Georgia Gibbs was a versatile, brassy singer who starred on “Hit Parade” in the 1950s, performed with the big bands of Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw, and was perhaps best known for the song “Kiss of Fire.”
Gibbs began singing in Boston ballrooms as a teenager, using the name Gibbons, and made a career singing novelty numbers as well as pop and country ballads and torch songs. She was one of the first white singers to cover R&B hits, sometimes sanitizing the original lyrics.
She took the name Georgia Gibbs around 1942 and a few years later was dubbed “Her Nibs, Miss Georgia Gibbs” by variety show host Garry Moore. The rhyming sobriquet stuck as a way of introducing her on the air.
In addition to “Hit Parade,” Gibbs was a regular on programs presented by Jimmy Durante and comedian Danny Kaye, and was a frequent guest on radio and early television variety shows hosted by Ed Sullivan, Milton Berle, Bob Hope, Red Skelton, Ed Wynn and Steve Allen.
Among her 15 top 40 hits, mostly for Mercury Records, were three gold records: the tango-based “Kiss of Fire,” which went to No. 1 on the pop charts in 1952; “Tweedle Dee,” an R&B adaptation in 1954; and “Dance With Me Henry,” another R&B cover, which reached No. 1 in 1955 with cleaned-up lyrics.
Gibbs, along with other white singers of the 1950s, won more airplay and television exposure than many of the black artists of the era who recorded the same songs.
“It was a tragic thing that happened to black artists in the '50s,” she once told The Times, “but I don’t think I should be personally held responsible for it, because I had nothing at all to do with it.”