul and Mary got rich off Blowin' in the Wind.
In a curious little aside, Dylan's drummer during the 1965 tour was Levon Helm, who quit the tour claiming he was tired of being booed at, but was more likely upset Bob was usurping his role as leader of the Band. Which wasn't the Band yet, but still. There is also speculation Levon didn't get along with Dylan's wicked manager, Albert Grossman. This year Levon snatched "Best Americana" Grammy from fellow nominee Bob Dylan. Revenge is sweet, even if 40 years later.
By the way, the illustration here is a painting by Bob Dylan from around 1967. I guess painting was something he did long before we think too.