born on 17/8/1919 in Worchester, MA, United States
died on 9/12/2006 in New York City, NY, United States
Georgia Gibbs (August 17, 1919 December 9, 2006) was an American popular singer and vocal entertainer rooted in jazz. Already singing publicly in her early teens, Gibbs first achieved acclaim (and notoriety) in the mid-1950s interpreting songs originating with the black rhythm and blues community and later as a featured vocalist on a long list of radio and television variety and comedy programs. Her key attribute was tremendous versatility and an uncommon stylistic range from melancholy ballad to uptempo swinging jazz and rock and roll.
Gibbs was born Frieda Lipschitz, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the youngest of four children of Russian Jewish descent. Her father died when she was six months old, and she and her three siblings spent the next seven years in a local Jewish orphanage.
Revealing a natural talent for singing at a young age, she was given the lead in the orphanage's yearly variety show. She reunited with her mother (who had visited her once every other month) when the latter found employment as a midwife. Her mother's job, however, often forced her to leave her daughter alone for weeks at a time with only a Philco radio for company.
While still in Worcester and at the age of thirteen, she auditioned for a job at the Plymouth, one of the prime vaudeville houses in Boston. The manager of the Plymouth had already heard her sing on the local Worcester radio station, and Gibbs was hired and moved to Boston, eventually landing at the Raymor Ballroom. She joined the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra in 1936 (age 17), and toured with them for 10 months, under the name of Fredda Gibson. "You don't really know loneliness unless you do a year or two with a one-night band.", Gibbs said of her life on the big band circuit, "Sing until about 2 a.m. Get in a bus and drive 400 miles. Stop in the night for the greasy hamburger. Arrive in a town. Try to sleep. Get up and eat." (Worcester Telegram & Gazette, May 12, 1994.)
She found steady work on radio shows including Your Hit Parade, Melody Puzzles and The Tim And Irene Show and freelanced in the late 1930s and early 1940s singing with the bands of Tommy Dorsey, Hal Kemp, Artie Shaw and Frankie Trumbauer. While a Billboard article reports that it was with Trumbauer's orchestra that she appeared first time on disk with The Loneliest Gal in Town on Brunswick Records, liner notes from the 1998 Simitar compilation report her appearance on some of DeLange's recordings on Brunswick and, a recording exists with Hal Kemp from 1939. She first charted with Shaw's band in 1942 on Absent Minded Moon (Victor 27779) which received a lukewarm review at the time.
In 1943, name changed to Georgia Gibbs, she began appearing on the Camel Caravan radio program, hosted by Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore, where she remained a regular performer until 1947. It was Moore who bestowed upon her the famous nickname "Her Nibs,Miss Georgia Gibbs," ironically using the title to describe the singer of diminutive stature who had an enormous "authoritative" prominence in American pop music.
Gibbs signed with Majestic Records in 1946 cutting multiple records, but her first solo hit single, "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake" (on the Coral label) did not come until 1950. During this period she also was the featured vocalist on tours with comedians Danny Kaye and Sid Caesar. Success as a singer outside of radio and variety shows continued to elude her, as noted in a 1952 Time article:
"Georgia", they kept telling her, "you gotta get a sound." Musical soothsayers were trying to get Songstress Georgia Gibbs into line with the latest fashion. Perhaps, they thought, she should sing mechanized duets with herself (like Patti Page), or she might try an echo chamber background (like Peggy Lee). But gimmicks were not Georgia Gibbs's cup of tea. She had a big, old-fashioned voice, a good ear, a vivacious personality, and she knew how to sing from the shoulder. She would stick with plain Georgia Gibbs.
Through 1949 and 1950 she appeared on TV shows Cavalcade of Stars and All Star Revue. In 1951 she signed with Mercury Records where she ultimately had success "sticking with plain Georgia Gibbs". Possessed of a versatile voice, she cut a long list of well-received records in every category from torch songs to rock-and-roll, to jazz, swing, old fashioned ballads and cha-chas. The most successful,1952's Kiss Of Fire, which she performed on the Milton Berle Show in that spring, reached #1 on the pop music charts. Kiss of Fire was adapted from the Argentinian tango El Choclo and the lyrics, arrangement and delivery communicate passion on a Wagnerian scale. It immediately became one of the defining songs of the era.
Sultry and throbbing, with a touch of vibrato, Georgia Gibbs' voice is best showcased on romantic ballads and torch songs like Melancholy Baby, I'll Be Seeing You, Autumn Leaves and You Keep Coming Back Like A Song. Yet she could be equally thrilling belting out steaming jazz numbers like Red Hot Mama, A-Razz-A-Ma-Tazz; jiving with tunes like Ol Man Mose, Shoo Shoo Baby; or rocking out with I Want You To Be My Baby. Her Swingin' With Her Nibs album (1956) demonstrated her natural affinity for improvisation as well.
In 1957, Gibbs signed with RCA Victor going on to chart with over 40 songs before retirement from singing, and was briefly successful doing rock 'n' roll songs as well. She continued to appear on many television shows including The Ed Sullivan Show, and hosted one of her own, Georgia Gibbs And Her Million Record Show. She cut her final album Call Me, in 1966 and rarely performed after that.
Some notoriety followed Gibbs for her cover versions of music popularized by black performers such as Etta James' The Wallflower (recorded by Gibbs with modified lyrics under the title Dance With Me Henry) and of LaVern Baker's Tweedle Dee (which outsold Baker's version, prompting complaint from Ms. Baker) and for her novelty number The Hula Hoop Song, which was her last hit, in 1958. Decades later Gibbs commented that she, like most artists of the day, had no say in their choice of material and arrangements.
In the late 1950s she married respected foreign correspondent and author Frank Gervasi, biographer of Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and whose books include To Whom Palestine?, The Case for Israel, The Real Rockefeller and The Violent Decade. They had first met in Paris in the 1930s, but lost touch with one another for twelve years. The marriage lasted until his death in 1990; they had one child who predeceased Georgia.
Georgia Gibbs died of leukemia on December 9, 2006, aged 87, at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Survivors included grandson Sacha Gervasi (from her husband's previous marriage), her brother Robert Gibson and nieces Patty Turk, Jody (Babydol) Gibson. and Jody's sister Amy. Gibbs' last interview, conducted by Greg Adams, was subsequently published online.
Interest in Gibbs' work has enjoyed a revival with the re-issue on CD of long unavailable material. In her recent book, Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair With 50s Pop Music, Newsweek music critic Karen Schoemer wrote: "What really turned me around, though, were her R&B covers ... Georgia was the rare fifties canary with a genuine flair for rock and roll ... [b]y the time I was through listening ... I had a healthy new respect for Georgia, and a sense of indignation over her neglect by critics."
The New Yorker magazine [Dec 24,31 2012] ran a small, painful piece by Tad Friend which mentions her rape by an agent at the Gotham Hotel. He then blackballed her from his show.
|1950||"If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked a Cake)"||5||-|
|"Play a Simple Melody"||25||-|
|1951||"I Still Feel the Same About You"||18||-|
|"Good Morning, Mr. Echo"||21||-|
|"While You Danced, Danced, Danced"||6||-|
|1952||"Kiss of Fire"||1||-|
|"So Madly In Love"||21||-|
|"My Favorite Song"||22||-|
|1953||"Seven Lonely Days"||5||-|
|"For Me, For Me"||21||-|
|"The Bridge of Sighs"||30||-|
|"A Home Lovin' Man"||30||-|
|1954||"Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell"||18||-|
|"Wait For Me, Darling"||24||-|
|1955||"Tweedle Dee" #||2||-|
|"Dance With Me Henry (Wallflower)"||1||-|
|"Sweet and Gentle"||12||-|
|"I Want You To Be My Baby"||14||-|
|"Goodbye to Rome (Arrivederci Roma)"||51||-|
|"24 Hours a Day (364 a Year)"||74||-|
|"Kiss Me Another" #||30||-|
|"Tra La La"||24||-|
|"I'm Walking the Floor Over You"||92||-|
|1958||"The Hula Hoop Song"||32||-|
|1965||"Let Me Cry On Your Shoulder"||132||-|
|1966||"Let Me Dream"||-||37|
# "Tweedle Dee" charted at #20 in the UK Singles Chart; "Kiss Me Another" at #25 UK
- 1939: If It's Good (Then I Want It), (with Hal Kemp and his Orch.)
- 1940: The Laziest Gal In Town (as "Fredda Gibson"), (with Frankie Traumbauer and his Orch.)
- 1942: Absent Minded Moon (with Artie Shaw's Orch.)
- 1944: Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet (V Disc with Tommy Dorsey's Orch.)
- 1946: Feudin' And Fightin', Ballin' The Jack (Majestic), Is It Worth It?, (Orch. directed by Earle Hagen), Ol' Man Mose, Put Yourself In My Place Baby, Willow Road, You Keep Coming Back Like A Song
- 1947: Fool That I Am, How Are Things In Glocca Morra?, I Feel So Smootchie, Necessity, You Do (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser)
- 1948: The One I Love Belongs To Somebody Else, The Things We Did Last Summer, Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams
- 1950: A-Razz-A-Ma-Tazz, Ballin' The Jack (Coral), Cherry Stones (with Bob Crosby and The Mellomen, Orch. dir. by George Cates), Dream A Little Dream Of Me (with Bob Crosby and The Mellomen, Orch. dir. by George Cates), Get Out Those Old Records (with the Owen Bradley Sextet), I Don't Care If The Sun Don't Shine, I Was Dancing With Someone, I'll Get Myself A Choo Choo Train, I'll Know, A Little Bit Independent (with Bob Crosby), Looks Like A Cold Cold Winter, Red Hot Mama, Simple Melody (with Bob Crosby), Stay With The Happy People, Then I'll Be Happy
- 1951: Be Doggone Sure You Call, Be My Life's Companion (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White, Cry, Good Morning Mister Echo, Got Him Off My Hands, I Still Feel The Same About You, I Wish I Wish (with Glenn Osser and his Orch.), My Old Flame, The Oklahoma Polka (Orch. and Chorus directed by Glenn Osser), Once Upon A Nickel, Shoo Shoo Baby, Tom's Tune, What Does It Mean (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), (Ooh-oo, Ooh-oo, Ooh-oo) What You Do To Me (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), While We Danced, While We're Young, While You Danced Danced Danced
- 1952: Kiss Of Fire, A Lasting Thing, Make me Love You, A Moth And A Flame, My Favorite Song, The Photograph On The Piano, Sinner Or Saint, So Madly In Love, Winter's Here Again (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser)
- 1953: Autumn Leaves, The Bridge Of Sighs, For Me For Me, He's Funny That Way, Home Lovin' Man, How Long Has This Been Going On, I Love Paris, If I Had You, If You Take My Heart Away (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), I'll Always Be In Love With You, It Had To Be You, My Blue Heaven, Regret If You Can, Say It Isn't So, Seven Lonely Days, Somebody Loves Me, That's All, Thunder And Lightning (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), What Does It Mean To Be Lonely
- 1954: After You've Gone, All Alone, Baby Won't You Please Come Home?, Baubles Bangles and Beads, Every Road Must Have A Turning (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), How Did He Look, I'll Always Be Happy With You (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), I'll Be Seeing You (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), It's The Talk Of The Town, Love Me (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), Mambo Baby, The Man That Got Away, Melancholy Baby, More Than Ever (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), My Sin, Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell, Tweedle Dee, Wait For Me Darling, What'll I Do, Whistle And I'll Dance, You're Wrong, All Wrong
- 1955: Blueberries (with Hugo Peretti and his Orch.), Come Rain or Come Shine, Dance With Me Henry, Goodbye To Rome (Arrivederci Roma), I Want You to Be My Baby, Kiss Me Another, Sweet And Gentle, 24 Hours A Day
- 1956: Comes Love, 'Deed I Do, Fool Of The Year (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), The Greatest Thing (with Hugo Peretti and his Orch.), Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe, Happiness Street, I Get A Kick Out Of You, I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good), Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love), Lonesome Road, Morning Noon And Night (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), On The Sunny Side Of The Street, One For My Baby, The One I Love (Belongs To Somebody Else), Pretty Pretty (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), Rock Right, Silent Lips (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), Tra La La (Orch. directed by Glenn Osser), Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams (And Dream Your Troubles Away), You've Got To See Mama Ev'ry Night
- 1957: Fun Lovin' Baby, Great Balls of Fire, Hello Happiness Goodbye Blues, I Am A Heart A Heart A Heart, I Never Had The Blues, I'll Miss You, I'm Walking The Floor Over You (with Joe Reisman and his Orch. and Chorus), It's My Pleasure, The Sheik of Araby, Sugar Candy (with Joe Reisman and his Orch. and Chorus)
- 1958: The Hula Hoop Song, Keep In Touch, Way Way Down, You're Doin' it
- 1959: Better Loved You'll Never Be, Hamburgers Frankfurters And Potato Chips, Pretend, The Hucklebuck
- 1960: Do It Again, Fin Jan, Hush-A-Bye, In Other Words, Last Night When We Were Young, Loch Lomond, So In Love, Something's Gotta Give, Stay Here With Me, Tammy, Willow Tit Willow
- 1963: Arrivederci Roma (Epic), Ballin' The Jack (on the Epic label), Baubles Bangles And Beads (Epic), Candy Kisses, Dance With Me Henry (Epic), How About Me, I Will Follow You, Kansas City, Kiss Of Fire (Epic), Nine Girls Out Of Ten Girls, Nobody's Asking Questions, Sugar Puff, Tater Poon, Tweedle Dee (Epic), When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You)
- 1965: Don't Cry Joe, I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way, In Time, Let Me Dream, You Can Never Get Away From Me
- 1966: Blue Grass, Call Me, Kiss Of Fire '66, Let Me Cry On Your Shoulder, Mon Coeur A Tant De Peine Laisse-Moi Pleurer, Northern Soul, Venice Blue
- Guest - December 18, 1957 (1957)
The Big Record
- Herself - Patti Page (Host); Johnnie Ray; Errol Garner (1957)
The Cavalcade of Stars
- Herself - Jackie Gleason; Art Carney (1951)*Frankie Laine Time - Guest - Jack E. Leonard; Jerry Vale (1956)
- 'The Ed Sullivan Show'
- scheduled guest - The Sparkletones; Mills Brothers; Sammy Kaye (1957)
- Herself - Gene Vincent & the Blue Caps; Carol Burnett (1957)
- Herself - Everly Brothers; Sal Mineo; Teresa Brewer (1958)
- scheduled guest - scheduled: Johnnie Ray; Jane Morgan; Ice Capades (1958)
- scheduled guest - scheduled: Charlton Heston; Eartha Kitt (1959)
- Herself - Fabian Forte; John Wayne (on tape) (1959)
- Herself - Carol Channing; Wayne & Shuster (1959)
- scheduled guest - scheduled: Suzanne Pleshette; Tom Poston (1959)
- scheduled guest - scheduled: Red Buttons; Rowan & Martin (1960)
- scheduled guest - Oscar Hammerstein tribute: Della Reese; Jill Corey (1960)
The Ed Wynn Show
- Herself - Ed Wynn; Buster Keaton; The Keystone Kops (1950)
Four Star Revue
- Herself - Ed Wynn; Eddie Cantor; Jack Carson; Jack Gilford; Bob Sweeney; Hal March; Spike Jones Orchestra (1951)
The Garry Moore Show
- Guest - December 2, 1958
- The Shower of Stars
- The Steve Allen Show - guest star - Fats Domino; Steve Lawrence; Smith and Dale (1956)
- Toast of the Town
- 1.0 1.1 Miller, Stephen, Georgia Gibbs, 87, Bubbly Singer in 1940s and 1950s, 2006-12-12, p. 2. URL accessed on 2006-12-12.
- Bernstein, Adam, Singer Georgia Gibbs, 87; Performed With Big Bands and on Radio Shows, The Washington Post, 2006-12-12. URL accessed on 2006-12-12.
- Jazz Connection Magazine. Jazzconnectionmag.com. Retrieved on 2012-03-26.
- Coral Records CRL 57183 Her Nibs Georgia Gibbs liner notes
- Simitar Entertainment 56052 Like a Song 1998 CD Compilation liner notes
- Billboard 13 Apr 1957 p. 42
- Billboard 21 Feb 1942 p. 65
- From the Shoulder, Time, July 28, 1952
- Billboard May 31, 1952  see page 26
- Billboard 13 Apr 1957 p.42
- Georgia Gibbs, 87; top pop singer and star of 'Hit Parade', Los Angeles Times, December 12, 2006.
- Los Angeles Magazine Oct. 1999 p. 138
- Adams, Greg. Excerpts from Greg Adams' Final Interview with Georgia Gibbs on July 28, 2006. Eric Records. Retrieved on March 18, 2012.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums, 19th, London: Guinness World Records Limited.
In popular culture
Georgia Gibbs is parodied in Lenny Bruce's comic routine, The Palladium
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Georgia Gibbs
- Time, "From The Shoulder", July 28, 1952.
- Top 50 Era-Defining Songs of the 1950s list
- Review, So Hot It Sizzles!, Michael Pendragon, 2/14/2004.
- Great Pretenders: My Strange Love Affair with 50s Pop Music, Karen Schoemer, Free Press, 2006