I saw Harry “The Hipster” Gibson once, at the Ice House in Pasadena. Completely whacked out, between songs Harry threw unlit marijuana cigarettes at the audience. This was the 1970s, and possession of a joint could land you in jail, with the loss of your job to follow. I can still recall much of the crowd scrambling away from the marijuana joint as it fell to the floor, fearful of a bust!
While this Soundie was produced in New York – Harry was playing on 52nd Street – Gibson was an important musician in Los Angeles during the mid-1940s. Indeed, it was Gibson who reportedly talked Billy Berg into booking Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker in 1945. (Gibson was performing at Billy Berg’s at the same time as Milton DeLugg’s band, which is seen on this site under Matty Malneck’s name.)
While Gibson was a fine singer and very talented pianist, he chose a road less traveled, one of the crazed, yet ultimately in-the-know, hipster. But listen closely to the piano solo. Gibson’s skills as an improvisor are on display, as is his tremendous technique on the 88s. This Soundie is not only entertaining, and a fine look at Gibson’s stage persona, but is also a good (if somewhat obscure) look at “drug culture” during the war years.