The Folk Singers-Bob Gibson sang folk music; played banjo and songs like "There's A Meeting Here Tonight"
Bob Gibson was born in 1931 and died in 1996. He was a leader in the folk music revival of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He played banjo and the 12-string guitar and his songs have been recorded by a number of other singers.
According to Milt Okum, Bob Gibson was a musician’s folk singer, that is, he was more appreciated by other musicians than by the general public. It is true that Gibson contributed much to others. He, for example, helped start Joan Baez in her career by introducing her at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival.
Gibson was modern and sophisticated and somewhat led to the popularization of folk music, yet he had an enormous understanding of American folk tradition. He met Pete Seeger in 1953 and was so impressed that he spent his rent money to buy a banjo and spent the next year learning to play it. He traveled around the country performing and was hired at the Green Door in Michigan City, Indiana. Since it was s near Chicago he hired an agent in Chicago and was booked in the Offbeat Room in Chicago. There he met Albert Grossman who opened up a folk club in 1956 named the Gate of Horn Gibson was booked by Grossman into the club and Bob eventually became a headliner there.
Performers that were booked into the Gate of Horn became stars of the 1960’s folk revival. They included Josh White, Glenn Yarborough, Odetta, Joan Baez, Hamilton Camp and Judy Collins. Gibson partnered with Hamilton Camp, a singer and songwriter and in 1961 they released their first album Gibson and Camp at the Gate of Horn. It was an important album since it influenced such later musical stars as John Lennon, Gordon Lightfoot, and John Denver.
Like so many musicians such as country stars Roger Miller and Johnnie Cash, Bob’s career was set back by drug and alcohol abuse. In high school he abused alcohol and experimented with drugs. It got worse when he discovered heroin. He had drug related charges in various places and landed in jail several times. In the 1960’s.he spent three years isolated and addicted. It wasn’t until 1978 he attended an AA meeting in Cleveland and learned to live without drugs and alcohol.
In the 1960’s he was the center of the folk music universe and an influence on all others around him. When he tried to make a comeback the audience was a new generation. He was s appeal he had earlier. However, it was a productive period for him.
I believe I became a late fan of Bob Gibson when a friend of mine had the album There’s a Meetin’ Here Tonight and I heard the title song. This was a 1958 recording and about the time I was getting interested in folk music. Having no musical ability or knowledge per se I though “folk music will be my thing, simple, unsophisticated songs. So I thought. But like Bob Dylan, I found there” ain’t nothin’ simple about folk music.”
I also loved his Ski Songs album on Electra, a 1959 release. When I was young I dreamed of becoming a skier, however I never seemed to have the money for such things.
I suppose I belong more to Gibson’s Generation than I do to Dylan’s. I was caught off guard when a younger generation took over the folk scene. They were more socially activists, left leaning politically. I also found it hard to communicate about folk music with the younger set. Many of them thought of it as pop music. One younger friend of mine told me that my description of a folk song was that of a classic. Well, it is, in a way. I still see that in the singer-songwriter’s.
I am glad to see an even newer generation of folk singers, and Gibson’s daughter is one of them. She is Meridian Green. Based in Mendocino, California, a singer songwriter who says she grew up as a “folk Princess” in Greenwich Village and was surrounded by the people who performed with her father. In the early ‘90’s they performed some shows together. Green started the Bob Gibson Legacy records. She found that her father had started his own record label in 1975, unusual at that time.
Gibson’s songs include rewritten folk songs, original folk, classical folk and silly songs. Green started a folk group, the Fare-Thee-Wells to promote her father’s legacy. They sing mostly Gibson’s songs and some of her own.
I recognize political and protest songs a sub-genre of folk music, many of those younger tan myself think it is what folk music is all about.
I think Gibson is one of the major figures in folk music and glad o see his legacy being preserved. He foreshadowed the Kingston Trio and others who set the tone for things to come.
© 2009 Don A. Hoglund
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