R.I.P Kelley Gibson

Our condolences to Eric and Leigh Gibson and their families following the death of their father on Saturday.

Unless you lived near him in upstate New York, you probably didn’t know Kelley J. Gibson. But if you’re a fan of the Gibson Brothers, you know all about him.

Some of Leigh and Eric’s best songs were inspired by their father, a fourth-generation farmer who, as his obituary stated, “instilled in his children the value of hard work and honor.” Mr. Gibson is regularly mentioned in the band’s stage stories, as well.

Three songs in particular came to mind when I read about Mr. Gibson’s passing.

The first is Bottomland, in which Leigh sings:

“I’d trade all the perks of a self-made man to strain by him in the bottomland.”

The second is Farm of Yesterday, in which Eric sings:

“To think our father always felt that he had let us down, when times were tough and farming didn’t pay. He should know we saw him as a king and we still do, in memories of that farm of yesterday.”

The third is Leigh’s Safe Passage, a story of the Gibson family across the generations — coming to the New World, crossing the border from Canada to settle in upstate New York, fighting in the civil war and farming. Mr. Gibson’s obituary notes that he had a keen interest in his family tree, so the fruits of his research are immortalized in Leigh’s lyrics, including his focus on his sons having careers beyond the family’s farm.

“Our daddy told us young that he would be the last one to raise a living from that rocky land. So I cross these many miles, back again too often, my journey with a guitar in my hand.”

Kelley J. Gibson was 70.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.