Shannon Gibson — mother of Eric and Leigh Gibson — sits on a couch with her dog, Finnegan, after watching her sons win several International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards Sept. 26 on the Bluegrass Today website. The ceremony was streamed live from Raleigh, N.C. Standing behind her is daughter, Erin Gibson LaClair, who was texting friends and family with news that her brothers had just won the IBMA Entertainer of the Year award for the second year in a row. At right is Shannon’s sister, Molly Begor, of Rouses Point. They watched the show at Erin's house in Ellenburg.
For those here in the Gibson Brothers family who couldn’t make it to Raleigh, N.C. Thursday, Sept. 26 to see “the boys” win four International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) awards, watching the ceremony on the computer was the next best thing.
Eric and Leigh Gibson’s mother, Shannon, joined her sister, Molly Begor of Rouses Point, at her daughter’s home. Erin Gibson LaClair, the boys’ younger sister, lives a stone’s throw away from their alma mater, Northern Adirondack Central School, where she works as a second-grade teacher. After putting her three children to bed, it was time to gather around a laptop computer in the front sitting room and watch the IBMA awards ceremony streaming live from the Bluegrass Today website.
Earlier in the day, Eric was awarded the 2013 IBMA Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year award, so the evening began in high spirits. Still, there was a little nervous energy in the air. Even Shannon’s 2-year-old schnauzer, Finnegan, was caught up in the buzz, barking with excitement and edgy because of the bluegrass music filling the home. With homemade chili and rolls settling in their stomachs, and the promise of apple crisp for dessert — made with apples picked from Shannon’s front yard in Ellenburg Depot — the family sat down at 7:30 p.m. to watch the three-hour awards show.
Twenty-nine minutes into the ceremony, the Gibson Brothers were awarded Vocal Group of the Year, and producers played “Home on the River” as band members walked on stage. During the acceptance speech, Leigh thanked his brother.
“Without his vocal, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today, and I owe him my career in bluegrass music because he started the Gibson Brothers before it was called that,” Leigh said.
Those words caught Eric by surprise, since they’re known for light-hearted verbal sparring on stage while tuning their instruments. For a moment, their sibling rivalry vanished, and it was filled with mutual respect.
“Wow,” Eric said. “I don’t know what to say because I’m not used to hearing him say anything nice about me.”
“I meant to add,” Leigh said, “that I wouldn’t sound so good if he wasn’t singing with me.”
During their acceptance speech for the third award — Song of the Year for “They Called It Music” — Eric invited co-writer Joe Newberry to the stage to talk briefly about the song. Newberry said the idea came from a conversation he had with an old-time picker in the North Carolina mountains. He was curious about the music.
“I said, ‘Do you call this bluegrass? Do you call it country? What do you call it?’” Newberry said. “I’ve heard people ask this before. But I came upon this guy and he looked at me like I had two heads. And he said, ‘Son, we called it music.’ Eric and I were talking about it, and before you know it, it was a song.”
Newberry said it was a thrill to receive the award in his hometown.
Yet Gibson Brothers fans — including those in the LaClair household — were still waiting for the final award of the night — the big prize — Entertainer of the Year, an honor the boys won in 2012. Leigh had called it a fluke and predicted it would never happen again.
He was wrong.
With 14 minutes left in the show, Doyle Lawson and Claire Lynch took the podium to announce the Entertainer of the Year award. They were up against some heavy hitters: Balsam Range, Blue Highway, Dailey & Vincent and The Del McCoury Band. After reading the nominations, Lynch began opening the envelope.
“And the award goes to,” Lynch said, “Oh, my gosh, what a privilege.”
“Ladies first,” Lawson said.
“Yes, the Gibson Brothers,” Lynch said as the producers played “They Called It Music” and band members piled on stage for the third time that evening.
Back home, tears of joy filled the room.
“Yayyy,” Erin said. “It’s awesome.”
“Oh, my God. I can’t believe it,” Molly added.
“I told them they’d win that, with that song,” Shannon said.
“Who told them?” Molly asked.
“With that song,” Shannon said.
“You told them that?” Molly said.
“I told them it would be at the top of the thing, when I heard the song for the first time,” Shannon said about “They Called It Music.”
In his acceptance speech, Leigh began to thank “everyone.”
“I thought last year was a fluke for sure,” Leigh said. “I don’t know what to say. We just keep trying to play the music that we hear in our heads and express it. And we feel very fortunate to be able to do this with our lives and to have so many folks think we do it well means a great deal. I’d like to thank Paul Lohr and New Frontier Touring for putting us out in front of people and Compass Records for allowing us to make music that we like to make. And I especially would like to thank members of the Gibson Brothers, past and present, for their contribution to what we do. And I can’t thank you enough.”
Eric began his acceptance speech by thanking their families, “for putting up with a group of guys that are gone a lot. It takes a selfless family, especially our wives, to put up with what we do. I want to say thank you to God, and I want to hi to my mom listening back home in Ellenburg Depot, New York. Thank you, folks. God bless you.”
Leigh rushed back to the microphone to say, “I’d like to say hi to my mom, too,” which was followed by laughter and tears from the three women in Ellenburg — the boys’ mom, sister and aunt — and a few yips from Finnegan.
“He’s so silly,” Shannon said about Leigh. “They’re always competing. ‘My mom, too.’”
Asked what she thought about Eric and Leigh’s shout out from the IBMA awards, Shannon said, “It was a good feeling, a proud feeling. I’m proud of ’em ... I’m excited. I’m happy for the boys. They worked hard for it.”
Asked if she gets nervous watching the show, Shannon said, “I keep saying, ‘I hope they get at least one award,’ and they got four, so I’m happy. I do get a little nervous sometimes, but it’s fun watching it. They’re good kids.”
The Gibson Brothers led the IBMA nominations this year. They were also up for Album of the Year for “They Called It Music” (won by Balsam Range, “Papertown”) and Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year with “Home on the River” (won by Marty Raybon, “Beulah Land”). Their newest band member, Jesse Brock, was up for Mandolin Player of the Year (won by Adam Steffey).
The Gibson Brothers — including Mike Barber on bass, Clayton Campbell on fiddle and Jesse Brock on mandolin — performed at the IBMA awards ceremony, playing “Dying For Someone to Live For,” a track from their latest CD that was written by Shawn Camp and Loretta Lynn. The Gibson Brothers recorded "They Called It Music" at Compass Records in Nashville.
For more information about the IBMA awards, visit online at ibma.org.