Don Gibson Biography

3 April 1928, Shelby, North Carolina, USA, d. 17 November 2003, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. If loneliness meant world acclaim, then Gibson, with his catalogue of songs about despair and heartbreak, should have been a superstar. Considering himself ‘a songwriter who sings rather than a singer who writes songs’, Gibson is best remembered as the author of three standards: ‘Sweet Dreams’, ‘Oh Lonesome Me’, and ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’.

Gibson learnt the guitar from an early age and started performing while still at school in North Carolina. He worked some years around the clubs in Knoxville and built up a reputation via local radio. His first records were made as part of the Sons Of The Soil for Mercury Records in 1949. His first recorded composition was ‘Why Am I So Lonely?’. Gibson recorded for RCA Records, Columbia Records and MGM Records (where he recorded the rockabilly ‘I Ain’t A-Studyin’ You, Baby’ in 1957), but with little chart success. However, Faron Young took his forlorn ballad ‘Sweet Dreams’ to number 2 in the US country charts in 1956. The song has since been associated with Patsy Cline and also recorded by Emmylou Harris, Don Everly, Roy Buchanan, Reba McEntire and Elvis Costello.

In 1958 ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ was a US country success for Kitty Wells and then, in 1962, a transatlantic number 1 pop hit for Ray Charles. In 1991, the song was revived by Van Morrison with the Chieftains. ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ was also one side of the hit single (US number 7 pop, number 1 country) that marked Gibson’s return to RCA in 1958. The other side, ‘Oh Lonesome Me’, which Gibson had originally intended for George Jones, is also a much-recorded country classic. Gibson actually sings ‘Ole lonesome me’ but a clerk misheard his vocal. Chet Atkins’ skilful productions appealed to both pop and country fans and this single was followed by ‘Blue Blue Day’ (number 20 pop/number 1 country), ‘Give Myself A Party’, ‘Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles’, ‘Just One Time’, and his own version of ‘Sweet Dreams’. In 1961 Gibson made his UK chart debut with ‘Sea Of Heartbreak’, which was followed by the similar-sounding ‘Lonesome Number One’. The sadness of his songs matched Roy Orbison’s, who recorded an album Sings Don Gibson in 1967 and had a hit single with ‘Too Soon To Know’. Gibson’s own bleak King Of Country Soul, which includes some country standards, is highly regarded.

Gibson lost his impetus in the mid-60s through alcohol and drug dependency, but he recorded successful duets with both Dottie West and Sue Thompson. He had a US country number 1 with ‘Woman (Sensuous Woman)’ in 1972, and Ronnie Milsap took his ‘(I’d Be) A Legend In My Time’ to the top of the country charts two years later. Further hits with ‘One Day At A Time’ and ‘Bring Back Your Love To Me’ marked the end of Gibson’s chart success, but he continued performing throughout subsequent decades. He was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1973, and the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2001.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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