Album – AT THE GATE OF HORN
Gibson & Camp at the GATE OF HORN
At the urging of manager Albert Grossman, Bob Gibson & Bob Camp (later Hamilton Camp) formed a duo which created a phenomenal sound and excitement unparalleled in the annals folk music. Gibson & Camp at the Gate of Horn was taped in Chicago at the 100-seat Gate of Horn. Their rollicking arrangements and exceptional harmonies inspired numerous up-and-coming acts, including Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver and perhaps even the Beatles. Shel Silverstein’s liner notes, Gibson observed, probably sold as many albums as the music.
Collector’s Choice Music 2001
Bob (Hamilton) Camp, vocals
Herb Brown, bass
FAYE ASKS 500G
FOR DITTY DAMAGE!
Chicago- A Bob Gibson and Bob Camp folk album on Elektra is the subject of a $500,000 law suit and is being pulled off the shelves. Complainant is Frances Faye, who says the song, “Butternut Hill” has caused her “irreparable injury.”
NEWS, REVIEWS & NOTES
Gibson, Camp and Brown they were up there singing, shouting and playing and stomping and wailing and yelping and barking and dropping raw eggs on the floor and yelling at Ray about the lighting and wearing straw hats and drinking beer and joking with the audience and doing encore after encore and …everybody in the club was screaming and it was great and if the walls had collapsed right then and there it would have been very poetic.
But they didn’t…
at the Gate of Horn Liner Notes
I’ll tell you a little bit about the old Gate of Horn. It was in a basement. I don’t mean a basement club, I mean it was just in a basement. Chicago is full of places like that. Leroy Nelman, the artist, was living around the corner in another basement and it wasn’t a basement apartment – he was just living in a basement. The Gate of Horn was sort of the same. It was just sort of chiseled out. It was on North Dearborn Street and there was a door that said “Gate of Horn” and some steps that led downstairs and then when you got down there, it had a sign on the door that said “use other door.” So you had to climb up and go around the other side and there was another door that went down and you were in this crowded little ante room, or whatever the hell it was.
The bar was off to the right. That’s where you would find everybody mostly between set. Either there or in the backroom – it was really more like backrooms plural and it was all like carved out of rock with bricks showing through and ash cans sitting around and the further in you got, the more like the catacombs it was. And any minute you expected to trip over the dusty bones of some medieval folk singer and there was one bright light and you had to sit on the ash cans or lean against the icebox and that is where you would see Gibson and Camp tuning up to go on stage or combing their hair or going over some arrangement or complaining about some chick who didn’t show up the night before. Herb Brown was back there, too, doing something great with his bass but I never heard him say anything. Oh – there was also a combination office-rehearsal-dressingroom that was about three feet square and occasionally they would rehearse in there when they wanted real privacy – until Marilyn or one of the other waitresses had to go in there and change so they would come out and play on the Coca Cola cases and Marilyn would go inside and change until Alan Ribback had to go in and check some books then Marilyn would come out and Alan would go in and feel around with some papers until maybe Cynthia had to go in there to change or the cook had to go in there to get some hamburger – anyway, it went on like that. There wasn’t much room and there was an awful lot of confusion.
The waitresses used those catacombs as a short cut from the bar to the main room. There it was dark and hot and crowded and great. They would come in from the back of the club – that’s where the entertainers came on, too. Gibson would come out of the back with Brown and they would do a few numbers and then he would introduce Camp and when Camp came on, the whole thing would start to jell and swing and Brown’s bass would be going like hell and Gibson would be up there cool and cocky, playing that 12-string and singing and Camp would be like a little rooster with his head back screaming and bouncing up and down and it was really something. After the show, we would all be out front, Gibson, Camp and Joel something, and the bartender with the mustache and Ira and Inman and Camp’s chick, Ginger, or Camp’s chick, Margaret, or Gibson’s chick, Gloria, or Gibson’s chick, Patty, or Gibson’s chick whatever the hell their names were I don’t even remember their names and there was a lot of booze being sopped up between sets and a hell of a lot of musical chairs being played with the girls around there.
There was a great-looking tall colored girl there sitting at the bar. I never met her and I don’t think she ever said anything, but she comes to mind. There was also a girl named June who used to work at the Playboy Club and a goofy little blond stripper and God knows what the hell she was doing is there but she got me to draw something on her navel when I was half-cracked and always a few girls from the University sad one beautiful little eighteen-year-old who never ever said two words to anybody but was always there, smiling and somebody said she was a little off her rocker, and some tall blonde who was the ex-wife of somebody, and Barbara who was doing the publicity for the Gate, and some of the Second City crowd and a girl with long black hair and white white skin who wore Chinese dresses. And that is where we would sit and booze and talk about the new songs we were going to collaborate on and plan the party that would start about 3 o’clock in the morning – maybe at Gibson’s room, at that whore hotel he was staying in or in Camp’s apartment which was some girl’s apartment or at somebody else’s house, sometimes the waitresses. That bar was really the social center for the hip crowd. Gibson and Camp were the social directors. And they would sit there and whisper and work up wild scenes that couldn’t possibly turn out as great as they sounded.
After a while I think Gibson and Camp even started to look alike. They must have weighed about 45 pounds together and they sat and they whispered and they looked like two crooked English jockeys fixing a race. And they wore those thin grey suits that look like they’ve been made by a shoemaker for an elf, and they each had the cowlick falling onto their forehead just so, and those skinny ties – but there wasn’t anything little about their singing when they did stuff like Betty and Dupree or Daddy Roll ‘Em or – anyway I am not going to tell you how good the stuff is. Mostly the liner notes you read tell you how good the stuff is before you even hear it and they say “notice the fantastic guitar work on “Tisket a Tasket” or “this rendition of ‘Roll Me Over in the Clover’ will rank as the greatest” etc., etc. That’s all a lot of crap. You can’t explain music. These songs by Gibson, Camp, and Brown will speak for themselves. If you dig it, fine. If you don’t, well, it’s too bad. I happen to dig it but I am not going to start telling you how good it is. I’ll tell you some more about the old Gate of Horn, though. The final night there was really a blast. Everybody was wearing carnations and there were more people high than I would care to mention and it was a full house and that English comedian, Charles whatever his name is, was better than ever which is really saying something because he is even great when he is lousy and Del Close did one of the wildest, funniest bits I have ever seen and closed with a bit that would have got him put in ail for five years if there had been any police around there and I am not going to tell you what it was.
Gibson, Camp and Brown they were up there singing, shouting and playing and stomping and wailing and yelping and barking and dropping raw eggs on the floor and yelling at Ray about the lighting and wearing straw hats and drinking beer and joking with the audience and doing encore after encore and we did a set together on Betty and Dupree and we must have done fifty-five choruses and everybody in the club was screaming and it was great and if the walls had collapsed right then and there it would have been very poetic. But they didn’t.
And finally it broke up and everybody went away wherever the hell they were going. They left their carnations laying around on the floor with the raw eggs and that was the end of the old Gate of Horn and I told myself I would come back the next day and do a painting of it, but I never did. I don’t know what they do with it now. Maybe they filled it up with sand, maybe there is somebody storing canned salmon there, I don’t know – maybe somebody turned it into a rumpus room, but it is gone and if you missed it you missed something.
Ribback has a new Gate of Horn now over on Rush Street and it is very fancy and there are carpets and velvet ropes at the door and everybody wears dark suits and ties and there are two floors with a bar downstairs and a beautiful showroom upstairs and they say the acoustics are great. They have a lot of people to seat you and the waitresses have sort of costumes and they say it is greater and better, more beautiful than ever. They say it is better to work in, better to run and everything and maybe they’re right. But you should have seen the old Gate of Horn.
— SHEL SILVERSTEIN
Hudson Street, New York City
Gibson and Camp’s At the Gate of Horn was one of the most influential folk albums of the early 1960s, striking a chord with many young musicians with its dual harmonies, verve, and irreverent humor… Gibson and Camp helped demonstrate that it was possible to have fun playing folk music, and, not coincidentally, to be popular and sell some records without selling out.
Collector’s Choice Music
at the Gate of Horn Liner Notes
Gibson and Camp’s At the Gate of Horn was one of the most influential folk albums of the early 1960s, striking a chord with many young musicians with its dual harmonies, verve, and irreverent humor. While it might sound tame to some ears forty years later, it should be borne in mind that the early-’60s folk revival often suffered from an overly stiff and serious approach. Gibson and Camp helped demonstrate that it was possible to have fun playing folk music, and, not coincidentally, to be popular and sell some records without selling out.
Bob Gibson was already an established solo singer with more than half a dozen albums to his credit when he hooked up with Bob Camp in the beginning of the 1960s. (Camp would change his name to Hamilton Camp by the time he recorded his debut solo album for Elektra in 1964, and remains known as Hamilton Camp today.) Camp had been spotted in New York by the legendary Albert Grossman, owner of the Gate of Horn, Chicago’s leading folk club. Grossman had branched out into artist management, and asked Camp to come to Chicago to sing with Gibson, one of his clients. Camp was singing in a duo with Jimmy Gavin, who suggested that Camp team up with him when Hamilton was still working as an office boy for the Associated Press. Camp confesses he’d never even heard of Gibson, but as Gavin was wanting to go solo anyway, Hamilton accompanied Grossman to Chicago to check things out.
“Bobby had the twelve-string [guitar], which he played like a bloody pianola,” recalls Camp. “And I brought harmony.” Indeed, as has often been noted elsewhere, Grossman had plans to build a vocal trio around Gibson that included a woman singer. According to Hamilton, “Bobby and I were supposed to be the basis of that. But we kind of cut up rough about being put into a trio with a girl, so he lost interest.” It has also been reported that Grossman had notions of putting Gibson, noted folk singer Carolyn Hester, and Ray Boguslav into the trio. In any case, building a threesome around Gibson didn’t work out, but Grossman applied the idea very successfully to three of his other clients, who formed Peter, Paul & Mary.
Gibson & Camp were a hit together, attracting standing ovations at their home grounds of the Gate of Horn, and also making a splash at the Newport Folk Festival. In April 1961, Elektra recorded some of their live act, complete with joking between-song banter, for At the Gate of Horn over the course of three sets, believes Camp. The eleven songs (thirteen if you count all three components of the “Civil War Trilogy”) were for the most part traditional numbers given new words and musical arrangements by Gibson and Camp. Sometimes these were devised in partnership with each other, sometimes by Gibson alone, and on “First Battalion” by Camp and humorist/songwriter/cartoonist/author Shel Silverstein, who also wrote the liner notes.
At times the alterations to the tunes’ traditional sources could be substantial, as with “Two in the Middle.” “That’s one we adapted, big-time,” observes Camp. “I heard it when I was in the army in North Carolina. It was ‘Yonder Comes a Sucker.’ We kind of took snatches from different tunes and made that song.” “Betty and Dupree,” he notes, was comprised of variations on “Frankie and Johnny.”
Among Camp’s favorites on the album are “Old Blue” (“I loved the way we did that tune, we did it pretty much the traditional way, just new harmonies”), and “Saint Claire’s Defeat,” which they first heard as played by a singer with a banjo prior to expanding it into a different arrangement. “The First Battalion,” says Camp, was the first song Silverstein ever wrote: “I had this tune, and I said, see what you can do. He took the tune and came back the next night. It was written on a paper bag. And I scotch-taped it to the mike and introduced it.”
Then-contemporary satire poked its head into the proceedings with “Thinking Man,” their parody of computers, done to the tune of “John Henry.” More durable was the classic traditional song “Wayfaring Stranger,” done on disc or in concert by numerous folk and non-folk musicians of the 1960s, from Tim Buckley and Dino Valenti to Dusty Springfield and H.P. Lovecraft. Oddly, the album did not include “Well, Well, Well,” which Camp cites as the song that “really knocked ’em out” at their Newport appearance.
The original edition of the LP, adds Camp, contained one song, “Butternut Hill,” missing from all subsequent pressings. “We mentioned one of the local performers, named Francis Fay, in what her brother Marty thought was a derogatory remark. And he sued Elektra. Elektra immediately pulled all the copies, and immediately released it, again, without ‘Butternut Hill.’ She [Fay] was a lounge singer, really great, a fixture; she would play on the other side of town.”
Oddly, considering the popularity of both the duo and the LP, Gibson & Camp never recorded for Elektra again. “We only lasted about a year and a half, two years,” explains Camp. “I had my family, and traveling got old to me. We were kind of unruly guys; we broke up through drugs and strong drink.” Both continued to record and work as solo acts, and indeed Gibson’s 1964 Elektra album Where I’m Bound and Camp’s mid-1960s solo debut Paths of Victory (also on Elektra) have also been reissued by Collectors’ Choice Music. In the mid-1980s, the reunited duo released Live at the Gate of Horn Revisited, which reprised much of the material from their 1961 album. Camp continues to work as a singer and, more frequently, an actor; Gibson, sadly, died in 1996 after more than four decades as a mainstay of the folk scene. [Note: Since this CD was released, Hamilton Camp also passed away, on October 2, 2005.]
Although the kind of folk played by Gibson & Camp in the early 1960s would soon be superseded by folk-rockers and more contemporary singer-songwriters, it made its mark on those very same performers. In the audience during the week Live at the Gate of Horn was recorded was a 19-year-old Roger McGuinn, who three years later would become the leader of the best folk-rock group, the Byrds. Asked to select his desert island disc for MOJO magazine’s “Last Night a Record Changed My Life” feature in June 2000, McGuinn picked At the Gate of Horn, elaborating, “Bob Gibson was great all by himself…When Bob Camp hooked up it was something new. His were almost Beatles harmonies, way ahead of their time…[David] Crosby and Gene Clark [fellow founders of the Byrds] had folk backgrounds and would have known music like this. They were certainly familiar with Bob Gibson and his 12-string. So this was an important sound for us.”
— Richie Unterberger