One could say it was a broken record that helped make the Bee Gees one of the most successful recording groups ever. One day in the mid-1950s, Barry Gibb and his twin brothers, Maurice and Robin, saw a boy lip-syncing to a record, at a movie theater in their hometown of Manchester, England. They signed on to do the same and were taking their own record to the theater when Maurice dropped and broke it. So the brothers decided to sing live, and the audience loved it.
The Gibbs came from a musical family. Their mother was a singer, and their father, Hugh, was a drummer and big-band leader. Soon after the birth of brother Andy, the family moved to Queensland, Australia, in 1958. They continued performing as The Rattlesnakes and caught the attention of disc jockey Bill Gates and promoter Bill Goode. Gates used the initials he shared with Goode to rename the group The Bee Gees.
The trio had performed in resorts, on television and recorded a minor hit, when the family decided to return to England. Before leaving, Hugh Gibbs sent a demo tape to Brian Epstein’s NEMS management company. Back in England, they met NEMS producer Robert Stigwood, who signed them to a contract, added Vince Melouney on guitar and Colin Petersen on drums and took them into the recording studio. The sessions resulted in an album, Bee Gees First, which was released in mid-1967.
The Bee Gees wrote all of their own songs and sang close three-part harmonies. Their voices blended perfectly, in the same way that The Everly Brothers and Beach Boys did. Barry sang lead on many songs and developed a falsetto in the group’s disco years. Robin provided the lead voice in their early recordings, and Maurice did the high and low harmonies.
Promoter Stigwood decided to send the Bee Gee’s first single, “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” to radio stations with a white label that contained only the song title. Many DJs assumed it was from the Beatles and gave it heavy airplay. “Mining Disaster” reached the top 20 in both the UK and the US. Their follow-up, “To Love Somebody,” also climbed to the top 20. A third single, “Holiday,” peaked at #16 in the US.
The Bee Gee’s next album, Horizontal, produced yet another top 20 single, “Massachusetts.” The hits kept on coming: “Words,” “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You” and “I Started A Joke,” which reached #6 in the States.
By 1969, Robin Gibb and guitarist Vince Melouney left the Bee Gees. The brothers reunited late in 1970 but failed to recreate their earlier successes. Five years later, they were recording in Miami, at Eric Clapton’s suggestion, and their repertoire turned to a more rhythmic style. Thus began the Bee Gees’ even more successful second incarnation as a disco group. But the band faded when disco died in the early 1980s and released only a few minor records.
The Bee Gees are the most successful trio in rock and roll history. They’ve sold more than 110 million records worldwide, including 19 number-one singles over a career that has spanned 5 decades. They are the only artists in history to have five singles in the US Top 10 at the same time, as well as six consecutive #1 records.
Where Are They Now?
Younger brother Andy Gibb, who’d launched a solo career, died in 1988 at age 30. Barry, Maurice and Robin continued as the Bee Gees through the 90s. The death of Maurice Gibb in 2003 retired the Bee Gees’ name, though Barry and Robin united for a charity concert in Miami in 2006.
Robin Gibb, then 61 years old, was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2011. He had become noticeably thinner in previous months and had to cancel several appearances due to issues with severe abdominal pain. Robin’s final public appearance was on February 13, 2012,when he performed at a charity concert at the London Palladium. In April 2012, Robin contracted pneumonia and was in a coma in a Chelsea hospital. He died on May 20, 2012, leaving Barry as the last surviving Gibb brother.
Bee Gees Videos
“New York Mining Disaster 1941” Performed live in Chicago, 1975
Robin Gibb gives a solo concert in the Phillipines, 2006
Bee Gees Discography
Album Title | Highest US Chart position | Year | Highest UK Chart position
Spicks and Specks – 1966 –
Bee Gees 1st #7 1967 #8
Horizontal #12 1968 #16
Idea #17 1968 #4
Odessa #20 1969 #10
Cucumber Castle #94 1970 #57
2 Years On #32 1970 –
Trafalgar #34 1971 –
To Whom It May Concern #35 1972 –
Life in a Tin Can #68 1973 –
Mr. Natural #178 1974 –
Main Course #14 1975 –
Children of the World #8 1976 –
Saturday Night Fever#1 1977 #1
Spirits Having Flown #1 1979 #1
Living Eyes #41 1981 #73
E.S.P. #96 1987 #5
One #68 1989 #29
High Civilization – 1991 #24
Size Isn’t Everything#153 1993 #23
Still Waters #11 1997 #2
This Is Where I Came In#16 2001 #6