Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Donald Eugene “Don” Gibson was a pop and country singer-songwriter who scored more than 80 hits between 1956 and 1981, many of which he composed – including chart-toppers like “Oh Lonesome Me,” “Blue Blue Day” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (the latter a #1 single for Ray Charles in 1962).
Born into a poor working class family in Shelby, N.C., Don dropped out of school in the second grade and never returned. Instead he turned to music, eventually forming a band called Sons of the Soil with which he made his first recording in 1948.
In 1956 Don found himself signed to the MGM label, for which he recorded his first country hit, “Sweet Dreams.” Seven years later that song was covered by Patsy Cline and became a pop and country sensation for her.
In 1957 Don moved to Nashville and, under the direction of master guitarist and producer Chet Atkins, cut “Blue Blue Day” for RCA Victor. Soon after, Don came in with two songs he’d written back to back on the same day: “Oh Lonesome Me” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” Chet had Don record them at his next session and those tunes became the A and B sides of Gibson’s next RCA single. “Oh Lonesome Me” wound up spending eight weeks atop the country hit parade in 1958 and also became a Top 10 pop record as well. Don’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” soared to #7 country but only #81 pop. Four years later Ray Charles covered the latter song for his classic “Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music” LP. After being pulled from that album as a single, Ray’s version soared to #1 pop. Since then “I Can’t Stop Loving You” has been recorded by more than 700 artists.
“Blue Blue Day” was issued next and also became a major pop and country hit. Other gems to follow included “Just One Time” (1960), “Sea of Heartbreak” (1961), “Funny, Familiar, Forgotten Feelings” (1966), “Rings of Gold” (1969), “Woman (Sensuous Woman)” (1972), “Touch the Morning” (1973), “One Day at a Time” (1974), “Starting All Over Again” (1978) and “Any Day Now” (1979). While all of Don’s ‘50s and ‘60s hits (except for that MGM single) were on the RCA label, all of his ‘70s and ‘80s output was on the Hickory label. A few of his records were duets with either Dottie West (of “Country Sunshine” fame) or Sue Thompson (who’s best known for crossover hits like “Norman” and “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry”).
A common theme in Don Gibson songs is romantic tragedy: lost loves and loneliness. That lead to his nickname, “The Sad Poet.” Don’s music has been hailed by many stars, from Neil Young to Roy Orbison. In 1967, Roy even released an entire LP of nothing but Don Gibson compositions.
Don entered the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. He passed away two years later at the age of 75 and is buried back in his old hometown, Shelby, N.C., which today proudly features the historic Don Gibson Theatre, a 400 seat music hall.