Song – Abilene a BMI Million-air Song


by Bob Gibson | I COME FOR TO SING 1957

Abilene/2:19 Blues

by Bob Gibson | FUNKY IN THE COUNTRY 1974



Abilene, Abilene
Prettiest town I’ve ever seen
Women there don’t treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene

I sit alone most every night
Watch those trains roll out of sight
Don’t I wish they were carryin’ me
To Abilene, my Abilene

Abilene, Abilene
Prettiest town I’ve ever seen
Women there don’t treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene

Crowded city, there ain’t nothin’ free
Ain’t nothin’ in this town for me
Wish to God that I could be
In Abilene, my Abilene

Abilene, Abilene
Prettiest town I’ve ever seen
Women there don’t treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene

Words & music by Bob Gibson, Les Brown and John D. Loudermilk



Here’s a story about the song “Abilene.” It was first recorded by Bob Gibson in 1957 on I COME FOR TO SING. There were no writer credits listed although the song description on album cover says, “Little is known about the origins of this song. In any case, the version performed here is a typical example of modern tradition in practice. To the original stanzas have been added several written by various big city writers including Les Brown and others.”


In his autobiography, I COME FOR TO SING, Bob recollects, “One of the earliest songs I ever wrote, which also became my biggest money-making song, was written at the Gate of Horn. Les Brown [co-owner with Albert Grossman of the Gate of Horn) and I were sitting at the bar one afternoon…talking about this movie I’d seen the night before. It was ABILENE, and it starred Randolph Scott. We started singing “Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town I’ve ever scene, people there don’t treat you mean.”


The song was not copyrighted until 1960 when Bob signed the publishing agreement with The Richmond Organization (TRO). TRO is the publishing empire built by Howie Richmond (pictured right) and Al Brachman, both deceased, now administrated by Larry Richmond.


According to Joe Specht, in his book “The Women There Don’t Treat You Mean: ABILENE IN SONG,” John Loudermilk and George Hamilton IV made a promotional stop a radio station in Franklin, Tennessee. They had several hits together including “A Rose and Baby Ruth.” “While there, the disc jockey played Bob Gibson’s “Abilene,” which prompted John Loudermilk to advise George, “If you don’t cut this, I will.” George Hamilton IV recorded “Abilene” in 1963 and the song became a huge hit. It topped Billboard’s Hot Country Singles and reached #15 on the pop chart.


After the song became a hit, Lester Brown, (Albert Grossman’s partner in the Gate of Horn) who had been acting as Bob Gibson’s manager in 1957, pressed a claim. He is quoted in Specht’s book as saying “[He] contacted his publisher, Acuff-Rose, to check on things.” That Brown had a publisher was unusual considering he’d never published a song prior to Abilene. Too bad he wasn’t publishing songs earlier or he might, as music biz whiz in 1957, have gotten Bob a publishing deal when “Abilene” and other original songs were first recorded for Riverside Records.


Lester Brown’s son, Josh, says his dad told the story as follows: “One day while hanging around Washington Square, [he and Bob] ran into an acquaintance who was strumming on a banjo and mumbling some lyrics (either “Abilene, Abilene, prettiest girl I’ve ever seen” or “Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town I’ve ever seen”). My dad pulled Bob aside and told him to learn the chord progression, because he was going to write the rest of the lyrics. They ended up back in their hotel room and with the help of some cheap liquor, he wrote the lyrics to Abilene in the bathtub. He claims it took him ten minutes.” Les Brown went on to write “The Encyclopedia of Television” and once told an interviewer, “Royalties from ‘Abilene’ put my three kids through college.”

Bob’s kids weren’t quite so lucky.


The 1960 copyright lists Bob Gibson as the sole writer of new words, music and arrangement. Then in 1963, John D. Loudermilk also obtained a copyright for Abilene, music, words, arrangement. In 1964, TRO and John Loudermilk’s publisher, Acuff/Rose resolved to credit three writers, Bob Gibson, John D. Loudermilk, and Lester Brown, and Acuff-Rose would retain the publishing. But the Gibson one-third songwriter share is sent to TRO and they keep half. Also, since 1964, half of Bob’s 33.33% writer share of BMI performance income from Abilene is split between him and Albert Stanton.

Wait! Who’s Albert Stanton?


Looking for Albert Stanton lead to the discovery that TRO was named in a big music publishing dispute. The issue was the origin and ownership the song “Mbube,” which became “Wimoweh,” and then “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” TRO was Pete Seeger’s publisher when he adapted the song as “Wimoweh” and recorded it with the Weavers. The song was altered again and became “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” which was a hit for the Tokens.The song went on to earn an estimated $15 million for its use in The Lion King alone. TRO/Folkways was a party to the suit as the publishers of “Wimoweh”. I came upon this information while trying to learn something about Albert Stanton, the mysterious fourth writer of Abilene. It turns out that Albert Stanton, a pseudonym used by TRO, also listed as a co-writer of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” is Albert S. Brackman.


South African journalist, Rian Malan, wrote an article in Rolling Stone recounting the story of Solomon Linda, the Zulu singer who created this immortal song. This led to filmmaker, François Verster, Emmy-winning documentary A Lion’s Trail. In July 2004, as a result of the publicity generated by Malan’s article and the subsequent documentary, the song became the subject of a lawsuit between Linda’s estate and Disney. At the same time, the Richmond Organization began to pay $3,000 annually into Linda’s estate. In February 2006, Linda’s descendants reached a legal settlement with Abilene Music Publishers, who hold the worldwide rights to the song.

Wait! Abilene Music?

Yep. A coincidence. A mighty coincidence!

Photo @ 1982 Bill Hood
At Texas Custom Boots

Abilene, Texas or Abilene, Kansas?

Bob Gibson, being a folksinger in the truest sense, got the greatest satisfaction from Abilene as a fine song for an audience singalong. For many years he admitted to being uncertain about whether the town of Abilene that inspired the song was the town in Texas or the town in Kansas, but then he went to the Kerrville Festival, down in Texas for the first time around 1983. There, when he played the first few chords of Abilene, a couple thousand Texans rose from their seats, stood with their hands on their hearts and sang. That settled it for Bob. Abilene is about the town in Texas!

Click on lead sheet image for printable PDF.