Henry Gibson (percussionist)

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"Master" Henry Gibson
BornAugust 9, 1942
United States
DiedDecember 18, 2002 (aged 60)
Stockholm, Sweden
GenresJazz, Soul, Funk
Instrument(s)Bongo drums, Conga drums
Years active1960s–2002
Formerly ofPhil Cohran's Artistic Heritage Ensemble, Odell Brown and the Organizers

"Master" Henry Gibson (August 9, 1942 – December 18, 2002) was an American percussionist with an extensive career and discography spanning four decades, best known for his work with Curtis Mayfield.


Growing up in Chicago, Gibson was constantly tapping out rhythms on his desk at school. At age ten he acquired a set of bongos, which he used to perform on the streets and in laundrettes in his neighborhood.[1] In the late 1950s, Gibson began playing with and toured for more than a year with calypso singer Mighty Panther before returning to Chicago.

In the 1960s, Gibson performed with Rev. Jesse Jackson's Operation Push. He worked in Chicago recording studios as a session musician, recording with Stan Getz, Ramsey Lewis, Jackie Wilson, Oscar Peterson, The Impressions, and Aretha Franklin.[1] Later, he became a member of Phil Cohran's Artistic Heritage Ensemble, and played and recorded with the jazz ensemble Odell Brown and the Organ-izers. In the late 1960s he recorded with Brunswick Records artists, including the Chi-Lites, Kenny Burrell, Oscar Brown, Jr., and Gene Chandler.[1] He played and toured with Donny Hathaway, including playing percussion on Hathaway's breakthrough single, "The Ghetto", and began playing and touring with Curtis Mayfield,[2] a role that would define Gibson's career for a decade.

In the mid-1970s and 1980s, Gibson performed on the Hawaiian Islands and lived on the island of Oahu. He teamed with musician, songwriter, and producer Kirk Thompson to record the iconic Lemuria album and collaborated with many of the top local Waikiki musicians of that era, including vocalist Azure McCall and pianist Tennyson Stevens. Gibson was integral to Kirk Thompson's 'Super Session' with Michael 'Papabax' Baxter on keyboards, John Gallarde on bass, and Ron Felix on drums.

While performing at a Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm, Sweden, he met and married his wife Anne. Gibson continued touring in the 1990s, playing with Gipsy Kings, Chaka Khan, and others.[1]

His distinctive style can be heard among other recordings on Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman."[3][4][5] An unsung Soul artist, Gibson felt he had more than paid his dues. In his later years, he was less and less content with being a sideman and began asserting himself as the main attraction, placing his percussion at the forefront of shows. He was known for getting upset with audiences in noisy venues — after demanding their silence and full attention, he would instantly regain his focus and proceed to put on spellbinding performances on the bongos.[citation needed]

He died in Stockholm of a heart attack at age 60.[citation needed] His last concert appearance was with Khaled Habib and Zak Keith at the Lydmar Hotel in Stockholm.[citation needed] Months after his death in 2002, friends and musicians got together to organize a tribute concert at the Fasching Jazz Club in Stockholm.[citation needed]


Henry appeared on several blaxploitation movies such as Super Fly.[citation needed]



  1. ^ a b c d Baker, Greg (10 June 1992). "Oh, Henry!". Miami New Times. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  2. ^ Werner, Craig. Higher Ground: Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the Rise and Fall of American Soul. New York City, New York, US: Three Rivers Press. ISBN 1400081556.
  3. ^ Cohen, Aaron. Move On Up: Chicago Soul Music and Black Cultural Power. Chicago, Illinois, US: University of Chicago Press. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-226-65303-7.
  4. ^ Krakow, Steve (26 April 2016). "Soul percussionist "Master" Henry Gibson played on hundreds of records—including Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman"". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  5. ^ Ross, Michael (6 October 2014). "Forgotten Heroes: Curtis Mayfield". Premier Guitar. Retrieved 12 February 2024.