Album – OFFBEAT FOLKSONGS
Bob Gibson — and his banjo– singing humorous novelty songs, Calypso tunes he had collected in his travels to Jamaica and the Bahamas, and previously undiscovered gems in the American folk genre. Riverside Records was a jazz label and OFFBEAT FOLKSONGS, one of their first ventures in folk music.
The album was titled OFFBEAT FOLKSONGS not only because the material was quirky but also because Bob was performing regularly at the Off-Beat Room in Chicago. Founded by radio great and Word Jazz musician, Ken Nordine, the Off-Beat Room was the first “listening room” nightclub.
“Andalucian Dance” an original, Flamenco-style banjo instrumental, won Bob a weekly spot the popular Arthur Godfrey Show. “The Horse Named Bill” came from Carl Sandburg’s AMERICAN SONGBAG which decades later inspired Bob to write The Courtship of Carl Sandburg, A Musical Play.
Digital recording not yet available except tracks 7, 10 and 13 which are included on Joy, Joy! The Young and Wonderful Bob Gibson.
This is the first album devoted to the voice (and banjo) of an unusual young performer of folk music. BOB GIBSON is an unusually talented artist: only 24 years old at the time of this recording, he could be called “highly promising” if that were not a rather patronizing term to apply to someone who has already mastered the art of presenting virtually every type of folkmusic….
Kenneth S. Goldstein
This is the first album devoted to the voice (and banjo) of an unusual young performer of folk music. BOB GIBSON is an unusually talented artist: only 24 years old at the time of this recording, he could be called “highly promising” if that were not a rather patronizing term to apply to someone who has already mastered the art of presenting virtually every type of folk music.
Equally unusual is his choice of repertoire, as demonstrated by this LP. These selections are “offbeat” folksongs in a quite literal sense, being for the most part far off the beaten path followed by most current entertainers in the folksong field. To be sure, there is a good deal of value and pleasure left in the numbers that have served as standard folk music fare during the nightclub-concert-and-recording upsurge of the past decade and a half; but there is also a vast wealth of material that has remained virtually ignored. By turning primarily to such material, Bob Gibson has hardly chosen the easiest path; but he would seem to have chosen a highly fascinating and rewarding one.
Gibson is, to begin with, a notable example of the combination of seemingly conflicting qualities that are absolute necessities for the successful folksong performer. He understands and appreciates the native character and integrity of his varied material; he has his own substantial interpretive additions to make; he is a highly skilled instrumentalist; and he is a performer of considerable charm.
Thus he has proved able to retain the vitality, expressiveness and meaning of the folk material he sings. This has aided him in building a steadily-increasing and loyal following in Florida and throughout the Midwest, where he has worked in nightclubs, on radio and TV, and in concerts before school and university audiences. Although he has been a full-fledged professional only since 1954 (when he left a promising career as a junior executive in a New York management-consultant firm), Gibson’s interest in music goes back at least as far as high school days, when he played leads in community theater group performances of Gilbert and Sullivan, and of Kurt Weill’s “Down in the Valley.”
A further “offbeat” aspect of the Gibson approach is the very wide scope of his repertoire. He ranges from the intricacies and subtle nuances of Flamenco dance (as played, uniquely, on banjo rather than guitar) to the hard-driving banjo-picking style of Southern mountaineers; from the tender lyrical beauty of Irish love songs to the rocking rhythms of Calypso. Such selections as The Pig and the Inebriate (which may be familiar to a good many listeners who’ve just never thought of it as a “folksong”) suggests the open-mindedness of Gibson’s song-collecting habits.
He has recognized that a college student can be as valuable a source as a venerable mountaineer! In travel throughout the United States, and in the West Indies, he has collected from traditional singers, other club performers, students—from “folk” in every walk of life. Nor has he been afraid to delve into the numerous book and recordings of folksongs, from which come some of his best material.
As a combination scholar, collector and performer, Bob Gibson has thus been able to recreate—and create— the essence of the best of folkmusic, to the great satisfaction of audiences, reviewers and even the severest of all critics—those people from whom he has learned much of the material he presents.
Kenneth S. Goldstein
NEWS, REVIEWS & NOTES
If Franz Kafka had produced this musical spectacle, he couldn’t have done a better job. In brief, the Modern Jazz room decided to eliminate jazz… and introduce Nordine, who performs an abortive kind of improvisation termed “word jazz.”… By the time singer Bob Gibson is invited to perform, the audience seems to welcome the contrast. Gibson’s lively approach to folk music is pleasing, particularly in this context. [He] is talented and worth hearing.
Heard In Person:
Ken Nordine / Bob Gibson
DOWNBEAT – Oct 31, 1957
If Franz Kafka had produced this musical spectacle, he couldn’t have done a better job. In brief, the Modern Jazz room decided to eliminate jazz, in the form of name groups, and introduce Nordine, who performs an abortive kind of improvisation termed “word jazz.”… He stands before the mike and speaks. He improvises on such subjects as taking a sitting down shower, observing an ant in motion, and getting his Jaguar fixed by a “fixer.” Through Nordine’s intense presentation , Dick Campbell, seated at his piano, bobs appropriately and improvises too… During one of Nordine’s more impassioned moments, Campbell rose
By the time singer Bob Gibson is invited to perform, the audience seems to welcome the contrast. Without going into unnecessary detail, let me say that Gibson’s lively approach to folk music is pleasing, particularly in this context. He indicates a rapidly maturing talent, on stage ease, and competence as a banjo player. Gibson is quite personable… and could contribute to the success of the venture, if success is forthcoming.
Summary: Nordine, tall, dark, and eerie, is an impressive figure on stage. His “word jazz” is less impressive. Gibson is talented and worth hearing.
October 31, 1957