Glenn Gibson

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Glenn Gibson -- hmm...sounds like a simple, straight-ahead, all-American name, perfect for a roots rocker. There are rock mammals of various stripes with this name, but in terms of longevity in the music…
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Glenn Gibson -- hmm...sounds like a simple, straight-ahead, all-American name, perfect for a roots rocker. There are rock mammals of various stripes with this name, but in terms of longevity in the music business, nothing beats the Glenn Gibson who never existed beyond a name on paper. This Glenn Gibson shows up as the composer of material in styles such as classic blues, jazz, R&B, and doo wop in the late '40s and throughout the '50s. To suggest that the name was larger than life is totally appropriate, since Glenn Gibson represented the publishing interests of more than one person. For awhile, Glenn Gibson was Irene Higginbotham. Around 1954, Glenn Gibson turned into Bertha Knapp (aka Bert Knapp, Phoebe Snow, Rinky Scott Jones, and Adrienne Garblikand).

Could records have been made without the assistance of these non-existent people? Yes, but somebody counting beans wouldn't have been very happy. Students of the music business who wish to learn the importance of publishing and copyright in the scheme of things would do well to study these types of bizarre situations, none of which would ever have happened if songwriting credits were not a potential gravy train. Pianist, bandleader, songwriter, and singer Higginbotham became Gibson in order to place material with both competing performing rights societies, ASCAP and BMI. She was under contract to Joe Davis, whose activities in the music business included management, A&R, running record labels, publishing, and songwriting. For Davis, subterfuge with songwriting credits was simply a way of collecting publishing money without revealing whose pocket it was going to. One obvious advantage would be that funds would thus accumulate in a tidy row of smaller pools rather than an enormous one that might be heavily taxed. A case could also be made that the pseudonyms were an attempt to avoid responsibility for the material. While some of the names, such as Davis' ridiculous E.V. Body, were used to snatch the publishing rights to folk songs, the Gibson name goes hand in hand with material that seems like it was taped together moments before it was recorded, if that. For example, an early-'50s session eventually released under Fred Norman & His Orchestra and the Jump Town Orchestra featured four pieces credited to Gibson that have different titles on the recording logs than on actual releases. "Dance and Be Merry" was even transformed into "The Miseries" in this process, indicating a serious lack of commitment on someone's part; "Rockin' Through Georgia" was also relocated to the "Jersey Turnpike."

Scholars who are unaware that there was no Glenn Gibson might not only imagine an individual who was whimsical about titles, but one obsessed with small, crawling creatures. Gibson, really Higginbotham, is credited with both "Bed Bug Blues," adopted by Bessie Smith as "Mean Old Bed Bug Blues," and "Put a Little Bug in Your Ear." When the previously mentioned Knapp married Davis, she became involved in these publishing maneuvers and the name Gibson shifted over to her bank account, resulting in change of philosophy. Not only is this somewhat reformed Gibson capable of "Feelin' Sentimental," recorded by Dixieland bandleader Lee Castle, among others, the illusionary songwriter had a new civic consciousness. "Let's Keep Our City Clean," written to promote Milwaukee mayor Frank P. Ziedler, has to be the most important song ever attributed to Gibson. It is also the one with the most famous co-writer, Lawrence Welk, who unfortunately really did exist.