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Walter Gibbons (1954 - 1994)

Lifespan: 1954 - 1994

Mixed with Love (2004) - Walter Gibbons [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Related 12-inch single - remix - Salsoul Records - Set It Off (1984)

... he turned otherwise unremarkable dance records into monumental sculptures of sound ...

Walter Gibbons

It was Gibbons transformation of Double Exposure's Ten Percent from a three minute album track into an eleven minute dancefloor stormer that radically changed the disco undergound in terms of record production, remixing and development of the 12" record. At the time when orchestration was commonly used on dance records, Gibbons' technique was to concentrate on percussion and the song. He was an explorer and innovator of DJ techniques and skills which we now take for granted and he was also considered to be one of the most impeccable live mixers of his time. Walter Gibbons' Djing began in the early 70s in NYC at the Galaxy 21, Fantasia, and Buttermilk Bottom, Second Story in Philadelphia and the Monastery in Seattle. Years before his death Gibbons became a Born Again Christian and wouldn't mix songs with sexual content. However, he resurfaced in 1984 with the unforgettable electro classic Set It Off, and did two more mixes for Arthur Russell in 1986.


Gibbons was born in Brooklyn on 2 April 1954. He grew up with his mother, Ann, his sister, Rosemary, and his two brothers, Robin and Edward. Nothing is known of his father — friends say he never spoke of him — and little more is known of his young adult life save that he subsequently moved to Queens, dated men and collected black music.

Gibbons was easy to miss. An innocuous white boy with an unconvincing moustache and carefully combed brown hair that was parted right to left, he stood at approximately five foot five and, thanks to his pencil thin build, looked like he would need help carrying his records to work. Shy and softly spoken, he kept himself to himself. He preferred cigarettes to chatter.

But when Gibbons stood behind the turntables at Galaxy 21, an after hours venue on Twenty-third Street owned by black entrepreneur George Freeman, he was hurricane articulate. It was almost as if he kept his daytime thoughts to himself because he knew he could articulate them with so much more force through the Galaxy sound system at night. Why talk when you can DJ? --Tim Lawrence via the liner notes to Mixed with Love, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]

Ten Percent (Nov 1976) - Double Exposure

Walter Gibbons didn't just electrify fellow DJs and suburban dancers. He also electrified Ken Cayre, head of a newly formed label called Salsoul, which had created a minor tremor in Nightworld with the release of the Salsoul Orchestra's debut album. The Salsoul boss proceeded to sign Double Exposure and realised soon after that Gibbons could help him market the group's first single. "Walter was very aggressive when it came to searching out new records," says Cayre. "He became friendly with Denise Chatman, our promotions girl, and we went to hear him play. I was very impressed with his skills."

Cayre was particularly taken with the way the DJ worked "Ten Percent", which had been released as a non-commercial promotional twelve-inch test pressing that consisted of the standard single plus a longer version. "We knew the DJs wanted longer records so we told the producers to get the musicians to jam for a couple of minutes after they had recorded the regular song," says Cayre. "I had to release the promotional twelve-inch single because the seven-inch wasn't doing well." Having laid his hands on two copies of the test pressing, Gibbons worked up a whirlwind. "He did this fantastic edit and the reaction in the club was phenomenal. I said, 'Can you do that in the studio?' He said he could."

Salsoul gave Gibbons and engineer Bob Blank three hours to complete the remix at Blank Tapes Studios. That meant the duo had one hour to put up the mix and channel the sound, one hour to break down the recording and one hour to cut up tape with a razor blade. "Walter was prepared but he couldn't prepare everything," says Blank. "He had to be ready to do 'brain work' on the spur of the moment. The session was very intuitive. Walter was a real genius."

By the end of the session the diminutive DJ had transformed a dense four-minute song into a nine-minute-forty-five-second roller coaster. He was paid $185 for his efforts — $85 to cover a night's work at Galaxy, plus $100 for the blend — and he started to spin an acetate of the remix, which was effectively a readymade version of the lightning-quick collages he had already been concocting at Galaxy, in late February/early March 1976.

"'Ten Percent' was one of the best mixes anyone had ever heard," remembers Smith. "Walter turned a nice song into a peak song." The remix became an instant classic. "I heard it on an acetate in the Gallery," says Mixmaster editor and downtown connoisseur Michael Gomes. "It sounded so new, going backwards and forwards. It built and built like it would never stop. The dance floor just exploded."

Salsoul released the twelve-inch — the first commercially released twelve-inch — in May, much to the chagrin of the Philadelphia-based songwriter Allan Felder. "The mixer cut up the lyrics and changed the music," Felder told me shortly before he passed away. "It was as if the writers and producers were nothing."

Gibbons didn't set out to offend. Blank notes the DJ-turned-remixer was "very, very, very concerned" the artists, producers and writers would feel he had done the record justice. But DJs were widely regarded as musical parasites and the idea that they should be given carte blanche to remix an original work of art was doggedly opposed by music-makers. The development was seen as being nothing short of scandalous and Gibbons lay at the centre of the action.

Cayre stayed calm and kept his focus. "Walter was the first DJ to show the record companies that they should be open to different versions of a song," he says. "They were in the club night after night so they knew what worked and what didn't work. Walter was pivotal. He convinced producers and other record companies to give the DJs an opportunity to remix records for the clubs. And he showed us that these records could be commercially successful. People didn't believe that was possible before 'Ten Percent'. Walter was a pioneer." --Tim Lawrence via the liner notes to Mixed with Love, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]


Apr 02 1954 to Sep 23 1994

Hit and Run (1977) - Loleatta Holloway

[t]he DJ's remix of Loleatta Holloway's "Hit And Run", which was recorded at Sigma Sound in April 1976 and released on Holloway's album, Loleatta, in December. Gibbons asked Cayre if he could remix the song and the Salsoul chief, taking a deep breath, decided to entrust his little prince with the multitrack [see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitrack_Recording]. "'Hit And Run' was the first time that a studio let a DJ completely rework the song," says Cayre, "and Walter, the genius that he was, turned it into a twelve-minute, unconventional smash."

Having been restricted to carrying out a cut-and-paste reedit of the half-inch master copies for "Ten Percent", Gibbons was now able to select between each individual track, and he dissected and reconstructed the six-minute album version in the most sweeping manner imaginable: a swathe of strings and almost all the horns were sliced out in order to emphasise Baker, Harris and Young's exquisite rhythm track, and, in a high-risk move, the remixer shifted the focus of the song by cutting the first two minutes and all of the verses of Holloway's vocal.

Salsoul's bigwigs were aghast. "When Walter played me his mix I initially wanted to choke him," says Cayre. "Loleatta wasn't there anymore. Walter just told me that I had to get used to it." Always up for a party, the mogul went to listen to Gibbons play the twelve-inch in its intended setting and "after hearing it a couple of times" he knew that Gibbons "had done the right thing." --Tim Lawrence, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]

Trivia: Carl Craig's Throw (Open) (1994) is based on a small sample from "Hit and Run" [about 7 minutes into the original]

Tape Editing, from Reel to Reel [...]

Tape editing

What I say is that the first 'cut-ups' were by Walter Gibbons - the first great 'mixing' DJ. These date from 1974/5 and use funky records like The Fatback Band [building] up to latin percussion jams, cut up on reel-to-reel tape … and used to provide a continuous mix (sometimes 20 minutes plus) in the clubs of New York. A good example of this would be the 'looped up' 'break' (remember, nobody knew these terms back then!) from the Cooley High soundtrack album [‘Two Pigs and a Hog’]. First he used two copies [of the record] to capture the break, then did it on tape to be cut onto an acetate, thus saving the hassle of doing it live all the time. -- Colin Gate via http://home.wanadoo.nl/discopatrick/history.htm [Jan 2005]

Gibbons, Luongo, Herc

Performing in parallel yet unconnected universes, DJ Kool Herc in the Bronx and John Luongo in Boston started to play back-to-back breaks around the same time as Gibbons, but neither of them could match the Galaxy mixmaster's razor precision. --Tim Lawrence, http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2005/walter_g.php [Jan 2005]

1983 Profile by Steven Harvey

Outside a disco Walter Gibbons is the least known of the mixers profiled here. This in no way diminishes his importance. Walter not only mixed the first 12 Inch single '10 Percent' by Double Exposure - he completely transformed it from a three minute album track into 11 minutes of break after break. It was a revolution - a record designed specifically for the underground club scene in New York.

"You really have to think that every time you change the record, the title or something about the record is going into people's heads. For me, I have to let God play the records, I'm just an instrument."

His trademark was a concentration on the percussion, the song and the singer. Where many of the period releases by Salsoul were heavily orchestrated, Walter stripped down his tracks to essence. Two Salsoul albums, 'Disco Boogie Vols 1 & 2' (the first disco party album) and 'Disco Madness' feature his mixes. The latter has him singing 'It's Good For The Soul', a perfect slice of what he is playing now and the reason he no longer works in the dance music industry. When he became a born-again Christian he stopped playing songs that were not uplifting. That pretty much eliminates the majority of dance music dealing with sexuality.

Walter was considered to be one of the most impeccable live mixers of his time. He could play the impossibly slow intros to 'Love Is The Message or 'Love Hangover' and still keep the dancing going by his edits of the segues. He anticipated breakstyle mixing with his percussion blends of tunes like 'Two Pigs and A Hog' (from Cooley High soundtrack) a one minute break that he would cut up with two copies.

Many people think that in the vastly competitive dance music business, once you drop out you are through. If Walter's faith keeps on, some record company might realise that he would be the perfect mixer for a new Philly style release or a gospel dance track. Perhaps 'Faith' - the unreleased track he mixed and produced with Steve D'Aquisto - would be a good place to start

From the beginning of playing records, the issue was getting a message or narrative across through the songs. Now it's 'in the mix'

''I think I did that. I used to keep a book of what were my top records every week, Looking back it scares me - at that time I wasn't very Christ minded. Music is too easy to make - there are Spirits in records. You really have to think that every time you change the record, the title or something about the record is going into people's heads. For me, I have to let God play the records, I'm just an instrument.''

That's appropriate to DJing as a modern art form where the DJ is basically the instrument, the medium for other people's music.

' Unlike most DJs, I do requests I like to know what they're thinking too, The thing about requests is if you can change what they're thinking into something positive. This girl used to like 'Nasty Girls' so I'd play it. My thought behind that would be a record like 'Try God' by the NY Community Choir which is the total opposite."

Sort of advocate style spinning. "The last time I saw Tee Scott I bought a record for him. it was a mix of 'Law Of The Land' by Undisputed Truth with a little bit of 'Ten Percent' and the Ten Commandments spoken. He played it and the crowd roared like I've never heard in my life. Especially after the part where he's saying 'thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shall not steal. thou shall not kill' - there was such a roar. it was like WOW, compared to what they hear normally. It was very interesting." --Steven Harvey, 1983, Collusion Magazine


It was a New York disco-era deejay, Walter Gibbons, who pioneered many of the techniques of disco mixing that would become the lifeblood of house deejays-turned-producers in the `80's. After years out of the spotlight, Gibbons resurfaced in 1984 with a mix of a 12-inch single called 'Set It Off' that would define the New York dance underground. It created a sensation at the Garage, where it was championed by Levan, and spawned countless remakes by the likes of C. Sharp and Masquerade and at least one answer single, Number 1's 'Set It Off (Party Rock)'. Perhaps the definitive version of 'Set It Off' was Strafe's, with its mesmerizing vocal hook woven into a spare but hauntingly atmospheric rhythm bed.-- Greg Kot

Francois Kevorkian

February 1976: Walter Gibbons was DJ at the Galaxy 21 when Francois K. got hired to play live drums over Walter's records.

Faze Action

Faze Action on Walter Gibbons: "Like Brian Jones and Keith Richards poring over their blues records, Faze Action are purist scholars of the form -- for them the Salsoul Orchestra is Howlin' Wolf and Walter Gibbons is Muddy Waters." [...]

Selected Discography

  • Salsoul records
    • 12D-2008 Double Exposure 'Ten Percent' (1976)
        first commercially available 12"
    • 12D-2011 Salsoul Orchestra 'Nice 'n' Nasty' (1976)
    • 12D-2030 Anthony White 'I Can't Turn You Loose'/'Block Party' (1977)
    • SG 2067 Cellophane 'Super Queen' (1978)
    • SG 2071 Luv You Madly Orchestra 'Rocket rock / Moon maiden' (1978)
    • SG 311 Robin Hooker Band 'Stand By Your Man' (1979)
  • West End records
    • WES 12113 Bettye Lavette 'Doin'the Best I Can (Short)' (1978)
    • WES 12113x Bettye Lavette 'Doin'the Best I Can (Long)' (1978) go for the long version
    • Colleen Heather: "Heartbreaker" LP (West End WE 108, 1979). Co-credited.
  • Gold Mind
    • GG-402 Loleatta Holloway 'Catch Me On the Rebound' (1978)
    • GG-40O3 Love Committee 'Cheaters Never Win' (1977)
    • GG-4006 Loleatta Holloway 'Hit And Run' (1977)
    • GG-4011 Love Committee 'Just As Long As I Got You' (1978)
    • True Example: "Love is finally comin' my way" b/w "As long as you love me" (Gold Mind 12G 4005, 1977). Two releases exist of this record. One credit Walter Gibbons while the other not.
  • Salsoul
    • Various Artists: Saturday night disco party (Salsoul SA 8505, 1978). Co-credited with Tom Moulton & Jim Burgess
    • Salsoul Orchestra: Greatest disco hits (Salsoul SA 8508, 1978)
    • Various Artists: Disco madness (Salsoul SA 8518, 1979)
    • Various Artists: Salsoul's greatest 12" hits Vol. 1 (Salsoul CA 1002, 1982), Co-credited with Tom Moulton
  • Sleeping Bag records
    • SLX-23 Indian Ocean 'Tree House' / 'School Bell' 1986
      • Produced by Arthur Russell and Peter Zummo
      • Mixed with Love by Walter Gibbons
  • Upside rds
    • Logarythm 12" LR-1002-1 1002 Arthur Russell 'Let's Go Swimming' (1986)
      • gulf stream dub / puppy surf dub / coastal dub /
          Coastal dub Mixed with Love by Walter Gibbons
  • Jus Born records
    • Strafe 'Set It Off' (1984)
      • Steve Standard and George Logios (Bombers?)
  • Various
    • Sandy Mercer: "Play with me" b/w "You are my love" (H&L 2005, 1978), co-credited with Steve D'Acquisto
    • Gladys Knight & the Pips : It's a better than good time (Buddah DSC 130, 1979). Canadian issue. I never saw an american print of this.

    History of House

    Most Chicago DJ's admit a debt to the underground 1970's underground club scene in New York and particulary the original disco-mixer Walter Gibbons, a white DJ who popularised the basic techniques of disco-mixing, then graduated to Salsoul Records where he turned otherwise unremarkable dance records into monumental sculptures of sound.It was Gibbons who paved the way for the disc-jockey's historical shift from the twin-decks to the production studio. But ironically, at the height of his cult popularity, he drifted away from the decadent heat of disco to become a "Born Again Christian", having created a space which was ultimately filled by subsequent DJ Producers like Jellybean Benitez, Shep Pettibone, Larry Levan, Arthur Baker, Francois Kervorkian, The Latin Rascals, and Farley "Jackmaster" Funk. Most people believed that Walter Gibbons was a fading legend in the early history of disco, then in 1984 he resurfaced, and had a new and immediate impact on the development of Chicago House Sound. Gibbons released an independent 12" record called "Set It Off" which started to create a stir at Paradise Garage, the black gay club in New York, where Larry Levan presided over the wheels of steel. Within weeks a "Set It Off" craze spread through the club scene, including new versions by C. Sharp, Masquerade, and answer versions like Import Number 1's "Set It Off(PartyRock)". The original record had been "mixed with love by Walter Gibbons" and was released on the Jus Born label, a tongue in cheek reference to Walter's christianity. Gibbons had set the tone again, the "Set It Off" sound was primitive house, haunting, repetitive beats ideal for mixing and extending. It immediately became an underground club anthem, finding a natural home in Chicago, where a whole generation of DJ's including Farley and Frankie Knuckles, rocked the clubs and regularly played on local radion stations. -- Stuart Cosgrove on The History of House Sound of Chicago BCM Records, Germany

    Set it Off

    1. The Perfect Beats, Vol. 2 [Amazon US]
      1. Let The Music Play - Shannon 2. I.O.U. - Freeze 3. Dancing On The Fire - Jellybean 4. Crash Goes Love - Loleatta Hollaway 5. My Love Is Alive - Chaka Khan 6. The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight - Dominatrix 7. For The Same Man - B Beat Girls 8. Infatuation - Upfront 9. Hip Hop Be-bop - Man Parrish 10. Set It Off - Strafe 11. Moody - Esg 12. Cavern - Liquid Liquid 13. Together Forever - Exodus 14. Confusion - New Order 15. Slack - Slack
      Following the history lesson of volume 1, The Perfect Beats, Volume 2 reaches a little wider in its selection of electro-boogie, hip-hop, and freestyle oldies. This seems to be the set's unofficial "happy" disc--some of the fastest cuts are on this volume, as well as the lightest and most playful. (Even the monochromatic series package design adds to the effect--this volume's a sunny orange.) "Let the Music Play" by Shannon (one of the highest-charting records in the collection) appears in a livelier-than-life remix, and just try to resist the bubbly synth-vibraphone on Dominatrix's "The Dominatrix Sleeps Tonight." Lots of these cuts will be familiar as the source of samples that fueled bigger hits, especially Liquid Liquid's "Cavern," which formed the basis for Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel's huge rap record "White Lines." --John Sanchez

    Mixed with Love (2004) - Walter Gibbons

    1. Ten Percent (Original 12" Mix) 2. Block Party (Original 12" Mix ) 3. Catch Me On The Rebound (Original 12" Mix) 4. Just As Long As I Got You (Original 12" Mix) 5. It’S Good For The Soul (Original Lp Remix) 6. Let No Man Put Asunder (Original Lp Remix) 7. Love Is Finally Coming My Way (Original 12” Mix) 8. We’Re Getting Stronger (Original 12" Mix) 9. Ice Cold Love (Original Lp Remix) 10. Cheaters Never Win (Original 12" Mix) 11. Law & Order (Original 12" Mix) 12. Catch Me On The Rebound (Original Lp Remix) 13. As Long As You Love Me (Original 12" Mix) 14. I Can’T Turn You Loose (Original 12" Mix) 15. My Love Is Free (Original Album Remix) 16. Hit & Run (Original 12" Mix) 17. I Wish That I Could Make Love (Original Lp Remix) 18. Nice N’ Naasty (Original 12" Mix) 19. Where Will It End (Original 12" Mix) 20. Salsoul 3001 (Original 12" Mix) 21. Moon Maiden (Original 12" Mix) 22. (Dance With Me) Let’S Believe (Original 12" Mix) 23. Catch Me On The Rebound Inst (Original 12" Mix) 24. Ten Percent (Original Lp Remix) 25. Rocket Rock (Original 12" Mix) 26. Magic Bird Of Fire (Original Album Remix) 27. Super Queen (Original 12" Mix) 28. Stand By Your Man (Original 12" Mix) 29. Your Cheatin’ Heart (Original 12" Mix)

    Yet Walter Gibbons, against all odds, still became a DJ's DJ. "Everyone was going to hear Walter," says Smith, who would go down to Galaxy once he had wrapped up for the night at Barefoot Boy. "Most DJs finished at four so we could hear Walter from five until ten." After that, Gibbons and Smith would go for breakfast and, weather permitting, a trip to the beach, where they would talk about music. "DJs couldn't go and listen to too many people because we had played all night and didn't want to hear the same thing all over again. But we knew Walter would turn us on. Everyone showed up." --Tim Lawrence via http://www.timlawrence.info/writing-pages/wg_mixed-w-love.html [Jan 2005]


    Having been restricted to carrying out a cut-and-paste reedit of the half-inch master copies for "Ten Percent", Gibbons was now able to select between each individual track [see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multitrack_Recording], and he dissected and reconstructed the six-minute album version in the most sweeping manner imaginable: a swathe of strings and almost all the horns were sliced out in order to emphasise Baker, Harris and Young's exquisite rhythm track, and, in a high-risk move, the remixer shifted the focus of the song by cutting the first two minutes and all of the verses of Holloway's vocal. --Tim Lawrence via http://www.timlawrence.info/writing-pages/wg_mixed-w-love.html [Jan 2005]

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