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by Dan Price

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dallas entertainer and dear friend to the Celebration community, Mr. Doc Gibbs, to talk about his life and 40-year musical career in Dallas, entertaining people across the city, especially the incredible seniors in DFW. I had one question for the man with the best Louis Armstrong impression I have ever seen: Is Doc your real name?

"No one in my hometown ever called me Doc. I get that name when I was going to that religious college (Ambassador College) in East Texas," explained the man initially named Murdock Gibbs, Jr., The college president to a liking to a young Murdock and started calling him Doc for short, and the name stuck.

Born in 1951 in Tuskegee, Alabama, known as the home of Tuskegee Airmen, civil rights heroes such as Rosa Parks and the location of one of the first black colleges in the country founded by Booker T Washington, and the home of George Washington Carver. While Doc learned to play piano by ear at the age of eight, in high school, he got going, playing talent shows, choir shows, and more with fellow classmate Lionel Richie and other musicians that would go on to be known as The Commodores.

In 1968, he went to Brandeis University outside of Boston. "That's where I got my introduction to solo work, and one of the things that happened that I thought was funny… I was singing a soul song, "You Got Me Going in Circles" by Friends of Distinction, that had just come out. There was a part in the song with a deep robust voice, that I sang as a solo.

One of the girls in the front row started screaming and sinking in her seat." Doc began laughing at his next thought, "And I thought, what's wrong with her?"

"I always dreamed of going to religious school and becoming a minister," Doc told me. "So, after Brandeis and working for a year in New York as a publicity writer, I came to east Texas and went to a little college called Ambassador College, and that's where I trained for the ministry, all the while still doing music. Always constantly playing piano and/or vocalizing. It didn't work out for the ministry. Unfortunately, (the school) ran out of money to send us out into the field. So, I went back to publicity writing for the University." While he was doing that, he was still playing music.

When I asked about his wife, Doc talked affectionately about Vera, his wife of 48 years. "We met through our church, and both went to the same college," Doc said. "She and I got to know each other through dancing. We had a band in college, and she would sing. She still sings with me (today) from time to time. She has a great ear and a beautiful voice. She's a very talented lady..."

He told me about their move to Longview, TX, right after their senior year. And as soon as Doc got to Longview, he got into the music scene. In 1983, Doc and his wife Vera moved to Dallas with Doc looking for a writing job as a full-time gig while still pursuing music. He hooked up with an entertainment magazine and talked with the editor about his music career. His editor, in turn, introduced Doc to the owners of Papa's Porch in Richardson, TX, and started a 5-year run as the piano player for the club.

Around 1988, Doc was at Papa Porch for five years doing the piano bar thing and started getting calls to play retirement communities. While playing at a retirement community in Richardson, after he was introduced, Doc heard a voice yelling from the back of the room, "Hey Doc! Remember me? My sister and I used to listen to you play at Papa's Porch!"

"And a few of my regular customers were sitting in the show's audience! So I tell people, I didn't have a bunch of followers that followed me; I just followed them to where they were," Doc laughed, "Which happened to be the retirement communities."

And Doc began to play at the retirement communities and city dances.

At last count, it's over 200 different senior communities that Doc and the band have played. Every week, Doc will play 5 to 10 of the communities, bringing the people of those communities music they grew up with, music they love, and romantic music that reminds them of long loves or loves passed. "I just love making people happy that way."

When I remarked to Doc, "That has to be an amazing feeling," his eyes lit up, and he smiled at me.

"Oh yeah! My goal is to touch everyone in the audience with something that lifts them up, gives them inspiration, and gives them a smile…"

Well, Doc, you inspire us and give us all a smile. Thank you, Doc, from all of us at Celebration and in the DFW metroplex.

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