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Saturday, 16 November 2013

Bob Gibson born 16 November 1931

Samuel Robert ("Bob") Gibson (November 16, 1931 – September 28, 1996) was a folk singer who played an important role in popularizing folk music to American audiences in the 1950s at the very beginning of the folk boom. His 12-string guitar style influenced performers like Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin; he was a mainstay at one of the first established folk clubs in the U.S., the Gate of Horn in Chicago; and he wrote songs with Shel Silverstein and Phil Ochs, as well as performing in a duo with Hamilton Camp. Most of all, he was one of the first folkies on the scene--when he began performing and recording in the mid-'50s, there was hardly anyone else playing guitar-based folk music for an educated, relatively affluent audience.

Bob Gibson was born on November 16, 1931 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in various communities outside New York City - Tuckahoe, Yorktown Heights, and Tompkins Corners, Putnam County, New York. He left high school in his senior year and hitchhiked around the country. Eventually returning to New York City, becoming a salesman for a developmental reading company before he was inspired by take up folk music in 1954, after hearing Pete Seeger perform. He learned Jamaican music while working cruise boats off Florida, and taught some to the Terriers, who recorded the "Banana Boat Song" (made famous by Harry Belafonte). On his first recordings for the Riverside label in the late '50s, he played banjo and 12-string guitar with light accompaniment, presenting a wide assortment of traditional folk tunes, as well as some originals.

Gibson helped Joan Baez and Phil Ochs in their early days, and was managed by Albert Grossman, who later handled the affairs of such giants as Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary. In fact, Gibson has said that Grossman wanted to team Bob and Hamilton Camp up with a female singer before hitting upon the same type of trio approach with Peter, Paul & Mary, although Gibson wasn't interested in the idea. But Gibson probably was a little too retro for bigtime folk success in the '60s anyway. He was older than most of the performers on the scene, and his approach too tame and clean-cut, even though he and similar performers had helped created the sparks of the folk boom just by playing such material to begin with.

                   Here's "Noah" from above 1956 album.

Bob was an abuser of alcohol even in his teens. He had also experimented with drugs. By the time of his rise to success in Chicago he was a heavy user of speed. Gibson was in and out of jails in Canada, Chicago, and Cleveland for various drug-related charges. In the mid-1960s, Gibson began a three-year period of complete isolation where drugs were his only priority. From 1969 to 1978, Gibson tried repeatedly to restart his career, but his addictions made it impossible. During this period he tried often, but unsuccessfully, to get sober. He knew that he needed structure, but, at first, disavowing God he rejected AA. In 1978 he attended an AA meeting in Cleveland and learned to live a life without alcohol and drugs. He regained his sobriety through AA and became both an advocate as well as a sponsor to much of the young, upcoming talent across America. One of his proudest moments was receiving his twenty year "chip" before he became too ill to comprehend the importance of that success. He had indeed become "A Living Legend".

In 1978 Gibson gave up drugs for good. A musical comeback, however, was not to be as the musical scene had changed and his traditional style of folk music was out of favor with young audiences. He did, however, continue his artistic career with albums, musicals, plays, and television performances. Starting about 1990, Gibson started to experience the symptoms of an illness that would not be diagnosed until four years later. Loss of balance and falling backwards were among Gibson's first symptoms. Later, his vision and then his voice were affected. In 1993 he was diagnosed with progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP).

He finally returned to a major label in 1995 to record one last CD. Fittingly, his "Makin' a Mess" album was a showcase of songs written by Shel Silverstein, many together with Bob. Some were funny, some were poignant. And Bob showed he still hadn't lost his ability to bring either kind of song to life.

He died from PSP on September 28, 1996 in Portland, Oregon at the age of 64.
(Info edited from Wikipedia & All Music)

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