Otis Gibbs (USA)

Wed 7 Jun 7:30 for 8:15 (£12/10)Zion Community Space Book

Otis Gibbs

Otis is a songwriter, storyteller, painter, photographer and planter of 7,176 trees (so far). He once wrestled a bear, and lost. He has been described as ďThe best unknown songwriter in music todayĒ. If you ask him, heíll simply say heís a Folk Singer.

Otis grew up in the rural town of Wanamaker, Indiana and started working when he was in high school and did countless crummy jobs. Eventually he got tired of working jobs that didnít stimulate, or interest him in the least. So, in his own words, he decided to just drop out.

Over the next four years, Gibbs earned and lived off less than $3,000 a year and had never been happier. He got rid of his car and shared apartments with artists, musicians and radicals (often living with 5 to 10 people). He also took advantage of the free time and wrote hundreds of songs. Otis sacrificed many of the comforts most of us take for granted, so that he could live a creative life. He has spent the last fifteen years travelling across America and abroad documenting this world, and has a story to share about each stop along the way.

Iím silly enough to believe that Iím the worldís foremost authority on what an Otis Gibbs record should sound like. I tend to enjoy stripped down arrangements that highlight the song and the vocal. ~ Otis Gibbs on producing his records

Otis Gibbs

Otisís thoughts on Mount Renraw:

This album was recorded in my living room on my 50th birthday. My friends kept saying I should throw myself a big party for my birthday, but Iím not a big party guy. Instead, I wanted to do something creative that fits into how I try to live my life. Thatís when I decided to record this album. This is who I am and this is what I do. Itís the perfect way to celebrate 50 years of creativity.

We live on top of a big hill in East Nashville surrounded by musicians, artists, writers and other creative misfits. In the 1800s, this land was owned by Percy Warner. He is somewhat famous for bringing electricity to the rural South. He called his home Renraw, which is Warner, spelled backwards. Iíve called our home Mount Renraw for the last 9 years. Since I recorded the record at home, I figured Mount Renraw would be a fitting title.

To demonstrate the type of songs Otis is known for, the video clip below is of a song off the new album. Iíll let Otis tell you the story of Sputnik Munroe

This is the story of how a professional wrestler fought to desegregate a Memphis auditorium. Sputnik Monroe was a "bad guy" or "heel" who wrestled in Memphis in the late 1950s. It was his job to make wrestling fans hate him so much, that they would lay down their hard earned money to see him get beat by the "good guy." He was so good at his job that thousands of people paid to see him wrestle every Monday night at Ellis Auditorium.

BillyBragg + OtisGibbs

When he wasn't wrestling, he was hanging out with his friends in the cafes on Beale Street. Sputnik was one of the few white people that you'd find on Beale Street and his friends were all black. He was often arrested for the crime of being a white person who would dare to drink in public with a black person. This was scandalous at the time. When his day in court arrived, he was the first white person in Memphis to be represented by (his friend) a black lawyer. This was even more scandalous. It became common knowledge among the African American community of Memphis that Sputnik Monroe was alright. When his black friends came to see him wrestle, they were forced to sit in the balcony, while the whites sat in the good seats down below. When Sputnik entered the ring, a huge round of cheers would rain down from the balcony. This would make the white folks hate him even more.

Sputnik one day confronted the promoters and told them that he would refuse to wrestle unless they allowed his black friends to sit anywhere they wanted. The promoters realized that Sputnik was making them a ton of money, so they gave in to his demands. This lead to the very first desegregated sporting event in the southern part of the United States.

All of that, because a professional wrestler was willing to take a principled stand, imagine what the rest of us might be capable of. I think more people should know about Sputnik Monroe, so I wrote this song. Please share this with anyone who might be interested. I need your help to get the word out.

Thanks for giving a damn - Otis


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