Georgia Gibbs

Georgia Gibbs
Background information
Birth name Frieda Lipschitz
Born (1919-08-17)August 17, 1919
Origin Worcester, Massachusetts, United States
Died December 9, 2006(2006-12-09) (aged 87)
New York City, New York, United States
Years active 1936–1966
Associated acts Ellis Larkins

Georgia Gibbs (August 17, 1919[1] – 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.

Early life

Gibbs was born Frieda Lipschitz,[1] in Worcester, Massachusetts, the youngest of four children of Russian Jewish descent.[2] 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.[3]

Revealing a natural talent for singing at a young age, Frieda was given the lead in the orphanage's yearly variety show. When her mother, who had visited her every other month, found employment as a midwife, she came back for Frieda, but her job often forced her to leave her daughter for weeks at a time with only a Philco radio for company.


While still in Worcester at age 13, Frieda auditioned for a job at the Plymouth, one of the prime vaudeville houses in Boston. The Plymouth's manager had already heard her sing on the local Worcester radio station, and Gibbs was hired and moved to Boston,[4] eventually landing at the Raymor Ballroom. She joined the Hudson-DeLange Orchestra in 1936 (age 17), and toured with them for 10 months as Fredda Gibson.[5] "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 her first time on disk was with Trumbauer's orchestra: The Laziest Gal in Town on Brunswick Records,[6] 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.[7]

In 1943, with her 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] "Kiss of Fire" was adapted from the Argentinian tango El Choclo and the lyrics, arrangement and delivery communicate passion on a Wagnerian scale.

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[6] going on to chart with over 40 songs before retirement from singing, and was briefly successful doing rock 'n' roll songs as well. Her Mercury record "Silent Lips" was a big hit in Sweden (September 1958-March 1959) peaking at number 5 in the best selling charts, and there were even several Swedish cover versions of that song, "Ingenting" by among others Towa Carson, Lill-Babs and Britt Rylander. Also "The Hula Hoop Song" did well in Sweden (Februari-March 1959) peaking at number 12. 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", the record entered the pop charts on March 26, 1955, setting off a dubious trend known as "whitewashing"), and of LaVern Baker's "Tweedle Dee" (which outsold Baker's version, prompting complaint from 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. A widely told story has LaVern Baker taking out a life insurance policy on herself in advance of a flight to Australia and naming Georgia Gibbs as the beneficiary. "You need this more than I do," Baker is said to have written to Gibbs, "because if anything happens to me, you're out of business."

Personal life

In the late 1950s she married 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 12 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,[11] Jody (Babydoll) Gibson,[12] and Jody's sister Amy. Gibbs' last interview, conducted by Greg Adams, was subsequently published online.[13]


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 ... by the time I was through listening ... I had a healthy new respect for Georgia, and a sense of indignation over her neglect by critics."


Year Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Chart positions Album
1947 "You Do"
b/w "Feudin' and Fightin'"
Non-album tracks
1950 "If I Knew You Were Comin' (I'd've Baked A Cake)"
b/w "Stay With The Happy People" (Non-album track)
5 Her Nibs, Georgia Gibbs
"Simple Melody"
b/w "A Little Bit Independent"
Both tracks with Bob Crosby
25 Non-album tracks
"Cherry Stones"
b/w "Dream A Little Dream Of Me"
Both sides with Bob Crosby
"Red Hot Mama"
b/w "Razz-A-Ma-Tazz"
Her Nibs, Georgia Gibbs
1951 "I Still Feel The Same About You"
b/w "Get Out Those Old Records"
"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White"
b/w "Get Him Off My Hands"
Non-album tracks
"Tom's Tune"
b/w "I Wish, I Wish"
"Good Morning, Mr. Echo"
b/w "Be Doggone Sure You Call"
"While You Danced, Danced, Danced"
b/w "While We're Young"
b/w "My Old Flame"
1952 "Kiss of Fire"
b/w "A Lasting Thing"
"So Madly In Love"
b/w "Make Me Love You"
21 22
"Sinner Or Saint" / 28
"My Favorite Song" 22 12
"A Moth and A Flame"
b/w "The Photograph On The Piano"
1953 "What Does It Mean To Be Lonely"
b/w "Winter's Here Again"
"Seven Lonely Days"
b/w "If You Take My Heart Away"
5 9 Song Favorites Of Georgia Gibbs
"For Me, For You" / 21 Non-album tracks
"Thunder and Lightning" 20
"Say It Isn't So"
b/w "He's Funny That Way"
Music and Memories
"The Bridge Of Sighs" / 30 Non-album tracks
"A Home Lovin' Man" 30
"Under Paris Skies"
b/w "I Love Paris"
1954 "Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell"
b/w "Baubles, Bangles and Beads"
18 15
"My Sin"
b/w "I'll Always Be Happy With You" (Non-album tracks)
21 27 Song Favorites Of Georgia Gibbs
"Wait For Me, Darling"
b/w "Whistle and I'll Dance"
24 32 Non-album tracks
"The Man That Got Away"
b/w "More Than Ever" (Non-album track)
Music and Memories
"Mambo Baby"
b/w "Love Me" (Non-album track)
41 Song Favorites Of Georgia Gibbs
1955 "Tweedle Dee"
b/w "You're Wrong, All Wrong" (Non-album track)
2 3 20
"Dance With Me Henry (Wallflower)"
Original B-side: "Ballin' The Jack"
Later B-side: "Every Road Must Have A Turning"
1 3
"Sweet and Gentle" / 12 8
"Blueberries" 45
"I Want You To Be My Baby"
b/w "Come Rain Or Come Shine" (Non-album track)
14 13
"Goodbye To Rome (Arrivederci Roma)" / 51 44 Non-album tracks
"24 Hours a Day (364 A Year)" 74 36
1956 "Rock Right"
b/w "The Greatest Thing"
36 37
"Kiss Me Another"
b/w "Fool Of The Year"
30 27 24
"Happiness Street"
b/w "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe" (from Swinging With Her Nibs
20 30
"Tra La La"
b/w "Morning, Noon and Night"
24 36
1957 "Silent Lips"
b/w "Pretty Pretty"
68 50
"The Sheik Of Araby"
b/w "I Am A Heart, A Heart, A Heart"
"I'm Walking The Floor Over You"
b/w "Sugar Candy"
"Fun Lovin' Baby"
b/w "I Never Had The Blues"
"I Miss You"
b/w "Great Balls Of Fire"
1958 "Way Way Down"
b/w "You're Doin' It"
"Hello Happiness, Goodbye Blues"
b/w "It's My Pleasure"
"The Hula Hoop Song"
b/w "Keep In Touch"
32 37
1959 "The Hucklebuck"
b/w "Better Loved You'll Never Be"
b/w "Hamburgers, Frankfurters and Potato Chips"
1960 "Seven Lonely Days"
b/w "The Stroll That Stole My Heart"
"So In Love"
b/w "Loch Lomond"
Georgia Gibbs
1963 "Candy Kisses"
b/w "I Will Follow You"
Georgia Gibbs' Greatest Hits
"Tater Poon"
b/w "Nine Girls Out Of Ten Girls"
Non-album tracks
1964 "You Can Never Get Away From Me"
b/w "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way"
Call Me Georgia Gibbs
1965 "Let Me Cry On Your Shoulder"
Original B-side: "You Can Never Get Away From Me"
Later B-side: "Venice Blue (Que C'est Triste Venise)"
132 87
"Call Me"
b/w "Don't Cry Joe"
1966 "Let Me Dream"
b/w "In Time"
"Kiss Of Fire"
b/w "Blue Grass"
1967 "Where's The Music Coming From"
b/w "Time Will Tell"
Non-album tracks

Selected records

TV appearances

Georgia Gibbs is parodied in Lenny Bruce's comic routine "The Palladium".


  1. 1 2 Miller, Stephen (2006-12-12). "Georgia Gibbs, 87, Bubbly Singer in 1940s and 1950s". p. 2. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  2. Bernstein, Adam (2006-12-12). "Singer Georgia Gibbs, 87; Performed With Big Bands and on Radio Shows". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-12-12.
  3. "Jazz Connection Magazine". Retrieved 2012-03-26.
  4. Coral Records CRL 57183 Her Nibs Georgia Gibbs liner notes
  5. Simitar Entertainment 56052 Like a Song 1998 CD Compilation liner notes
  6. 1 2 Billboard, 13 April 1957, p.42
  7. Billboard - Google Books. 1942-02-21. p. 65. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
  8. "The Grammarphobia Blog: Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs". 2006-12-14. Retrieved 2014-05-23.
  9. From the Shoulder, Time, July 28, 1952
  10. Billboard - Google Books. 1952-05-31. p. 26. Retrieved 2015-08-17.
  11. "Georgia Gibbs, 87; top pop singer and star of 'Hit Parade'". Los Angeles Times. December 12, 2006.
  12. Los Angeles Magazine Oct. 1999 p. 138
  13. Adams, Greg. "Excerpts from Greg Adams' Final Interview with Georgia Gibbs on July 28, 2006". Eric Records. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  14. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 523. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.


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