Today, is Bob Gibson’s birthday. Many people today don’t know who Bob Gibson was, but they know his work as he was a very prolific songwriter and singer. He wrote at least 189 songs that we know of, and recorded and performed songs written by many other artists.

However, one song that he is particularly known for was Abilene.The song is one of the most recorded folk songs in history and is shrouded in mystery.

In 1957, Bob Gibson recorded the song and it was released as the number 3 track on the 1957 release by Riverside Music – “I Come for to Sing” by Bob Gibson. The album was cataloged as RLP 12 806. It was a 12-inch Mono LP, recorded at 33 rpm, and the first pressing is 22-V-07.

The album was an instant classic, with Bob on banjo, (except for one song on which he played guitar) and introducing the great instrumental work of Dick Rosmini with whom Bob would record and perform many times over the next two decades.

Besides having the distinction of being the first recording of Abilene, there are many traditional songs which would later be recorded by the numerous folk singers and groups who followed in Bob’s footsteps. The songs on this album were…

Side 1

  1. John Henry
  2. Dance, Boatman, Dance
  3. Abilene
  4. Katie Morey
  5. Lost Jimmie Whelan
  6. Ol’ Bill
  7. To Morrow
  8. Take This Hammer

Side 2

  1. Money Is King
  2. Drill, Ye Tarriers
  3. I’m Going to Leave Old Texas
  4. Mattie Groves
  5. The Squirrel
  6. I Come for to Sing
  7. The Lily of the West
  8. Springfield Mountain

And, if you have a “very good” copy of that album complete with jacket as shown above, it could be valuable. One VG copy of the first pressing is for sale in Chicago for $2,085, as of this writing.

But, wait, there’s more!

The Rest of the Story

AbileneWhile the lyrics and melody of what we now hear is a beautiful song that has proven extremely popular over the last 55 years, the fact that it was originally recorded by folk musicians didn’t help it attain any popularity at the time. In fact, the song was recorded by at least 17 artists, including Bob Gibson before it was recorded by folk and country music singer and RCA recording artist George Hamilton IV and performed in the 1963 movie, “Hootnanny Hoot,” which led to it’s popularity outside of folk music.

The recording by Hamilton reached No. 1 on U.S. Billboard Hot Country Singles between September 14-October 5, 1963, No. 4 on U.S. Billboard Easy Listening, and No. 15 on U.S. Billboard Hot 100. As it turned out, the song was more appealing to those who preferred the country and easy listening genres as compared to the folk genre.

Abilene, Texas or Abilene, Kansas?

There are a good number of stories floating around, including the one which states that Bob Gibson was inspired to write the song after watching the Randolph Scott movie, “Abilene Town.” The setting for the movie was Abilene, Kansas, the railhead town at the end of the Chisholm Trail.

And, there are those who say that Gibson wrote the song about Abilene, Texas, a town named for the Kansas town that had been established 24 years earlier. Neither appears to have any validity.

Bob Gibson

Photo ©1982 Bill Hood. Taken in front of Texas Custom Boots, Austin, Texas

In 1982, Bob Gibson showed up in Austin, Texas to order a custom made pair of boots at Texas Custom Boots. I was running the shop at the time, while the master bootmaker, Carlos Hernandez was in the hospital recovering from an illness. I had designed boots at this company as well as others for several years and didn’t mind filling in to help Carlos. This is my rememberance…

I met Bob, when I designed a pair of custom cowboy boots for him that were made at Texas Custom Boots in Austin, Texas. When I delivered the boots to Bob, I said I had to ask if the song were about Abilene, Kansas or Abilene, Texas.

His response was that neither was intended, it was only that Abilene rhymed with “Prettiest town I ever seen. Folks down there don’t treat you mean”, which are the second and third lines of the lyrics and with other lines within the lyrics.

I never thought to ask him who wrote the song, but I had the distinct feeling that Bob would have told the truth, no matter what it was.

Who Wrote the Song

It has been common practice in the music industry to list individuals (and sometime fictitious individuals) as the writer of a song in which they had nothing to do with. This was used to divert an additional percentage of writer’s royalties to the publishing company or other individuals.  This was quite common in the folk music business and extended into other genres. Today, there are still fictitious songwriters listed on contracts for the same reason, and these fictitious  individuals often added as “composer’ or other titles. Elvis Presley, a distant cousin of mine, never wrote a song in his life, but his manager, Col. Parker, insisted that if Elvis were going to record it, that Elvis’ name had to go down as a writer.

The original pressing of Abilene was done through the publisher, Acuff-Rose Publications. On that recording the writers names are given as Brown / Gibson /John D. Loudermilk, L. Brown & Bob Gibson. It was released in 1957 by Riverside Records on the album “I Come for to Sing” by Bob Gibson.

There has been much discussion about who really composed the song. In fact, most believe it was probably an older folk standard that was passed around in many different incarnations and was unrecorded for years. All we know for sure is that it was first recording in 1957 by Bob Gibson.

However, while we do know that the song was first recorded by Bob Gibson, the original writer may have been a now anonymous street performer who penned the first words of the song.

Albert Stanton

The name of Albert Stanton, is that of a fictitious songwriter and has been used on many recordings over the years.

Various pressings have been made of Abilene in which Albert Stanton’s name appeared as a writer, however since there was no Albert Stanton, we can assume that like many other folk songs of that time, that it was only used to divert royalty money back to the publishing company. In fact in the copyright claims, as allowed by law, the two names of Jessie Cavanaugh and Albert Stanton, were revealed as pseudonyms for the publishers.

Included among the many instances of Albert Stanton being listed as a writer are three recordings made in the last decade.

1986 – 30 Years of No. 1 Country Hits (writer on Abilene) and published by Readers Digest.

2000 – Abilene recorded by the Highwaymen and published by Goldies.

2007 – Abilene recorded by André van Duin and published by CNR Music

Using the song “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”, as an example, the name “Albert Stanton” was used as a pseudonym for Al Brackman, the business partner of Pete Seeger’s music publisher Howard S. “Howie” Richmond, as one of the song’s writers (or arrangers), thus permitting TRO/Folkways a share of the author’s half of the royalty earnings.

The song was originally entitled “Mbube” (which is Zulu for lion) and was written in the 1920s by Solomon Linda, a South African singer of Zulu origin, who worked for the Gallo Record Company as a cleaner and record packer, and who performed with a choir, The Evening Birds.

Issued by Gallo as a 78-rpm recording in 1939 and marketed to black audiences, “Mbube” became a hit, and Linda a star, throughout South Africa. By 1948 the song had sold about 100,000 copies in Africa and among black South African immigrants in Great Britain.

In 1949, Alan Lomax, then working as folk music director for Decca Records, brought Solomon Linda’s 78-rpm recording to the attention of his friend Pete Seeger of the folk group The Weavers. In November 1951, after having performed the song for at least a year in their concerts, The Weavers recorded an adapted version with brass and string orchestra and chorus as a 78-rpm single entitled “Wimoweh”, a mishearing of the original song’s chorus of “Uyimbube“, Zulu: You are a lion.

In 1961 two RCA producers, Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore, engaged Juilliard-trained musician and lyricist George David Weiss, to fashion an arrangement for a planned new pop music cover of “Wimoweh”. Weiss added additional new English lyrics. He also brought in the soprano voice of opera singer Anita Darian to vocalize (reprising Yma Sumac) during and after the saxophone solo, her eerie descant sounding almost like another instrument.

The song was intended as the B-side of a 45-rpm single called “Tina” by the teenage doo-wop group The Tokens, who loved The Weavers’ version of the song and had used it to audition for Hugo and Luigi at RCA. They were appalled and were initially reluctant to sing the new arrangement. But ultimately they allowed themselves to be persuaded. Issued by RCA in 1961, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” rocketed to number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

From 1961 to as late as 2007 – The Lion Sleeps Tonight is recorded by as many as 57 different artists worldwide and by multiple publishers, all giving writing credit to the two RCA Producers; Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore; the lyricist George David Weiss, and the fictitious Albert Stanton.

Many of the lyric sites list Albert Stanton as having written everything from “Hello, Ma Baby” to “The Prince of Smiles” a two-step and march produced in 1917 in Melbourne, Australia and another Australian recording, “The Royal Ambassador’s March” from 1927 listed in the catalogue of the National Library of Australia.

This information relates to the song Abilene as there is a copyright claim on file for the musical work as based on a traditional theme for “The Prettiest Girl I Ever Saw” in the names of Jessie Cavanaugh (a pseudonym of Howard S. Richmond, and Albert Stanton, (a pseudonym of Al Brackman) on file as a musical work. It was first entered as EU0000569062 / 1959-03-30 and renewed as RE0000339989 / 1987-06-04. The example document given was: Gonna leave old Texas. Writing & music by Jessie Cavanaugh, pseudonym of Howard S. Richmond, & Albert Stanton, pseudonym of Al Brackman.

The pseudonym is also listed as the writer on several hits in the 1950s and 60s, including Bonnie Blue Gal by Mitch Miller in November 1955; Desafinado (Slightly Out of Tune) by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd in September 1962; Desafinado (Slightly Out of Tune) by Julie London (from The End of the World) in October 1962; Desafinado (Slightly Out of Tune) by Ella Fitzgerald in November 1962; and Desafinado (Slightly Out of Tune) by Pat Thomas in December 1962.

Richmond and Brackman, filed a slew of copyrights about the same time for a great number of traditional themes. This would leave one to believe at the time, the various people involved with the song believed it to be a traditional theme. If Gibson and/or Lester Brown had actually written the song they would have protested the use of the fictitious names.

Lester Brown

Josh Brown, the son of Lester Brown, tells a story that his late father use to tell him. The dates fit, as Bob Gibson signed an 11-month contract at the Gate of Horn club in 1956, the year before he recorded Abilene. So it is possible that Gibson and Brown were in New York together in 1957 as this story relates. Josh says…

Dad owned a nightclub in Chicago called the “Gate of Horn” with Albert Grossman. Bob Gibson was a regular act at the club at the time and he and my father became friends. Dad took on managerial duties (of some form) with Bob’s career for a short while and they ended up in New York for some business (or just a good time).

One day while hanging around Washington Square Park, they ran into an acquaintance who was strumming on a banjo and mumbling some lyrics (either “Abilene, Abilene, prettiest girl I’ve ever seen” or “Abilene, Abilene, prettiest town I’ve ever seen”). My dad pulled Bob aside and told him to learn the chord progression, because he was going to write the rest of the lyrics. They ended up back in their hotel room and with the help of some cheap liquor, my father wrote the lyrics to Abilene in the bathtub. He claims it took him ten minutes.

Bob Gibson made the first recording of the song and it did nothing. Some years later, father got a call from a friend exclaiming that Abilene was on the Billboard charts. He called his publisher, Acuff-Rose, to verify and they replied that “Yes! it was on the charts at #13 and that they expected it to go to #1 which I believe it did.

My father had later found out that Mr. Loudermilk’s name was added as a writer, even though Loudermilk had not had anything to do with writing the song. My dad figure he played a more important role (He found the song and made it a hit!) and decided not to protest the writing split.

Anyway, that’s the story according to Lester L. Brown. I’ve heard it hundreds of times in my life (though it’s changed slightly due to older age). Most people believe that the story as told by Lester Brown is factual or at least as close to the truth as we will get.

John D. Loudermilk

There a story supposedly told by John D. Loudermilk about how he came to know of the song Abilene. The facts do not ring true here as the original pressing by Acuff-Rose made in 1957, listed John D. Loudermilk as one of the writers. The story tells of how Loudermilk states that he didn’t hear the song until 1963, which was six years after his name appeared on the first recording.

I went with George Hamilton IV to a radio station in Franklin Tennessee [1963], and the disc jockey who was to interview him there played us this song – Bob Gibson’s version. [recorded in 1957]

George didn’t show any interest in it, so I said to him “If you don’t cut this, I will”. Well, he did decide to cut it, of course, and though Chet Atkins was RCA’s producer of record for the session, I basically arranged and produced it – which was not unusual then. See, Chet would often let artists and musicians have their heads anyhow, and the session would be sort of a collaboration. It was his way of drawing out the best of the music for the project and it was a great part of his technique in sort of catalyzing what came to be known as “the Nashville sound”. But on this one, I remember him out in the studio playing on the session (that’s his riff on the intro) as I worked the board from the control room.

Shortly after we finished with it, maybe the very next day, I got a call from (my publisher) Wesley Rose to come over to Acuff-Rose. When I got there he was in his office with Bob Gibson and Lester Brown, Bob’s manager, and I was informed that they had made a deal whereby Wes would publish the song and my name would be added as writer. I accepted their terms (though I shared my royalties with George IV), but over the years I’ve realized that the fairest way I could have been acknowledged and repaid for my efforts in helping the song become the hit it was would have been for Wes to recognize that I actually did the work of the publisher there (finding the song and placing it with the right artist, for example).

My royalties really should have come from the publisher’s share. I expect that the whole deal was designed by Wesley, but by the time I arrived the three of them had already agreed that Wesley would get all the publishing (half the royalties) and that we three would divide the other half (the writer’s share). I agreed too, we all shook hands, and that was the end of it.

Bob Gibson Bio

Bob Gibson was born on November 16, 1931 in Brooklyn and grew up along the Hudson River north of New York City where he sang in the church choir. When he left high school in his senior year, he hitchhiked around the country, eventually returning to New York City to become a partner in a firm which taught speed-reading.

In 1953 he met Pete Seeger and was so impressed with Pete and his music, he “took the money I had set aside for rent” and bought a banjo. Immersed in the study of folk music, he learned to play the banjo, quit his job and hit the road to collect songs.

By the age of 22 Bob was performing at schools, ladies’ social clubs, lounges, cabarets, and cruise ships from New York to Miami, from the Bahamas to Cleveland, finally landing in Chicago. There he met the man who would become his manager. Albert Grossman had a new idea for a folk club and in 1956 launched The Gate of Horn where he signed Bob for what turned out to be an 11-month engagement — first as an opening act and later as a headliner. By 1958, this 26-year old husband and father of three had recorded four albums on Riverside, appeared as a regular on the Arthur Godfrey show, helped launch the Hootenanny craze in New York’s Greenwich Village, and was well on his way to becoming a legend in Chicago, not to mention a major force in the folk renaissance. Indeed, as groups sprung up in ever increasing numbers, it was difficult to find any new album that didn’t contain at least one Gibson song.

Bob’s eye for new talent was matched by his willingness to share the spotlight. Often in his travels he would run across an unknown performer with great promise whom he would bring to Chicago to be his opening act — Joan Baez and Judy Collins to name but two. In 1959, at the Newport Folk Festival, Bob Gibson became the first to introduce Joan Baez to a national audience.

Bob was traveling the country performing in concerts, clubs and coffeehouses, but still had a home base in Chicago. Upon arriving back after one road trip, he found a young man sitting in his living room who told him, “Albert wants us to sing together.” Albert Grossman had discovered Bob Camp singing in Greenwich Village and decided it would be a great idea for Gibson and Camp to form a duo. So, without telling Gibson, he gave Camp a key to Gibson’s apartment and sent him to Chicago. As Gibson put it, the two circled each other like stray dogs for a few days and then tried singing together.

In the evenings Camp would come down to the club where, towards the end of the set, Gibson would introduce him and they’d do a few tunes. As their repertoire expanded, this phenomenal act grew and so did their legions of fans. In 1961, Elektra Records released Gibson & Camp at the Gate of Horn. A ground-breaking live recording, it became folk music’s first gold record and had a profound influence on everyone from Simon & Garfunkel to Gordon Lightfoot to The Byrds to John Denver to The Beatles.

It was at The Gate of Horn where Bob met Playboy cartoonist Shel Silverstein who frequented the club as a fan. Shel wrote the liner notes for the Gibson & Camp album and the two became fast friends. Bob encouraged Shel to start writing lyrics and thus began a 35-year partnership responsible for dozens of Gibson and Silverstein collaborations. Shel went on to become a great songwriter, singer, artist and poet, as well as continuing with the cartoons for Playboy Magazine for many years.

As Albert Grossman continued to manage Gibson’s flourishing career, he signed an unknown young songwriter – Bob Dylan. Noting the success of the Gibson and Camp duo, Grossman wanted to add a female singer and have them perform some of Dylan’s songs, but both Gibson and Camp nixed the idea of a trio. Gibson continued working as a solo act while Bob Camp became Hamilton Camp and headed west to Hollywood to pursue a successful acting career. Determined to not give up his idea of a guy-girl-guy trio, Grossman put together Peter, Paul & Mary.

By 1964 Gibson had recorded four best-selling albums for Elektra but as the ’60s began changing from the age of innocence to the age of turbulence, so did Bob’s career. His addiction and substance abuse problems eventually led to a self-imposed hiatus from the music business. In 1966 he left Greenwich Village and moved his family to upstate New York where he dabbled in woodworking, dealt with being a father and tried to come to terms with his life.

By 1969, when Bob resurfaced on the club scene in New York and Chicago, the immense popularity once enjoyed by folk music had waned. It would never be the same. Rock ’n’ roll was here to stay. Although many of the new era’s biggest artists — from Buffalo Springfield to Crosby, Stills and Nash, from Richie Havens to The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers — acknowledged Gibson’s seminal influence, Bob himself was no longer a superstar. He landed in Los Angeles where he recorded his first album in a half dozen years. As his odyssey continued, it took him north to the tiny seaside hamlet of Mendocino. There he embarked on a new period of productivity that would ultimately lead him back to Chicago. Always ahead of the curve, Bob recorded Funky in the Country on his own label, Legend Enterprises. Later, he once again teamed up with his old friend, Hamilton Camp, to record Homemade Music.

Some say Bob’s glory years were those from the late ’50s to the early ’60s when his popularity was high, his influence strong and the money rolled in. In fact, his real glory years began in 1978 when he got clean and sober. With his drug and alcohol use finally behind him, he at long last achieved an inner peace and happiness that began to show in his singing, playing and writing.

For the next decade and beyond, Bob explored new territories. His voice was strong and his playing still featured his trademark 12- string with its rolling bass lines. His creative output was once again prolific. He taught songwriting at the Old Town School of Folk Music, Portland State University and the American Conservatory of Music. He wrote, scored and appeared in a musical play, The Courtship of Carl Sandburg. He opened his own restaurant and entertainment club, Hobson’s Choice.

He produced a number of his own recordings as well as several albums for friend and folk icon Tom Paxton. He toured with Best of Friends, a trio consisting of Bob, Tom and Anne Hills. (Their 1985 recording at Holstein’s in Chicago was finally released in 2004, seven years after Bob’s death.) Also at Holstein’s, Bob once again reunited with Camp as they re-recorded their entire 1961 watershed album, now calling it Gibson & Camp, the Gate of Horn – Revisited.

Finally, during the late ’80s, Bob concentrated heavily on writing, recording and performing for kids. His Uncle Bob’s television show, Flying Whales and Peacock’s Tales, was nominated for an Emmy. On the domestic front, he remarried and had a second chance at fatherhood. Yes, these were the glory years.

But by the late ’80s Bob was starting to experience the early stages of a debilitating disease that ended his career and ultimately his life. After seeing countless doctors and always leaving with no answers, the diagnosis came at last in 1993: Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, a rare neurological disorder similar to Parkinson’s.

He recorded his final album, Making A Mess, which was appropriately produced by long-time friend and writing partner, Shel Silverstein.

Friends like Cathryn Craig, Tom Paxton, Peter Yarrow, John Hartford, Emmylou Harris, John Brown, Kyle Lehning, Dennis Locorriere, Oscar Brand, Ed McCurdy, Glenn Yarbrough, Barbara Bailey Hutchinson, Shel Silverston, Roger McGuinn, Noel Paul Stookey, Mary Travers, Spanky McFarlane, Josh White, Jr. and Jeff Chouinard organized benefits to help with his medical expenses. If you don’t recognize every name on the list, you should take a moment to look them up. They are (or were) all very influential people.

Bob had left Chicago for his beloved Mendocino but doctors could offer little help. His last move was to Portland, Oregon. It was from there, in September of 1996, he returned to Chicago for the final time to host a farewell party. Friends and family came from far and wide to pay tribute to a man whose life and music had meant so much to so many. Back home in Portland, he died a week later on September 28th. Roger Ebert wrote, “Bob Gibson hosted his last hootenanny and attended his own wake.”

The musical legacy of Bob Gibson is still felt by all who embraced his work and the music he cherished so dearly and to which he contributed so much.

Gibson became a standard in folk music in New York’s Greenwich Village and in Chicago for many years. Many of his folk songs were recorded during the folk music boom of the 1960s by such groups as the Chad Mitchell Trio, then Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, and the Seekers.

Bob Gibson, 64, a folk musician who co-wrote the hit song “Abilene.” Gibson was a fixture on the folk scene in New York’s Greenwich Village and in Chicago before moving to Portland, Oregon, in 1993. He passed on Sept. 28, 1996 in Portland, Oregon of the complications of Progressive Supranuclear Palsy.

However, Meridian Green, Bob Gibson’s daughter and a performing songwriter with 3 CDs to her credit and another on the way is keeping her father’s legacy alive. She heads up The Bob Gibson Legacy Project, a long time effort to get her father’s music back in circulation. They have has released five CDs – four re-issues and a compilation – and are now on the road with the Bob Gibson Legacy Shows. You can learn more about them at http://bobgibsonlegacy.com.

Abilene

I could not find a video of Bob Gibson singing Abilene, but here is a video of George Hamilton IV performing the song as well as the song, Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston, which was written by John D. Loudermilk.


Lyrics

For those who don’t know the lyrics to the song, they are…

Abilene

Written in 1957 by Bob Gibson, John D. Loudermilk, Lester Brown, and Albert Stanton. (as stated on the label)

Abilene, Abilene
Prettiest town that I’ve ever seen.
Women there don’t treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene.

I sit alone, most every night
Watch those trains roll out of sight
Don’t I wish they were carryin’ me
Back to Abilene, my Abilene.

Abilene, Abilene
Prettiest town that I’ve ever seen.
Women there don’t treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene.

Guitar

Crowded city, there ain’t nothin’ free
Nothin’ in this town for me
Wish to the Lord that I could be
In Abilene, sweet Abilene.

Abilene, Abilene
Prettiest town that I’ve ever seen.
Women there don’t treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene.

Women there don’t treat you mean
In Abilene, my Abilene.

-==-=-=-

How I wish that train would come
Take me back where I come from.
Take me where I want to be
In Abilene, my Abilene.

Rotgut whiskey numbs the brain
If I stay here I’ll go insane.
Think I need a change of scene
To Abilene, my Abilene.

Outside my window cold rain falls,
Sit here starin’ at the walls;
If I was home, I’d be serene
In Abilene, my Abilene.

Known Recordings of Abilene

The song has been recorded as many as 134 times, using different song titles starting with Bob Gibson’s recording in 1957. There may be more recordings that were privately made and not registered. The song has been covered by perhaps thousands of artists who never recorded it. It has proven to be a very popular song over the last 55 years.

•    Bob Gibson (1957±, LP I Come Fore To Sing)
•    Erik Darling (1958, LP Erik Darling Sings & Plays)
•    Brothers Four (1961, LP Roamin’ With The Brothers)
•    Roy Berkeley (1961, Coral 62256, spelled it “Aboline”)
•    Barry & Barry (1961, first released on the 1965 LP Star Folk Vol 3)
•    Charlotte Daniels & Patt Webb (1961/62, LP Charlotte Daniels and Patt Webb)
•    Johnny Mann Singers (1962, LP Golden Folk Song Hits Vol 3)
•    The Homesteaders (1962± LP Railroad Bill, group with young Judy Collins)
•    The Sapphires (1962, HMV 4459, group from Sydney, song was retitled “Aberdeen” and performed in a skiffle way)
•    Pernell Roberts (=Adam Cartwright in tv-show Bonanza, actor and folk singer) (1962, LP Bonanza Ponderosa Party Time)
•    Walter Forbes (1963, LP Folk Song Festival, Chet Atkins/ Anita Kerr production)
•    The Folk City Citizens (LP Hootenanny & Folk, budget album recorded live at Folk City)
•    Bobby Darin (1963, LP Golden Folk Hits)
•    Bobby Bare (1963, LP 500 Miles Away From Home)
•    Rod McKuen & Horizon Singers (1963, LP There’s A Hoot Tonight)
•    The Highwaymen (1963, LP One More Time)
•    Bud & Travis (1963, LP Perspective on Bud & Travis)
•    George Hamilton IV (1963, RCA 8181, C&W #1)
•    Jack White (1963, Country & Western Hits 213, Nashville budget label cover)
•    Dusty King & His Country Cats (1963, LP Top 16 C&W Hits, Canada, budget cover)
•    The Four Preps (1963, LP Songs For A Campus Party)
•    Don Mercedes (1963, Philips JF327561, NL)
•    Fortunes (1963, Triola TD 213, in Denmark covered as “Rosmarin”)
•    Rory and Alex McEwen (1963, EP Hootenannie, Waverley ELP 127, popular Scottish folk duo)
•    Thomas Fraser (Scottish fisherman, tape recording issued on cd You And My Old Guitar)
•    Les Missiles (1963, EP Ducretet Thomson 460V574, French version: “Marilyn” (not Monroe!))
•    Les Missiles (1964, Ducretet Thomson 500V600, rare Italian version: “Come Fai”))
•    Buck Owens (1964, LP I Don’t Care)
•    Tom Tedesco (1964, LP The Electric 12 String Guitar, instrumental version)
•    Bill Anderson (1964, LP Sings)
•    Bobby Goldsboro (1964, LP I Can’t Stop Loving You)
•    Roy Drusky (1964, LP Songs Of The Cities)
•    Walter Brennan (1964, LP Talkin’ From The Heart, movie actor’s interpretation)
•    Maxine Sellers (1964, LP Folk Songs)
•    Martin Denny (1964, LP A Taste Of Hits, instrumental, lazy piano)
•    All Night Singers (1964, LP The All Night Singers)
•    Saturday’s Singers (1964, LP Sing For A Living)
•    Ben Steneker (1964, CNR 9672, Dutch version “Ameland”)
•    Living Guitars (1964, LP Folk-Dixie Jamboree)
•    Waylon Jennings (1964, At JD’s, not really live but ‘rough’ recorded)
•    Bee Gees (1964, in Johnny O Keefe’s tv-show)
•    Talking John Berry (1964, EP The Talking Folksinger)
•    Pete Drake & his Talking Guitar (1965, Starday 751)
•    The Bingham Trio (LP The Bingham Trio)
•    The Faroe Boys (1965, Icelandic 45 rpm, as “Abelene”)
•    David Wiffen (1965, LP Live at the Bunkhouse, Canadian folk)
•    Billy Liebert (LP Today’s Sounds in Pop-Country Hits)
•    The Oceans (1966, Pla-Me 804B-1090, 45 rpm by Ohio garage band)
•    The Other Singers (1966, LP The Other Singers Sing Other Songs for Other People)
•    Stu Davis (1966, LP The Stu Davis Show, popular Canadian cowboy singer)
•    Rusty & His Rangers (1966, Decca/Ace 200.750/1)
•    Vic Dana (1966, LP Town & Country)
•    Bobby Bond (1966, LP Down That Lonesome Road, on budget label Somerset, track is also used as by Earl Cupid on other budget compilations)
•    Guy Mitchell (1967, LP My Traveling Shoes, entitled ‘My Abilene’ and lists York as composer)
•    Tommy Garrett (1967, LP Six Flags over Texas, instrumental)
•    Frugal Sound (1967, RCA 1595, UK easy listening pop)
•    Flamingo Kvintetten (1968±, Platina 156, Swedish version “Fröken Rar”)
•    Glenn Yarbrough (1968, LP Yarbrough Country)
•    Rusty York (1968, LP Sings Like Crazy)
•    Jimmy Dean (1968, LP Dean’s List)
•    Dave & Susanne (1968/69, LP Walking In The Sunshine)
•    Johnny Farago (1968, LP T’aurais pas du mourir si jeune, French lyrics by a Canadian Elvis clone)
•    Slim Berry (LP Abilene & Other Hits)
•    Glenn Barber (1969, Hickory 1568)
•    John Pearse (1969, LP Hold Down A Chord, for a BBC TV guitar tuition series)
•    Tommy Lee (1969, LP Tommy Lee Sings The Country Greats)
•    The Terry Sisters (Carousel 1-02, 45 on Salt Lake City label)
•    Jack Jackson (LP The Singing Side, square dance music)
•    Hill Mellis & Co (1970, LP Hill Mellis & Co)
•    The London Philharmonic Orchestra (1970, LP Hits of 1970)
•    Johnny Doe (=Stan Farlow) (1970/71, LP Sings The Hits Of Johnny Cash)
•    John D Loudermilk (1971, LP Elloree)
•    Greenhorns (1971, LP Greenhorns ’71, Czech version “Abiline”)
•    Fidlin’ Mutt Poston & Farm Hands (197?, LP Hoe Down! Vol 6: Country Blues)
•    E. Rodney & Prairie Dogs (1972, LP Country & Western, UK trio)
•    John Laughlin (1973, Stamp ST4-3, Canada, label spells Abeline!)
•    Joe Leahy (1973, Hi-Hat Records 911, “My Abilene” music to be played for a round dance)
•    Bob Gibson (1974, LP Funky in the Country, live version by the original artist)
•    Sonny James (1974, LP Is It Wrong)
•    Tony Goodacre (1974, LP Roamin’ Round in Nashville, UK Country)
•    The Gap (LP Comanche Gap, UK Country)
•    Bill Crofut (1977, LP In Concert)
•    Trivers (1977, LP Dansa till Trivers, Sweden)
•    Shag Connor’s Carrot Crunchers (1977, LP Sing Country Style)
•    Marty Robbins & Larry Gatlin (1978, DVD, tv-show Marty Robbins’s Spotlight)
•    Gunnar Wiklund (1978, LP Till Dig, Swedish lyrics, Swedens sixties star in the twilight of his career)
•    Spinning Wheel (1979, LP Live and Kicking, UK)
•    Chet Atkins (1983, LP Great Hits of the Past)
•    Ledward Kaapana (1983, LP Lima Wela, instrumental Hawaiian version)
•    Wallerna (1983, LP Dansmusik, in Swedish as “Fröken Rar”)
•    Zelenáči (=Greenhorns, see 1971) (1984, LP Pod Liščí Skálou, Czech lyrics)
•    Main Street Singers (mid 1980s, Sound80 1003)
•    Johnny Cash (1986, TV Shows 3)
•    Chester Lester (1988, cd Lonely Lady, a Nashville songwriter)
•    A.G. and Kate (1989, cassette Something Pretty)
•    Brian Mann (cd Travelling Light, UK Country BBC presenter)
•    Bill Rhyne & The Coronados (1992, cd Freedom Of The Rolling Plains)
•    The Moody Brothers (1994, cd Guitar Boogie)
•    Bobři (1994, cd 77-80, Czech version as “Hermelín”)
•    Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown & John D Loudermilk (1996, live on Austin City Limits)
•    Hoot & Annie (1996, cd Songs of the West)
•    Bo Basiuk (1997, cd I Got Mine)
•    Funny Hill (1997, cd Cowboy Boots, Swiss country)
•    Meridian Green (1998, cd In The Heart Of This Town, version of daughter of author Bob Gibson)
•    Peter Stanley (1999, cd At The Sidetrack, a 1965 live concert in a coffee-house)
•    Josh Roy Brown (2000, cd Can’t Look Back, version of son of co-author Les Brown)
•    Great American Stringband (2000, 2cd 200 Years of American Heritage In Song)
•    Vodopád (2001, cd Philippe Naudot + Vodopád, version in Slowakian language)
•    Sunny Side (2001, cd Staří Greenhorni, Czech bluegrass)
•    Gene Parsons (2001, cd I Hope They Let Us In – In Concert)
•    Taylor Grocery Band (2002, cd Taylor Grocery Band)
•    Craig Duncan (2002, cd Deep in the Heart of Texas, instrumental)
•    Robin O’Herin (2002, cd Red, White and Blues)
•    Jim Owen (2003, cd Sings With Friends And Heroes, the old songwriter duetting with George Hamilton IV)
•    Po’ Girl (2003, cd Po’ Girl)
•    Road Scholars (2003, cd The Road Home)
•    Cody Dooley (2003, cd Real Country)
•    Uncle Fucker (2003, cd Usurpers Of The Tradition)
•    Steve Barker (2003, cd 20 Classic Songs)
•    Ruud Hermans (2003, cd Sings The Hits Of Bobby Bare)
•    Bill Durham (2004, cd My Kind Of Music)
•    Brian Gale (2004, cd North To Alaska And Heartaches Along The Way)
•    Anders Halten (2005, cd Trubadur Og Moll, Norwegian singing physiotherapist)
•    Slim Chance & The Survivors (2006, cd The Women There Don’t Treat You Mean – Abilene in Song)
•    Wayne Carter (2006, cd Summer 2006 Compilation disc, a compilation by Country Discovery Records)
•    Catclaw Creek (2006, cd cd Texas Frontier)
•    OJ Hanssen (2006, cd After The Lovin’, country from Norway)
•    The Blackbury Band (2007, cd Thirty Years Too Late, US country harmony group)
•    The Texas Plainsmen feat. Yodelin’ Donnie Walser (2007, cd Live on the Air, release of 1964-65 radio recordings)
•    Malbaré (2007, cd Chansons magiques rock ‘n’ twist, another French Marilyn by rock, party and fun band)
•    Elmer Creel (2007, cd She Never Came Home)
•    Fred Wolking (2008, cd A Place in the Sun)
•    Carl Wilson (2008, cd Sing Me An Old Fashioned Song, Scottish country singer)
•    Big B & Snake Oil Saviors (2010, cd Big B and His Snake Oil Saviors, new western swing)

Sources say the Lonesome Travelers, group of Bob Johnson, Norman Blake and Walter Forbes recorded for RCA in 1959, but no details are found on the RCA session sheets. Forbes later recorded Abilene for a solo album. If you have the original recording by the Lonesome Travelers, I’d like to hear from you.

The song has also produced it’s share of parodies over the years. This is one by Jessica Eaton, who states, “Obviously Maine is a beautiful state and I mean no disrespect. Just having a bit of fun. Same for the fine folks of Massachusetts.”

Southern Maine

Southern Maine, Southern Maine
Spend a day and it’ll drive you insane
All it does is snow and rain
In Southern Maine,
Down in Southern Maine

I got hungry, veered off the Pike
Looking for a nice place to grab a bite
But I couldn’t find much to like
Down in Southern Maine
Southern Maine

Southern Maine, Southern Maine
Isn’t like a postcard scene
bums are filthy, the streets ain’t clean
In Southern Maine
Goodbye Southern Maine

The women were rude, the men were crass
They must have been visiting up from Mass
What a total waste of my gas
Going to Southern Maine
Good Bye Southern Maine

Southern Maine, Southern Maine
Not quite the place that they claim
All it does is snow and rain
In Southern Maine
Bye Southern Maine

Never going back to Southern Maine
By car or by train
Goodbye Southern Maine

 

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