The journey from Robert Allen Zimmerman to Bob Dylan takes multiple twists and turns. We'll do our best to sort through everything for you, including revealing the fact that Dylan wasn't the fist name he chose to change to.
Robert Allen Zimmerman became Bob Dylan on August 2, 1962. He had been using the name since 1959, when he was taking calsses at University of Minnesota. In his 2004 autobiography, Chronicle: Volume One he states “The first time I was asked my name in the Twin Cities, I instinctively and automatically, without thinking, simply said: ‘Bob Dylan.' It took him some time to get used to people calling him Bob.
Prior to becoming Bob Dylan, he used the names Elston Gunn, Robert Allyn and Bob Dillon. He actually used the name Elston Gunn while performingas a high school student.
“The Elston Gunn name thing was only temporary,” he mentions in Chronicles. “What I was going to do as soon as I left home was just called myself Robert Allen. As far as I was concerned, that was who I was – that’s what my parents named me. It sounded like the name of a Scottish king, and I liked it. There was little of my identity that wasn’t in it.”
Many fans assume that Bob changed his name because of his affinity for the poet Dylan Thomas. Dylan refuted that theory during an interview with the New York Times in 1961. “Dylan Thomas’ poetry is for people that aren’t really satisfied in their bed – for people who dig masculine romance.”
Dylan has been evasive about the reasoning for his multiple and final name changes. It's possible that we'll never know the true story. We'll just enjoy his musicand insightful lyrics.