BIOGRAPHY AND DISCOGRAPHY

 


The first star of Aristocrat, soon to be Chess Records, the teenaged Andrew Grayson became Andrew Tibbs so as not to harm his father’s reputation as a preacher by singing rock ‘n’ roll.

Tibbs had been raised singing gospel, taught by Mahalia Jackson and later Dinah Washington, but he fell under the sway of rock as soon as he heard Roy Brown sing. Already appearing in clubs around Chicago, including the Macomba Lounge owned by Leonard and Phil Chess, Tibbs had talent scouts sniffing around him from the start.

Wanting to get a foot in the record business himself Leonard Chess saw Tibbs as his ticket and shepherded him to Aristocrat with whom Chess had acquaintances, including the leader of the Macomba’s house band, Tom Archia, who recorded for the label. Upon their arrival at the company Tibbs was asked to write his own material rather than cover others if he wanted to record and proved himself to be as good of a songwriter as he was a singer from the start.

His voice was wonderfully expressive, able to draw out all sorts of emotions with his gospel training while at the same time singing of love, sex and booze with complete credibility. With his youth (just 18 when he first recorded), good-looks, intelligence and all-around abilities Tibbs was poised to be the breakout artist of Chicago’s rock scene, but while he did score on the charts, the turmoil surrounding the label soon shifting hands from its original owner Evelyn Aron to the Chess brothers, and the subsequent emergence of the company’s blues roster led by Muddy Waters, seemed to put Tibbs’ career on the back burner and he never built upon his early success.

By the mid-1950’s he was recording only sporadically and retired from music in his early thirties, working for an electric company and performing occasionally in clubs. One of the best voices of his generation of rockers was silenced in 1991 as he died at the age of 62, all but forgotten by history.
 
 
ANDREW TIBBS DISCOGRAPHY (Records Reviewed To Date On Spontaneous Lunacy):
 
UNION MAN BLUES
(Aristocrat 1101; December, 1947)
Impressive debut for the teenager both as a singer and songwriter, Tibbs never takes a wrong step in showcasing his expressive voice while deftly using restraint to get across the emotional weight of the sentiments. (7)

BILBO IS DEAD
(Aristocrat 1101; December, 1947)
Rock’s first protest song picks an appropriate target, a recently deceased racist Senator, but Tibbs is forced to cloak its true meaning in a maudlin send-up due to the cultural realities of the era, but it gained notoriety all the same. (6)

DRINKIN’ INK SPLINK
(Aristocrat 1102; February, 1948)
Promising topic of boozing it up is hampered by the watered down drinks served by the ill-equipped backing musicians. The material is too weak for even Tibbs to salvage it with his impressive pipes. (3)

TOOTHLESS WOMAN BLUES
(Aristocrat 1102; February, 1948)
Everybody involved is on the wrong page with this one, a song that demands a lighthearted presentation but which has a dirge like backing and despondent vocals by Tibbs… a toothless record. (3)

I FEEL LIKE CRYING
(Aristocrat 1103; May, 1948)
One of rock’s best voices shows he’s also among its best actors, delivering a bravura performance that nails each emotional nuance over the course of this impressive forlorn ballad. A national hit that confirms his promise as a superstar in the making. (8)

SAME OLD STORY
(Aristocrat 1104; October, 1948)
Tibbs may be shaping up to be one of rock’s most consistent stars, a great vocalist with the right delivery for whatever material he tackles, but he’s regularly hampered by things out of his control, namely the incompetence of his record company who specialize in poor quality sound, bad marketing and inept decision making. (6)

GOING DOWN FAST
(Aristocrat 1104; October, 1948)
A brilliant vocal performance by Tibbs that gets undercut to a degree by the horn section whose solo is far too bland to provide the emotional support the song calls for. Tibbs rises above that unfortunate aspect, but the audience he’d built up of late didn’t follow. (7)

IN A TRAVELING MOOD
(Aristocrat 1105; December, 1948)
A powerhouse performance highlighted by Tibbs’ masterful use of melisma and tremendous byplay with The Dozier Boys wordless backing on a song dripping with despondency which never fails to ring true. (9)

HE’S GOT HER AND GONE
(Aristocrat 1106; July, 1949)
Another dynamic showcase for Tibbs as he’s fully in sync with Sax Mallard’s band throughout this racy self-penned story as the two push each other without ever loosening their grip on the listener. (8)

IN EVERY MAN’S LIFE
(Aristocrat 1106; July, 1949)
Though impressively delivered and with an interesting theme it’s also ponderously slow and therefore requires rapt attention to absorb what it has to offer. (5)