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Don Gibson

Don GibsonAKA Donald Eugene Gibson

Born: 3-Apr-1928
Birthplace: Shelby, NC
Died: 17-Nov-2003
Location of death: Nashville, TN [1]
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Sunset Cemetery, Shelby, NC

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Country Musician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Heartbroken country crooner

Born into a poor sharecropping family in North Carolina, Don Gibson developed an interest in music during his teens years, the recordings of Django Reinhardt in particular inspiring his exploration on the guitar. While supporting himself through a variety of blue-collar jobs - everything from textile mill work to diaper delivery to jukebox maintenance - Gibson continued to develop his musical skills, performing at local dances until in 1948 his band Sons of the Soil landed a regular spot peforming on the Shelby radio station WOHS. The following year he began recording for the Mercury label, undertaking his first sessions at WBBO in Forest City; by 1950 he had moved to Knoxville, where he made a switch to RCA and became a part of the WNOX broadcasts Tennessee Barn Dance and Midday Merry-Go-Round. But it was in 1955, after brief periods with Columbia and MGM, that Gibson finally established himself as a songwriter - the vocation for which he would be most highly regarded - with the creation of Sweet Dreams. The song resulted in a deal with the influential Acuff-Rose publishing association and became a top ten hit for its author - in later years repeating its success through versions by Faron Young, Emmylou Harris and Patsy Cline.

In 1957 Gibson once again signed with RCA and released a string of popular, Chet Atkins-produced singles. His second time around with the label was given a lively start with the crossover hit Oh Lonesome Me: an accomplishment that was to be repeated 11 times over the next four years through songs such as Blue Blue Day, Sea of Heartbreak, Just One Time, and, most significantly, I Can't Stop Loving You. The latter song became Gibson's best-known work, in time being covered by literally hundereds of performers, amongst whom can be numbered Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, Kitty Wells, Elvis Presley and Count Basie. In 1958 he was invited to become a part of the Grand Ole Opry, and he continued this association until 1964. On the heels of such recognition, however, came problems with substance abuse, and by the mid-1960's the songwriter found himself addicted to alcohol and the pills that had been prescribed to him for weight loss. A retreat back to Shelby was made in 1967, where he met and married Barbara Patterson; with the help of his new wife he managed to overcome his chemical dependencies and return to work before the end of the decade.

After moving on from RCA to sign with Hickory Records in 1969, Gibson made a few more visits to the upper reaches of the country charts, the final entry taking place with 1972's Woman (Sensuous Woman). His membership in the Grand Ole Opry was renewed in 1975, and he continued to produce reasonably well-received material up until 1980, but during the 80s and 90s his activity became primarily restricted to occasional tours and Opry appearances. In November of 2003 he died at the age of 75 of "natural causes" in a Nashville hospital.


[1] Baptist Hospital, Nashville, TN.

Wife: Barbara (Bobbi) Patterson (m. 1969)

    Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
    Country Music Hall of Fame 2001



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