The Bee Gees were a musical group founded in 1958. The group's line-up consisted of brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. The trio were successful for most of their decades of recording music, but they had two distinct periods of exceptional success:as a pop act in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and as prominent performers of the disco music era in the late 1970s. The group sang three-part tight harmonies that were instantly recognisable; Robin's clear vibrato lead was a hallmark of their earlier hits, while Barry's R&B falsetto became their signature sound during the late 1970s and 1980s. The brothers wrote all of their own hits, as well as writing and producing several major hits for other artists.
Born on the Isle of Man to English parents, the Gibb brothers lived in Chorlton, Manchester, England, then moved in the late 1950s to Redcliffe, Queensland, Australia, where they began their music careers. After achieving their first chart success in Australia with "Spicks and Specks" (their 12th single), they returned to the United Kingdom in January 1967 where producer Robert Stigwood began promoting them to a worldwide audience.
The Bee Gees' career record sales total more than 220 million ranking them among the best-selling music artists of all time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997; the presenter of the award to "Britain's first family of harmony" was Brian Wilson, historical leader of the Beach Boys, a "family act" also featuring three harmonising brothers. The Bee Gees' Hall of Fame citation says "Only Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees."
Following Maurice's unexpected death in January 2003, Barry and Robin retired the group's name after 45 years of activity. In 2009 Robin announced that he and Barry had agreed that the Bee Gees would re-form and perform again. Robin died in May 2012 after a prolonged struggle with cancer.
1955–66: Formation and Australia popularityIn 1955, Barry Gibb along with his brothers Robin and Maurice Gibb moved back to their father Hugh Gibb's home town of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, England where they went to Oswald Road Primary School, and they formed a skiffle/rock and roll group The Rattlesnakes which consisted of Barry on guitar and vocals, Robin and Maurice on vocals, with friends Paul Frost on drums and Kenny Horrocks on tea-chest bass. In December 1957 the boys began to sing in harmony. The story is told that they were going to lip sync to a record in the local Gaumont cinema (as other children had done on previous weeks) and as they were running to the theatre, the fragile shellac 78-RPM record broke. The brothers had to sing live and received such a positive response from the audience that they decided to pursue a singing career. In May 1958 The Rattlesnakes were disbanded when Frost and Horrocks left to form Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats. In August 1958 the Gibb family, including infant brother Andy, emigrated to Redcliffe, just north-east of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. The young brothers began performing where they could to raise pocket money. They were introduced to radio DJ Bill Gates by racetrack promoter Bill Goode (who saw them perform at Brisbane's original Archerfield Speedway in 1959). Gates renamed them the "Bee Gees" after his, Goode's, and Barry Gibb's initials—thus the name was not specifically a reference to "Brothers Gibb", despite popular belief. By 1960 the Bee Gees were featured on television shows. In the next few years they began working regularly at resorts on the Queensland coast. For his songwriting, Barry sparked the interest of Australian star Col Joye, who helped them get a record deal in 1963 with Festival Records subsidiary Leedon Records under the name "Bee Gees". The three released two or three singles a year, while Barry supplied additional songs to other Australian artists. From 1963 to 1966 the Gibb family lived at 171 Bunnerong Road, Maroubra in Sydney. A minor hit in 1965, "Wine and Women", led to the group's first LP The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs. By 1966 Festival was, however, on the verge of dropping them from the Leedon roster because of their perceived lack of commercial success. It was at this time that they met American-born songwriter, producer and entrepreneur, Nat Kipner, who had just been appointed A&R manager of a new independent label, Spin Records. Kipner briefly took over as the group's manager and successfully negotiated their transfer to Spin in exchange for Festival being granted the Australian distribution rights to the group's recordings. Through Kipner the Bee Gees met engineer-producer, Ossie Byrne. He produced (or co-produced with Kipner) many of the earlier Spin recordings, most of which were cut at his own small self-built St Clair Studio in the Sydney suburb of Hurstville. Byrne gave the Gibb brothers virtually unlimited access to St Clair Studio over a period of several months in mid-1966. The group later acknowledged that this enabled them to greatly improve their skills as recording artists. During this productive time they recorded a large batch of original material—including the song that would become their first major hit, "Spicks and Specks" (on which Byrne played the trumpet coda)—as well as cover versions of current hits by overseas acts such as The Beatles. They regularly collaborated with other local musicians, including members of beat band Steve & The Board, led by Steve Kipner, Nat's teenage son. Frustrated by their lack of success, the Gibbs decided to return to England in late 1966. Ossie Byrne travelled with them, and Colin Petersen, who eventually became the group's drummer, followed soon after. While at sea in January 1967, they learned that "Spicks and Specks" had been awarded Best Single of the Year by Go-Set, Australia's most popular and influential music newspaper.