Harry Gibson, The Hipster
Harry started playing piano as a child in the Bronx, New York City, and in the 1920's was playing in Dixieland jazz bands in the South Bronx and Harlem. During prohibition he already knew most of the songs of his favorite jazz pianists, and was invited into black speakeasies in Harlem as a teenager to play piano. After repeal, in 1933, he was regularly playing in Harlem nightclubs. He played tunes by the great stride pianists of the day, but his favorite was Fats Waller. He was basically a Fats Waller jukebox in his early days. Word got around Harlem that there was a skinny blond-haired Jewish kid playing Fats Waller songs, and playing them note for note, in all the clubs. Word got back to the man himself who, in 1939, came into the club, pretended to be a customer, to watch the kid play, requesting his own songs and sticking fat $5 bills in the kitty after each one. After Harry proved what he could do, Waller finally introduced himself, and hired him on the spot as his intermission pianist on Swing Street, (52nd St between 5th and 7th Ave, which was the Mecca of jazz at the time).
. Billed as Harry Raab before then, on Swing Street he took his show-biz name "Gibson" off a gin bottle. But Harry Gibson still needed a nickname. At the time, jazz musicians stopped using the words "hep" and "hepcat" (too many squares were using those words) and started saying "hip" instead. So Gibson coined the word "hipster" and started addressing his audience that way. "Gather round, all you hipsters," he would say from the piano. Fellow musicians picked up on the new word and began to kid him about it, calling him "The Hipster." The name stuck, especially after he wrote the song "Handsome Harry, The Hipster," in the early 40's, and recorded it in 1944. From 1939 to 1945 he worked full-time on "Swing Street," playing with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holliday, Art Tatum, and all the rest of the pioneers of bebop who congregated there. At the same time he studied at Juilliard, the prestigious music academy, and became a fellow in their graduate school. But he quit that to concentrate on jazz, and started writing his own songs.
His first album was 1944's "Boogie Woogie in Blue," a record album of 4 records (8 sides) of boogie, blues, and jive. This album got him exposure and an invitation to Billy Bergs jazz club in Hollywood in 1945, where he went on live radio and recorded V-Discs and 4 more sides for Musicraft, including his notorious piece about the Murphy family. The next year he did the movie "Junior Prom," and a play with Mae West. His recording "Who Put The Benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine" got him banned from radio stations and blacklisted from the music industry in 1947, and he dropped off the face of the earth, until popping up in the late-1970's as the leader of a rock and roll band called "The Rock Boogie Blues Jammers," still calling himself "The Hipster." He did jail time on drug charges in the 40's, and when rock and roll arrived in the 50's, nobody wanted to hear older jazz musicians, so he drove a taxi and became a recluse. His comeback in the late 70's and 80's showed him as an eccentric, white-haired, gravel-voiced man playing hard rock, boogie woogie, and ragtime, in modern rock bands made up of musicians 40 and 50 years his junior. The two albums he released in the late-80's are gems, full of comical songs praising drug use, blowing any chance that his records will ever be sold in Wal-mart. For example, a song he recorded in 1989 about a little grass shack in Hawaii made of Maui Wowie, that can be smoked as needed, replanted from the seeds, and rebuilt from the stems and leaves. Unlike his 1940's contemporaries, who continued to play the same music for decades, (if they survived), Harry changed to fit the times, which is why he was the Hipster.
His debut album "Boogie Woogie In Blue," 1944.
His second album, "The Hipster," 1947.
But most impressive are the 1944 "soundies" he did while in NYC, which contain footage of probably the first white guy to play and sing in a rock and roll style, with slicked back hair, unrestrained wild singing...and this was 10 years before Elvis ever set foot in a record studio. Before this, piano players, even the hard-rocking boogie piano pioneers like Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons, were sitting upright and playing like gentlemen. But these clips show The Hipster, stomping at the piano and standing on the bench to rock the 88's, 10 years before Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis. As you watch the videos, you have to keep reminding yourself that this is really 1944 footage and that this is not rock and roll of the 1950's. The only thing different, if this were the 1950's, is that he would be wearing blue jeans and a white tee shirt instead of a zoot suit, but musically, it's the 1950's in 1944. Far from being a primitive version of rock and roll piano, Harry's music came out of the slick jazz world, and his musicianship was superior to the clumsy and unskilled piano smashing of Jerry Lee Lewis or others in the 50's, but he rocks just as hard if not harder. His high level of musicianship shows that his teachers were the greats such as Fats Waller and many of the other top Harlem pianists. This is really amazing stuff!
1. Opus 12 EEE Release date December 18, 1944. Rocking like Jerry Lee Lewis, 12 years earlier.
2. 4F Ferdinand The Frantic Freak Release date Aug. 7, 1944. First rock star.
Below is the inside cover of the 1944 album "Boogie Woogie in Blue" which contains several rockers if you have a 78 RPM player in your house. Click here for zooms of it.
Harry the senior citizen hipster in the 1980's
"I'm famous for singing wild jazz tunes, and being a
showman at the piano, and really tearing up the joint. I was
(recording gigs only, does not include radio transcriptions or Euro-bootlegs of
"BOOGIE WOOGIE IN BLUE," album of 4 singles (8 sides), Musicraft Records, album 64
5169 HANDSOME HARRY, THE HIPSTER -MUSICRAFT 290
5170 BARRELHOUSE BOOGIE -MUSICRAFT 293
5171 RIOT IN BOOGIE -MUSICRAFT 291
5172 STOP THAT DANCIN' UP THERE -MUSICRAFT 291
5173 4F FERDINAND THE FRANTIC FREAK -MUSICRAFT 293
5174 GET YOUR JUICES AT THE DEUCES -MUSICRAFT 292
5175 THE HIPSTER'S BLUES, OPUS 6 7/8 -MUSICRAFT 290
5176 THE HIPSTER'S BLUES, OPUS 7 1/2 -MUSICRAFT 292
(April 21, 1944, NYC). John Simmons, bass; Sid Catlett, skins.
STOP THAT DANCING UP THERE
/ PUT A NICKEL IN THE SLOT -V-DISC
200 side a
STOP THAT DANCING UP THERE / PUT A NICKEL IN THE SLOT -V-DISC 420 side a
YOU CAN'T HAVE THAT AGAIN / ZOOT GIBSON STRIDES AGAIN -V-DISC 492
(1944, 45) V-Discs were 12-inch vinyl 78's shipped to soldiers during WWII. They were among the first vinyl records ever made.
5351 I STAY BROWN ALL YEAR 'ROUND
5349 WHO PUT THE BENZEDRINE IN MRS. MURPHY'S OVALTINE? -MUSICRAFT 346
5350 WHO'S GOIN' STEADY WITH WHO? -MUSICRAFT 347
5352 WHAT'S HIS STORY? -MUSICRAFT 347
(Feb 8, 1946, Radio Recorders, Los Angeles. CA). Slim Gaillard, axe; Tiny Brown, bass; Zutty Singleton, skins
Hipster," album of 3 singles (6 sides), Diamond Records, album D9
THE WOLF SONG -DIAMOND 2065
THAT'S THE STUFF YOU GOTTA WATCH -DIAMOND 2065
BOP BOP -DIAMOND 2066
BEER PARTY SATURDAY NIGHT -DIAMOND 2066
IT AIN'T HEP -DIAMOND 2067
LEAVE ME! I HATE TO BE ALONE -DIAMOND 2067
(Feb. 12 & 13, 1947, NYC) Al Hall, bass; Morey Feld, skins.
[note: songwriting credit for all 6 of these songs went to one Irvin Rose. It was common in those days for record label owners to claim songwriting credits
for themselves, usually under a pseudonym, so they could avoid paying royalties. Diamond was owned by Irving R. Gwirtz. We can be sure Harry wrote them!]
THE BABY AND THE PUP -MACGREGOR
I Hope My Mother-in-Law Doesn't Come for Christmas -MACGREGOR 1021
The Worm Song -MACGREGOR 1022
GOLDILOCKS AND THE 3 BEARS -ALADDIN 3199
SF2192 TWO CATS (not issued)
(July 31, 1953, San Francisco, CA)
RR2189-5 CITY MOUSE AND COUNTRY MOUSE
RR2190-2 JACK AND THE BEANSTALK -ALADDIN 3199
(August 3, 1953, Los Angeles, CA)
RR2193-1 CINDERELLA (not issued)
RR2194-1 SNOW WHITE -INTRO 6082
(August 7, 1953, Los Angeles, CA)
I'M GOING TO SIT RIGHT DOWN AND
WRITE MYSELF A LETTER -HIP
Live Fast Die Young Have A Good Looking Corpse -HIP 501
HARRY THE HIPSTER" -Hip 502 (EP with 4 tracks)
1. Live Fast Die Young Have A Good Looking Corpse -HIP 502
2. Be My Guest -HIP 502
3. Gotta Way With Women -HIP 502
4. Dixie Preacher Man -HIP 502
(1957). Hip Records was owned by Harry
(This is a 1950's or 60's bootleg LP containing 3 of the 1944 Musicraft sides dubbed from scratchy 78's, and 5 other songs that are not Harry at all. Avoid this shameless bootleg).
HIPSTER'S BOOGIE -MILE
INFLATIONARY BLUES - MILE 101
(1974, Spectrum Studios, Venice, CA.) 45 RPM single. Both tracks reissued on Progressive LP in 1986, see below.
KEEP VENICE NUDE -MILE
PUTZI PUTZI - MILE 102
(1974, Spectrum Studios, Venice, CA.) 45 RPM single. Both tracks reissued on Progressive LP in 1986, see below.
"HARRY THE HIPSTER DIGS CHRISTMAS"
(1976) LP album of new recordings, re-released 1994 on CD by Viper's Nest, VN 153
THAT'S THE SPIRIT
WHO'S GOING STEADY WITH WHO? -TOTEM 101
(1976) 45 RPM single. Both tracks later added to 1994 CD reissue of "Harry The Hipster Digs Christmas" on Viper's Nest
"EVERYBODY'S CRAZY BUT ME"
-PROGRESSIVE PRO 7042 (for LP) and PCD 7042 (for the CD)
(Released 1986) album of new recordings, at least 4 of which were recorded in 1974 (Mile 101 and 102). CD re-release, 1999, as PRCD 7042
1. HIPSTERS BOOGIE
2. INFLATIONARY BLUES
3. WILD HIP RAP
4. SOLUTION FOR POLLUTION
1. STOP THAT DANCING UP THERE
2. KEEP VENICE NUDE
3. PUTSI PUTSI
4. MALE CHAUVINISTIC PIG
5. RAGTIME RAGGEDY ANN
"WHO PUT THE BENZEDRINE IN MRS. MURPHY'S OVALTINE" -DELMARK DE-687 (CD album, 1989, includes 10 new recordings and 6 tracks from a 1976 live show.)
1. HEY MAN, YOU JUST MADE MY DAY
2. I GOT FRAMED
3. I WANNA GO BACK TO MY LITTLE GRASS SHACK
4. WHO PUT THE BENZEDRINE IN MRS. MURPHY'S OVALTINE
5. GET HIP TO SHIRLEY MACLAINE
6. I FLIPPED MY WIG IN SAN FRANCISCO
7. BACK IN THE DAYS OF DIXIELAND AND BOP
8. BOOGITY WOOGITY BLUES
9. THANKS FOR THE USE OF THE HALL
10.GET HIP TO SHIRLEY MACLAINE (ALT.)
(April 27, 1989, Mobius Studios, Chicago, Ill. Gibson p., v.; Jeff Silvertrust, trmpt.; Sheldon Brown, t.s.; Jon Davis, g.; Clark Suprynowicz, b.; Davis Rokeach, d.; Jimmy Gibson, b.)
11. THEY CALL HIM HARRY THE HIPSTER
12. ME & MAX
13. WHO PUT THE BENZEDRINE IN MRS. MURPHY'S OVALTINE
14. LOWDOWN SLOWDOWN INFLATIONARY BLUES
15. MAPLE LEAF RAG and a little bit of Entertainer
16. RAGTIME RAGGEDY ANN
(Live March 29, 1976 show at The Ice House, Los Angeles, CA).
"BULLDOZERS FROM JUPITER" -D25Z-2
(April 28, 1989) This album by Crash: Jeff Silvertrust Quintet, contains one song played and sung by Harry, "Get Hip To Shirley MacLaine."
Boogie Woogie In Blue, Musicraft, made of the 8 Musicraft sides recorded April 21, 1944 and the 4 Musicraft sides recorded Feb. 8, 1946. Musicraft LP MVS-63 and CD MVSCD-63, date unknown; re-released 2003 on CD and LP, both number MVS-2003. This is a legitimate reissue made from the master recordings.
In addition to the above records, there were live radio shows. Harry was on the radio a lot in the 40's, doing live performances and skits, or his performances in clubs were broadcast. Many of these shows were recorded in some form or another. In addition, there were studio recordings made by radio programming companies specifically for airplay. This list is certainly incomplete, but it lists 21 of his radio shows that were recorded. Some of these are available now on CD, but most require that you locate the radio transcription yourself. Radio transcriptions from the 40's were usually giant 16-inch diameter vinyl (not shellac) phonograph records which were too big for normal record players. The special 16-inch turntables were something that only radio stations had. In the late 40's, radio transcriptions started being done on tape.
The Armed Forces Radio
Service (AFRS) transcriptions.
These radio shows were recorded for the Army/Navy/Marines for rebroadcast by military radio stations overseas.
The Jubilee Shows were done weekly at Billy Berg's Rendezvous on Vine Street in Hollywood, CA, other shows recorded elsewhere.
1. The Connee Boswell Show. April 12, 1944. Blue net origination, AFRS rebroadcast. Harry Gibson plays a hot boogie of "Pig Foot Pete" with his own lyrics. The cast does a skit called, "Is There A Doctor In The House?" Connie Boswell, Harry The Hipster Gibson, Jack Pepper, Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra. 30:00.
2. Eddie Condon's Town Hall Jazz Concert. July 22, 1944. Program #10 (AFRS #8). Blue net origination, AFRS rebroadcast. The program originates from Town Hall, New York City. The first tune is, "Fidgety Feet." Eddie Condon, Pee Wee Russell, Gene Krupa, Tony Mottola, Sterling Bose, Max Kaminsky, Benny Morton, Ernie Caceres, Gene Schroeder, Harry The Hipster Gibson, Carl Kress, Bob Haggart, Joe Grauso, Ernest Anderson (producer), Jack Bland (director), Fred Robbins (announcer), Dick Charles (engineer). Gibson plays two Bix Beiderbeck compositions but does not sing. 30:08.
3. The Chesterfield Supper Club. January 23, 1945. Program #21. NBC origination, AFRS rebroadcast. AFRS program name: "Supper Club." The first tune is, "More Than You Know." Guest Harry "The Hipster" Gibson sings, "Stop That Dancing Up There," and "Put A Nickel In The Slot." Perry Como, Martin Block (announcer), Harry The Hipster Gibson. 15:00.
4. Jubilee. October 1, 1945. Program #150/224. AFRS origination. Recorded live at Billy Berg's in Hollywood, CA. The date above is the date of recording. Count Basie and His Orchestra start the program with, "San Jose." Lena Horne sings, "One More For My Baby" for the first time on the air. The show was previously issued as program #150. Count Basie and His Orchestra, Ernest Whitman (m. c.), Harry The Hipster Gibson, Lena Horne, The Slim Gaillard Trio, Verne Smith (announcer). 29:52 Harry sings "Whose Going Steady With Who?" acc. by Jack Lesberg on bass and Johnny Blowers on drums.
5. Jubilee. October 8, 1945. Program #151. AFRS origination. Recorded live at Billy Berg's in Hollywood, CA. The date above is the date of recording. The first tune is a hep, up-tempo version of, "My Buddy." Slim and Slam stop the show! Ernest Whitman (m. c.), Verne Smith (announcer), The Jungleers, The Oscar Pettiford Trio, Lena Horne, Harry The Hipster Gibson, Slim and Bam, Harold Kingsley (chairman of the United Negro College Fund). Harry sings "Down The Road A-Piece." 29:56.
6. Jubilee. October 22, 1945. Program #153. AFRS origination. Recorded live at Billy Berg's in Hollywood, CA. The date above is the date of recording. The first tune is, "Rough Idea." Verne Smith (announcer), Murray McEachern (conductor), Manny Klein, Frank Wiley (trumpet), Henry Coker (trombone), Willie Smith (vocal), Bobby Hackett, Emmett Berry, Babe Russin, Bam Brown, Jack Martin, Juan Rolando, Nick Glicco, Corky Corcoran, Harry The Hipster Gibson, Lem Davis, Leo Watson, Peggy Lee, Ray Coniff, Slim Gaillard, The Jubilee All Stars, Vic Dickenson, Ernest Whitman (m. c.). Gibson sings "Sonny Boy" in Jubilee All Stars, and sings "Stop That Dancing Up There" accom. by Slim Gaillard, guitar, Bam Brown, bass and Nick Glicco, drums. 30:13.
7. Jubilee. November 13, 1945. Program #156. AFRS origination. Recorded live at Billy Berg's in Hollywood, CA. The date above is the date of recording. The first tune is, "Southern Scandal." This program may have been recorded from a "Command Performance" or "One Night Stand" program. Ernest Whitman (m. c.), Harry The Hipster Gibson, June Christy, The Oscar Pettiford Trio, Stan Kenton and His Orchestra, Hugh Brundage (announcer). 1/2 hour. Harry and Stan do a duet of "Down The Road A-Piece," Gibson sings "Slender, Tender, and Tall" which he announces as "Slender, Tender, and Groovy."
8. Jubilee. December 3, 1945. Program 161. AFRS origination. Recorded live at Billy Berg's in Hollywood, CA. Not auditioned. Ernest Whitman (m.s.), Count Basie, Sam Donohue, Kay Starr, Harry "The Hipster" Gibson, The Esquire Trio. Harry sings "Caldonia."
9. Jubilee. December 10, 1945. Program #162. AFRS origination. Recorded live at Billy Berg's in Hollywood, CA. The first tune is, "Hello, Goodbye, Forget It." Ernest Whitman (m. c.), Verne Smith (announcer), Jimmy Mundy and His Orchestra, Kay Starr, Dizzy Gillespie and His Rebop Six, Frankie Sugar Chile Robinson, Harry The Hipster Gibson. Robinson and Gibson do a duet of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy From Company B 27:17.
10. Jubilee. March, 1946. Program #173. AFRS origination. Recorded live at Billy Berg's in Hollywood, CA. Helen Humes, MIlton DeLugg and his orchestra, Phil Moore and his orchestra, Harry "The Hipster" Gibson. Harry sings "The Wolf Of Vine Street" and "Tea For Two."
11. The Rudy Vallee Show. January 11, 1946. Program #65. AFRS. The first tune is, "Welcome." Rudy has the hiccoughs, a visit from tough-guy Ladd. Rudy does his monologue about taxi drivers, it's called, "Where To?" The AFRS fill music has been deleted after the system cue. Rudy Vallee, Alan Ladd, Pinky Lee, Harry The Hipster Gibson, Bennie Krueger and His Orchestra, Truman Bradley (announcer), Betty Bradley, Edward Marr, Lois Corbett. Harry sings "Who's Going Steady With Who." 29:32.
12. Mail Call. October 8, 1947 re-broadcast. Program #267. AFRS origination, 1945. Lina Romay sings, "Tico, Tico." Allan Jones, Groucho Marx, Harry The Hipster Gibson sings a blazing version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. Hy Averback (announcer), Jane Powell, Lina Romay (m. c.), Martha Tilton. 1/2 hour.
The MacGregor Sessions.
These recordings were made in a studio for broadcast at military bases or other radio stations. Unlike the AFRS radio shows, these were not recorded in front of an audience.
These recordings were not released on records for consumers, they were only released on giant 16 inch transcription records for radio play.
13. Basic Musical Library Series. AFRS transcription Volume P-472, probably MacGregor origination. 1. Four F Ferdinand The Frantic Freak, 2. Prelude in C # Minor, 3. Who's Goin' Steady With Who, 4. Leave Me. See photo below.
14. The Henry King Show. 1947. Program #47. C. P. MacGregor syndication. Music fill for local commercial insert. "The Regal Rhythms" of Henry King, his piano and orchestra. The first tune is, "Tea For Two." The program's guest is Harry "The Hipster" Gibson. The date is approximate. Henry King and His Orchestra, Eileen Dean (vocal), Harry The Hipster Gibson, Charles Arlington (announcer). Harry sings "The Gambler's Song" and "Stop That Dancing Up There." 29:58.
15. [MM751] Program #15B. BMI transcription, also Macgregor transcription 204. 1. I Stay Brown All Year 'Round 2. Who's Going Steady With Who? 3. Who Put The Benzedrine In Mrs. Murphy's Ovaltine? 4. What's His Story? Accompanied by "Slim" (Slim Galliard) and "Shep." Harry The Hipster Gibson, Slim Gaillard, Slim and Shep. 12:53.
16. [MM 755] Harry "The Hipster" Gibson, Accompanied by "Shep" and "Tiny". Program #LB207. MacGregor transcription 207. 1. Them There Eyes 2. Two Sleepy People 3. I Can't Believe You're In Love With Me 4. Caledonia. 12:14.
17. [MM 752] MacGregor transcription 218. Hipster's Blues Opus 69, Stop That Dancing Up There, Handsome Harry The Hipster, You Can Say That Again
18. [MM 791] Program #LB230. MacGregor transcription 230. 1. Harry "The Hipster" Gibson Opening Theme 2. Harry "The Hipster" Gibson Closing Theme (The Paramount Ending), 3. Leave Me, Leave Me I Hate To Be Alone 4. As Time Goes By 5. On The Tip Top Of Apple Tree Hill 6. It Ain't Hep 13:40.
19. [MM 756] Program #BMI-20B. MacGregor transcription 254. 1. Get Your Juices At The Bar 2. Zoot Gibson Strides Again 3. 4F Ferdinand 4. That's The Stuff Ya Got To Watch. 11:50.
Dr. Demento Show
20. Harry appeared live on Dr. Demento's radio show, program # 10, September 8, 1974, and did an interview while Dr. Demento was playing some of Harry's old records.
21. Harry appeared live on Dr. Demento's radio show, program # 93, May 9, 1976, and did another interview, but also played "Stay Demented" and "Riot In Boogie" live on the show. The recordings were replayed on the show several times on later dates.
Here's a recent essay about Harry The Hipster by music writer Richard Marcus
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July 4 2007