Bob Gibson Live at Cornell 1957


The mid nineteen fifties were a turning point in popular folk music. Following the blacklisting of The Weavers, folk music and folk musicians were largely shunned for the next several years, but thrived in New York’s Greenwich Village and Washington Square and, to a lesser degree, in San Francisco’s North Beach district. Also on college campuses, at least at the leading liberal arts colleges where folk music had a substantial following among the more intellectual and artistically inclined students.

Among the folk artists on the college circuit was Bob Gibson, who met Pete Seeger in 1953 and was inspired by him to learn to play the 5-string banjo and become a folk singer. A native New Yorker, Bob began to hang out in Washington Square and soon developed a strong interest in traditional music and began playing in bars, coffee houses and small clubs that booked folk singers. Before long he was also playing the “folk music club” college circuit and recorded a couple of albums, the first of which to be released (but the second to be recorded) was Offbeat Folksongson the Riverside label in 1956.

Nineteen fifty-six became a landmark year for folk music. Terry Gilkyson & The Easy Riders had a top hit of “Marianne,” and The Tarriers hit the charts with “The Banana Boat Song,” an amalgam of two Caribbean work songs, both of which they learned from Bob Gibson, who heard them in Jamaica. Folk music was again receiving airplay on commercial AM radio stations.

On January 24-25, 1957 Bob recorded his second album, I Come For To Sing, for Riverside, following which he played a number of college dates including Oberlin College, in Oberlin, Ohio on February 9th and Cornell University in Ithaca, New York on February 10th. From there he returned to New York City where, on February 11th he played the Carnegie Recital Hall where his third album for Riverside, Carnegie Concert was recorded. Released later in 1957, it was a bittersweet release for his growing number of fans; sweet since it was a recording of Bob in concert, but bitter in that it was only about 35 minutes long and contained only 14 songs from a concert that was probably twice that long with many more songs. But such were the limitations of the 12-inch LP record that could only hold 15-18 minutes per side. Eliminated by the constraints of time were songs not previously recorded by Bob as well as songs included on his earlier studio albums. Save for two songs, “Alberta” and “Good News,” which were not performed at Cornell, everything is included on this recording.

Allan Shaw, March 2011

Allan and I agreed it should be released in its entirety, warts and all, just as it happened in 1957, without editing out pauses for tuning, etc. What was initially so astonishing to me was how damn few warts there were, and how seamlessly Bob segued from one song to another, while engaging the audience with salient introductions and commentary throughout. Since I wasn’t privileged to have been there that evening in 1957, listening to this recording of the event is the next best thing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

James Durst, March 2011

Disc One

Disc Two