Today marks what would have been country music singer and songwriter Don Gibson’s 91st birthday. Born in Shelby, North Carolina, Don Gibson is truly a country music pioneer and his legacy lives on today in his recordings and through the Don Gibson Theatre, a 400-person concert hall in downtown Shelby that presents acts from around the country. We remember Don Gibson today through a special blog post written by the Don Gibson Theatre, which hosts the 2019 Songwriter Symposium this weekend.
Don Gibson along with a few others changed the sound of Nashville and country music. Even outside of country music circles several of his songs are instantly recognized by fans and musicians across the globe, and across almost five decades of cultural change. Add the fact that Don was one of the most influential forces in the country music industry from the 1950s, 60s and 70s. We are proud to present one of Shelby’s most beloved sons.
Few people around the English-speaking world fail to remember Gibson’s two best-known compositions, Sweet Dreams which became one of Patsy Cline’s most indelible hits, and the Ray Charles classic single I Can’t Stop Loving You. Both were chart-crossing smash hits, both shattered stereotypes, and you can bet serious money that almost anywhere on earth, someone somewhere is singing one of those songs tonight.
And let’s not forget his third unforgettable country classic, Oh, Lonesome Me. Besides its later crossover to rock and rockabilly band playlists, his original recording was a revolutionary single for its day, as Gibson and producer Chet Atkins dropped the traditional fiddle and steel guitar treatment for a new and more aggressive sound featuring multiple guitars, a piano, a drummer, upright bass and background singers. Though it doesn’t sound like a radical move today, it was then, and both are given credit for having helped instigate what became known as the Nashville Sound. Gibson’s recording of Oh, Lonesome Me hit #1 on the national charts and stayed there for eight weeks, an almost unheard-of feat in that era.
Gibson’s own recordings of these songs and over 510 others were enormously accomplished and successful, and he racked up quite a string of hits. He was also a strong draw at the box office on tours across the U.S. and Europe. Today you can go to YouTube and find many vintage television clips of his appearances on every kind of music and variety show imaginable. “I consider myself a songwriter who sings rather than a singer who writes songs,” Gibson once said. That perspective is affirmed by the staggering evidence of his cross-genre appeal and relevance which continues to this very day.
Gibson’s songs have been recorded by such stars as Elvis, Neil Young, Ronnie Milsap, Emmylou Harris, and countless others and the hit, I Can’t Stop Loving You, has today been recorded more than 700 times, and it has been played on the radio over four million times. In all, Gibson continued to receive royalties throughout his life for over 150 of his compositions.
Don Gibson, also known as the Sad Poet, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973, an honor he shares with Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffet and Johnny Cash. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Though Gibson passed away in 2003, he left behind an exceptional body of work — work that without the slightest exaggeration has touched the hearts of millions.
The Don Gibson Theatre opened in 2009 and is slated to host its 300th concert in 2019. Over 250,000 people have visited the theatre to hear John Oats, Vince Gill, and the late Earl Scruggs. The theatre also hosts a summer movie series and an annual singer-songwriter competition. The Don Gibson Theatre was a central venue for the North Carolina Main Street Conference and it regularly hosts special events for the Cleveland County School System.
The theatre is located at 318 S Washington St., Shelby, N.C. https://www.dongibsontheater.com/