Georgia Gibbs ©JCMarion 2001
The pop singer that became famous throughout the country as Georgia Gibbs was born Freda Gibbons (later Gibbson) in Worcester, Massachusettes, in 1920. As a young girl she immediately took to music and soon began to perform on area radio stations, and weekend appearances in clubs and theaters. At the age of seventeen she was a featured vocalist on "Your Hit Parade" with the orchestras of Al Goodman and Richard Himber. She soon left that show and went on a program called "Melody Puzzles" with Buddy Clark and Harry Salter's band, followed by work on the Tim (Ryan) & Irene (Noblette) Show. At this time Fredda hit the road with various big bands in the early forties - Hudson-Delange, Frankie Trumbauer, Hal Kemp, and Artie Shaw, all of which produced recordings for various labels. None however sold in any great quantities. In late 1942 she changed her name and was now known prefessionally as Georgia Gibbs.
Gibbs returned to radio with another stint on Your Hit Parade, and on The Camel Caravan with Herb Shriner. In 1943 the Caravan brought together the unlikely pairing of variety show radio personality Gary Moore and veteran performer Jimmy Durante. It was an instant success and resurrected the career of Durante and made Moore a national star. Also in on the popularity of the show was the newly renamed Georgia Gibbs, and it was Moore that came up with the tag line "Her nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs". The radioi show left the air in 1947 and Gibbs now began to record on her own. Beginning in late 1946 she made a series of records for the independent Majestic label - "Willow Road" / "You Keep Coming Back Like A Song" (12000), "So Would I" / "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams" (12008), "Necessity" / "How Are Things In Glocca Morra ?" (12009), "Ballin' The Jack" / "As Long As I'm Dreaming" (12010), and "Ol' Man Mose" / "Put Yourself In My Place Baby" (12014). None of these releases were particularly successful and the end of the Majestic label left Gibbs without an outlet for her vocal talents. That situation was soon to change.
In 1949 Gibbs was signed to Decca Records subsidiary label Coral, and soon she had her first real national success as a recording artist. The tune was a cover of Eileen Barton's "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked A Cake" with Max Kaminsky's Dixieland Sextet (60169). This record got to the number five position on the hit parade of best sellers and remained on the charts for three months. Her second charted record for Coral was an interesting cover of the song "Play A Simple Melody" from the Broadway musical "Watch Your Step". It was a hit on the parent label Decca by Bing Crosby and son Gary (identified on the label as by Gary Crosby and Friend). Georgia Gibbs recorded her version with Bob Crosby (brother of Bing, uncle of Gary) and it hit number 25 during the later summer for Coral 60227. The last Coral label recording that hit the pop charts (60353) was released in late 1950, and was called "I Still Feel The Same About You" and Gibbs was backed up by the Owen Bradley Sextet. Right after this record Gibbs was signed to the Mercury label and immediately had a session in the recording studio with the Glen Osser orchestra (which was the backup instrumental group in all of her Mercury sessions). In June of 1951 "Tom's Tune" (5644) made it into the top twenty on the national pop charts, the first of many for Gibbs and Mercury Records.
Shortly after the first Mercury chart hit, "Good Morning Mr. Echo" (5662) followed suit in August of 1951. The next release for Mercury was a top ten seller called "While You Danced, Danced, Danced" (5681) that got to number six in the country. The final chart side for Georgia Gibbs in 1951 was a cover of Johnny Ray's "Cry" (5749) and was a top twenty five charter. In the spring of 1952 Gibbs had her defining moment as a recording artist with a tune that evolved from an Argentine tango called "El Choclo". The song was called "Kiss Of Fire" (5823) and was a sensation that remained on the charts for five months. It was a huge seller of a million and a half and remained at the number one position for seven consecutive weeks. With the massive acceptance of the recording, Gibbs career was set and her 'name' recognition was assured. The followups to this big seller were not nearly as successful. "So Madly In Love" (5874) and "My Favorite Song" (5912) charted for a few weeks and each got into the top twenty sellers.
In the early spring of 1953 Georgia Gibbs hit paydirt big time again with a song with a rhythm & blues feel called "Seven Lonely Days" (70095). This tune had a tremendous 'shelf life' remaining on the pop charts for six months and got as high as the number five position on the best sellers charts. The rest of the year had Gibbs with three minor chart records - "For You For Me" (70172), "The Bridge Of Sighs" and "A Home Lovin' Man" (70238) all of which charted briefly during the rest of the year. In 1954 Gibbs led off with a song from the stage revue "The Copacabana Show Of 1954" . The song was a quasi-calypso tune called "Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell" (70298). In May "My Sin" (70339), and in late September "Wait For Me, Darling" (70386). All of these charted for four weeks and made into the top twenty five best sellers.
In 1955 Georgia had two million sellers during the year but her success was not without a great deal of controversy. The first one was the song "Tweedle Dee' (70517) and was a cover of LaVern Baker's Atlantic R & B original. The sales of the Gibbs cover led Baker to seek a law prohibiting cover records through her congressman, but her move was unsuccessful. A five month stay on the pop charts led to another R & B cover, this time "Dance With Me Henry" a version of Etta James' original "Roll With Me Henry (The Wallflower)" . This was another million seller (70572) and got to the number one slot on the best sellers list. Two more Mercury singles charted during the year, none as earthshaking as the first two. "Sweet And Gentle" (70647) and "I Want You To Be My Baby" (70685) two more covers (of Alan Dale and Lillian Briggs repectively) were both a top fifteen charter.
By 1956 Georgia Gibbs was another pop music victim of the rock 'n roll tidal wave, and the growing listening public's aversion to cover records as the originals were finding a wider audience. That year all of Gibbs releases were minor hits and did not find a great audience among the increasingly younger record buying public. "Rock Right" (70811), "Kiss Me Another" (70850), "Happiness Street" (70980), and another Lavern Baker cover - "Tra La La" (70998). Two years later Gibbs was now on Roulette Records and had her last charted hot, a topical tune called "The Hula Hoop Song" (4106). Three LP albums give a full range of the recording career of Georgia Gibbs. They are "Her Nibs" Rondolette #876 - reissues of Majestic singles, "Her Nibs Georgia Gibbs" Coral #57183, and "Swingin' With Her Nibs" Mercury#20170.
Georgia Gibbs was a vocalist whose popularity spanned the music scene of America from the days of the big bands into the rock 'n roll era. Her greatest popularity came during the Interlude Era when by radio and records she was a major player in the pop music scene and will always be remembered.
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