George R. Gibson
George Gibson was born in Knott County Kentucky on Little
Carr Creek, which is near the headwaters of the Kentucky, Big
Sandy, and Cumberland River systems. His parents, Mal and
Letitia Hammons Gibson, had a grocery store and mill on Burgeys
Creek at the confluence of Big Doubles, Little Doubles and
Buffalo Creeks. It was from his father and a few neighbors
that he learned an older east Kentucky style of banjo. This
style features different tunings, singing with the banjo and
the use of the left hand to add fill notes. George’s grandfather,
George W. Gibson, was playing banjo in Knott County by the
1890s. A relative, Dan Gibson, was an original source, ca.
1915, for the banjo songs Ellen Smith, Groundhog and Rocky
Island collected by Dr. Josiah H. Combs for Folk Songs
of the Southern United States, published in 1925.
George left Knott County in the 1960s but continued playing
the banjo as a way of holding on to his past. He was very conscious
that the banjo music and old songs of Burgeys Creek were disappearing.
George now lives in Florida. He collects banjos and is a serious
banjo scholar. His published articles include The Banjo
in Appalachia and Gourd Banjos: From Africa to the Appalachians.
In addition to being our Guest of Honor in 1994, George has
performed impromptu showcases at FOTMC on several other occasions.
Possum up the Tree