Auctioned collection of Bob Dylan's old love letters reveals he almost chose 'Little Willie' for his stage name

Bob Dylan
(Image credit: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for ABA))

Bob Dylan almost chose 'Little Willie' as his stage name.

The US singer-songwriter, real name Robert Allen Zimmerman, revealed that he had multiple ideas for new monikers in recently unearthed love letters sent to his former high school sweetheart, Barbara Hewitt. At the time, Dylan was around 16-years-old his letters are dated between 1957 and 1959.

In the letters to Hewitt, who he shared a history class with, Zimmerman wrote of how he would perhaps be known by the names 'Little Willie’ or ‘Elston‘, and shared his dreams of selling millions of records. 

Elsewhere in the correspondence, he invites his girlfriend to a Buddy Holly concert in Duluth, recites poetry and also illustrates an imaginary band which he titles: 'Little’ Willie, lead singer of the Night Gales.' There's also countless professions of his love for Hewitt and a Valentine's Day letter.

The 42 love letters (150 pages) were discovered by Hewitt's daughter, after her death in 2020, and were sold at an auction house in Boston for a total of  for $670,000 (£563,000).

RR Auction House executive vice president Bobby Livingston says of the letters: "It’s the formative years of Bob Zimmerman transforming into Bob Dylan. “The beginning of the Bob Dylan myth.”

“In his myth, he hides everything" he continues. "But in these letters “he’s wearing his heart on his sleeve.”

View more information about the letters over on the RR Auction House website.

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Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music. '10 bands that rip off Black Sabbath but get away with it' is her favourite article she's written with Louder so far. When not writing, Liz enjoys various creative endeavours such as graphic design, as well as reading about rock’n’roll history, art and magic.