Eddie Gibbs

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A student of the great banjoist and bandleader Elmer Snowden, this artist went back and forth among three different stringed instruments during his career. He started out on banjo, switched to guitar…
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A student of the great banjoist and bandleader Elmer Snowden, this artist went back and forth among three different stringed instruments during his career. He started out on banjo, switched to guitar along with just about every jazz banjoist, later made a move over to the bass and then wound up back on the banjo when the climate for traditional forms of jazz began improving. Born on Christmas Day, Gibbs began performing professionally in the late '20s alongside players such as Wilbur Sweatman, Eubie Blake and Billy Fowler. In 1937 he began playing quite regularly with Edgar Hayes, who took the string man on a European tour the following year.

Gibbs gave the combo of pianist Teddy Wilson only a short trial before joining Eddie South for two years beginning in 1940. This was followed by a lengthy collaboration with pianist Dave Martin as well as stints with Luis Russell and Claude Hopkins. In the latter part of the decade Gibbs was given a chance to bring his own trio into the Village Vanguard club in New York City; he was also in a trio led by Cedric Wallace during this period. His first switch back to banjo occured in the early '50s, when many jazz guitarists were beginning to wonder what rock and roll was all about. Gibbs headed back to his own roots instead, playing with more of a New Orleans jazz feel in the combo of Wilbur De Paris.

This collaboration concluded in the mid '50s and by the end of that decade this player had reinvented himself as a bassist following studies with Ernest Hill, who must have been a good teacher on the instrument considering the fact that his nickname was "Bass". When the '60s came along, a Dixieland fad that went hand-in-hand with fancy hi-fi equipment did not go unnoticed by Gibbs. He hauled his banjo case back out, appeared triumphantly at the 1965 New York World's Fair and in the late '60s was part of a group called The Happy Family in which he was featured on both banjo and bass. Since the '70s he has been retired.