Huddie Ledbetter was a "folk troubadour" of the stature of Woody Guthrie and Cisco Houston. He was a Lousiana black who sang rural blues, work and slave songs, and songs about the exploitation of blacks. He was particularly attractive to Dylan because he was an "outlaw" type, having served time in prison for homicide. Leadbelly was a significant influence on Dylan's interest in folk music and blues.
Wissolik and McGrath: Bob Dylan's Words - A Critical Dictionary And Commentary