Tag Archives: Don Howland

Jon Spencer and Columbus go way back

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By this point, everyone knows about local musician Sam Brown sitting behind the kit in the indie-rock supergroup Divine Fits, who will return to town Wednesday at the Newport Music Hall. Less known, perhaps, is the Columbus connection of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, which was recently added to the Newport bill (moved from the Basement).

In the early ’90s, sometime around the dissolution of Spencer’s previous band Pussy Galore, he and wife Cristina Martinez joined an incarnation of the off-kilter country/blues/rock Columbus outfit Gibson Bros. with Don Howland (Bassholes) and Jeff Evans (’68 Comeback), who had recently relocated to Memphis. A couple years ago, Howland told me about playing an RL Burnside cassette for Spencer during a Gibson Bros. tour.

“He was stunned by it,” Howland said. “By the time we got to Memphis to record the last album, we were covering an RL Burnside song with Jon singing it.” Spencer went on to record and tour with Burnside, exposing the bluesman to an audience he’d never before reached.

Columbus folks also speak about the influence of Evans’s “twisted-Elvis” onstage persona, and how it shaped Spencer’s approach as a frontman. You know all those self-referential “Blues Explosion!” shout-outs? It was part of the Gibson Bros. schtick very early on. “Gibson Brothers, ladies and gentleman, Gibson Brothers!” Evans would exclaim like a snake oil salesman during live shows.
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Overlooked in Ohio: Vol. 2 (Gibson Bros.)

Editor’s note: “Overlooked in Ohio” is a feature in which we ask an Ohio-based artist or music enthusiast to tell us about a few bands (past or present) from the state of Ohio that deserve some love. Our second installment comes courtesy of Mark Wyatt, former member of seminal Columbus band Great Plains and One Riot One Ranger; these days you’ll find him singing behind the keyboard with The Beatdowns and Columbus Power Squadron. Here are Mark’s reflections on and recollections of the Gibson Brothers.

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MP3: The Gibson Brothers – Big Pine Boogie off the 1987 cassette The Gibson Bros. Build a Raft (via Minimum Tillage Farming)

Jeez, where do I begin with these guys? At the beginning, I suppose. My brother Matt and I first met the eventual “lead” guitarist of the Gibbies, Don Howland, at a Ramones show in Cincinnati in the late 70′s; he was hawking his fanzine Shake It! to the folks in line (don’t hold me to that title…confirming it would require me to dig into my basement “archives”), we got to talking, realized we were fairly kindred spirits, and started a friendship which continues to this day. A friendship, I might add, that even endured him being a founding member of Great Plains, despite the fact that he didn’t like the band well enough to even use his real name on the first record.

I already knew Dan Dow (the GB’s acoustic rhythm guitarist) from Mole’s Records, although the guy always played it so close to the vest that it’s hard to say I really *knew* him… I can’t recall when I met front man “Country Jeff” Evans or minimalist drummer Ellen Hoover, but I suspect it was when Jeff moved in with my next-door neighbor, the aforementioned Mr. Dow. I used to see Jeff coming back from the South Drive-In flea market on summer Saturday mornings, more often than not carrying some bizarre old amp or guitar, and I’d see Ellen and Jeff coming back from dates in one of Jeff’s two ancient Cadillacs, the choice of which depended on which one was actually running at the time.

So, seeing as how they were all friends and/or neighbors, of course I checked out this Gibson Brothers thing when they first played out.

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