Clifford Gibson 1929 – 1931
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Cllifford Gibson’s oeuvre had been committed to wax by 1929, his first year of recording, with eight sides for QRS around June and another twelve sides for Victor in November and December of that year. Called back in 1931 to his hometown of Louisville mainly as an accompanist to Roosevelt Sykes and R. T. Hanen (probably J. D. Short) and, surprisingly, on one take as an accompanist to the white hillbilly Singer Jimmie Rodgers and that was it – almost.St. Louis’s country blues men and women all appeared on record about the same time – Henry Spaulding, Mary Johnson, Alice Moore, Lawrence Casey, Henry Brown, Sylvester Palmer and Roosevelt Sykes all made their debut in 1929 while Walter Davis, Peetie Wheatstraw and Charley Jordan were only just behind them as recruits to the city’s burgeoning blues activity. Arkansas and Mississippi supplied most of St. Louis’s blues performers and Clifford Gibson from Kentucky was an oddity. An extremely accomplished guitarist Gibson showed the influence of Lonnie Johnson (Bad Luck Dice, and Levee Camp Moan for example) in much of his guitar work but brought his own talent for original lyrics. His songs show the usual preoccupation with mistreatment by women and his only other major theme was gambling to which he constantly refers in song (Bad Luck Dice of course, Hard Headed Blues and Levee Camp Moan). He can surprise with his lyrics such as “When I was society” and with attitude too. Beat You Doing It (presumably the same song Edith Johnson recorded soon after for Paramount) which suggests to the listener a boatful, probably sexual blues, is in fact quite the reverse: a thoughtful word of warning to “Don’t never think your woman thinks too much of you, there’s always some good man beat you doing what you trying to do.” She Rolls It Slow is the only overt sexual blues he recorded and stylistically and possibly thematically owes a lot to Lonnie Johnson’s success with such material. It was a change from his usual limited range of tunes from which melodically only Tired Of Being Mistreated stands out. It’s no surprise that it’s the only song by which he is remembered today through Henry Townsend who absorbed some of his style. There is little to gauge Gibson’s popularity at the time but his memory is assured by his meticulous guitar picking and original lyrics while his musical eminence on St. Louis’ blues scene was never in doubt.
NOTE: Clifford Gibson’s 1960 recordings, made under the name of “Granpappy” Gibson for the Bobbin label can be found on Document DOCD-5619 ‘Rural Blues Vol 2 (1951-1962)’.