Don Gibson

Dan Gibson Mural
Don Gibson mural by artist Scott Nurkin

Donald Eugene Gibson was born in Shelby, North Carolina on April 3, 1928. He made his first recordings in 1948 with his group, Sons of the Soil. In 1957, RCA opened Studio B in Nashville. Soon after, Don Gibson came in and during an afternoon session recorded “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “Oh, Lonesome Me.” “Oh Lonesome Me” was number one for eight consecutive weeks on the Billboard country chart in 1958 and was a top ten pop hit. “I Can’t Stop Loving You” became a standard recorded by more than 700 artists, including Ray Charles. Today, the Don Gibson Theatre in Shelby honors the memory of this legendary country artist.

"I consider myself a songwriter who sings rather than a singer who writes songs."


Born Donald Eugene Gibson in Shelby, North Carolina, Gibson got his start with a local band called the Sons of the Soil on Shelby station WOHS. In 1949, he made his first recording with them: a Mercury side called “Automatic Mama.” By 1952 he had gotten a job at Knoxville’s WNOX and was recording for Columbia. His recordings for this label were not commercially successful, but he was discovering he had a knack for songwriting. 

By 1955, Gibson had written his first masterpiece, “Sweet Dreams,” later to a hit for Gibson, Faron Young, and Patsy Cline. It won him a songwriter’s contract with Acuff-Rose Publications and a recording deal with MGM. Then, in 1957, while living in a trailer park north of Knoxville, he wrote his other two career-defining songs on the same day: “Oh Lonesome Me” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” (The latter would eventually be recorded more than 700 times by singers in many music genres and sell more than thirty million records worldwide.)

Don Gibson

In 1957, Gibson traveled back to Nashville to record “Oh Lonesome Me” for RCA. He and producer Chet Atkins decided to abandon the traditional steel guitar and fiddle and use a new sound featuring only guitars, a piano, a drummer, upright bass, and background singers. It became one of the first examples of what would be called the Nashville Sound and won Gibson a #1 hit; it also set the pattern for a long series of other RCA hits, including “Blue Blue Day” (1958), “Who Cares” (1959), “Sea of Heartbreak” (1961), and “Rings of Gold” (1969).

Not only have Don’s songs been recorded by such stars as Elvis, Neil Young, Ronnie Milsap, Emmylou Harris and countless others, but “I Can’t Stop Loving You” has today been recorded more than 700 times and has been played on the radio over four million times. In all, Don continued to receive royalties throughout his life for over 150 of his compositions.

Don Gibson, the Sad Poet, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973, an honor he shares with the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimmy Buffet and Johnny Cash. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Though Don passed away in 2003, he left behind a truly exceptional body of work, work that without the slightest exaggeration has touched the hearts of millions.