In 1958 the Gibbs emigrated to Brisbane, Australia, where the boys regularly played at area talent shows and other amateur showcases, occasionally performing songs composed by Barry. After adopting the name Brothers Gibb, quickly shortened to simply the Bee Gees, they were spotted in 1959 by disc jockey Bill Gates, who soon became the group's manager and played their demo tapes on his radio show. An 18-month residency as the house band at the Beachcomber Nightclub in Surfers Paradise allowed the group to hone a set of original material composed by Barry, and in 1962 they signed to Festival Records. A series of singles followed, but despite hosting their own weekly television series, the Bee Gees found little success outside of the Brisbane area; after issuing their debut LP Barry Gibb and the Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs in 1965, they began making plans to return to England, and while relocating topped the Australian charts with the title track from 1966's Spicks and Specks.
Upon settling in London, the Bee Gees' ranks swelled to include bassist Vince Melouney and drummer Colin Peterson. After enlisting a new manager in Robert Stigwood, the director of NEMS Enterprises -- the company owned by Beatles manager Brian Epstein -- the group signed to Polydor to release the single "New York Mining Disaster 1941," a Top 20 hit in both Britain and the U.S. in 1967. After issuing the somewhat deceptively titled Bee Gees First in 1967, the Bee Gees released the sublime ballad "To Love Somebody," followed by the shimmering "Massachusetts," their first U.K. chart-topper and the highlight of 1968's Horizontal. After another 1968 effort, Idea, the Bee Gees followed the psychedelic lead of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and mounted 1969's Odessa, an ambitious double LP which baffled most fans. When the subsequent double A-sided single "Jumbo"/"The Singer Not the Song" also failed, the group issued "I've Got to Get a Message to You," a poignant ballad which reached the number one spot -- the first of many career resurrections enjoyed during the Bee Gees' long history.
The atmospheric "First of May" followed, and the brothers' Midas touch was further reaffirmed by "Only One Woman," a Top Ten hit penned by the group for the Marbles. However, inner strife and problems with drugs and alcohol were quickly tearing the Bee Gees apart, and in the middle of 1969 Robin exited to begin a solo career, scoring a major hit with "Saved By the Bell." Barry and Maurice, the latter of whom had recently wed singer Lulu, forged on alone, working on the film Cucumber Castle while tackling country with the single "Don't Forget to Remember." Drummer Peterson soon departed as well, ultimately filing a lawsuit claiming rights to the Bee Gees name; a year-long court battle ensued, during which time the group lost virtually all of its chart momentum. Both Barry and Maurice issued solo singles, although neither was a hit; finally, in 1970 Robin returned to the fold, and although the brothers' career was in grave condition throughout Europe, their reunion yielded a pair of American hits, "Lonely Days" and the chart-topping "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart."
After the commercial failure of 1971's Trafalgar and 1972's To Whom It May Concern, the Bee Gees signed with Stigwood's new label RSO, and on his advice, they began adopting a more Americanized sound with 1973's Life in a Tin Can. Nevertheless, the record did not pull the group out of its slump, and they were reduced to playing small clubs when Stigwood recruited producer Arif Mardin to helm 1974's Mr. Natural, an R&B-flavored effort recorded in Miami. Mardin returned for 1975's Main Course, on which the Bee Gees completely reinvented themselves as a dance unit defined by falsetto harmonies, slick melodies and propulsive funk rhythms; the results were immediate, as the lead single "Jive Talkin'" hit number one in the U.S. and finally returned the trio to the Top Ten in Britain. The follow-up "Nights on Broadway" was also a major hit, and so the group remained in Miami to record 1976's chart-topping Children of the World, which spawned the smashes "You Should Be Dancing" and "Love So Right."
Ironically, the New York underground disco scene was considered a thing of the recent past when the Bee Gees were contacted to contribute music to the soundtrack of the film Saturday Night Fever, a latter-day Rebel Without a Cause exploring the discotheque nightlife. In addition to writing and producing hits for Yvonne Elliman ("If I Can't Have You") and Tavares ("More Than a Woman"), the Bee Gees also recorded a number of new songs for Saturday Night Fever, including the opening theme "Stayin' Alive"; when the film premiered in 1977, not only did it establish the Hollywood career of star John Travolta, but it completely revitalized the disco scene, creating a national dance craze and influencing fashions for the duration of the 1970s. The soundtrack quickly emerged as the definitive document of the disco era, topping the charts for 24 weeks, and the Bee Gees became the music's brightest stars; the first single "Stayin' Alive" was just one of their three number one singles from the LP, followed by "How Deep Is Your Love" and the brilliant "Night Fever."
After a laughable misstep -- starring in the film musical Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band -- the Bee Gees returned in 1979 with Spirits Having Flown, another number one smash which generated three more chart-topping singles: "Tragedy," "Too Much Heaven" and "Love You Inside Out." However, 1981's Living Eyes failed even to crack the Top 40 as disco went bust; the group also became overshadowed by their youngest brother Andy Gibb, who had become a major star in his own right at the end of the 1970s. Apart from contributing to the soundtrack of the 1983 Saturday Night Fever sequel Stayin' Alive, the Bee Gees spent much of the decade out of the spotlight, writing and producing hits for artists as diverse as Barbra Streisand, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and the team of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.
When the group finally returned in 1987 with the mature ESP, they were warmly received across the globe, and the LP and single "You Win Again" hit number one virtually everywhere but the U.S., where the stigma of the Gibbs' disco-era excesses, both musical and otherwise, continued to overshadow their other achievements. Following the death of brother Andy and Maurice's subsequent relapse into alcoholism, the Bee Gees briefly retired, but resurfaced in 1989 with One; another success throughout Europe, its title track even reached the Top Ten in America. After 1991's High Civilization and 1993's Size Isn't Everything, they again spent several years in hibernation before returning in 1997 with Still Waters, released to coincide with the trio's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Live--One Night Only appeared the following year. In 2000, they participated in the making of the biographical video, This Is Where I Came In, which covered their whole history, and an accompanying album of the same name. The Bee Gees remained active until the death of Maurice in January 2003. The Bee Gees remained active until the death of Maurice in January 2003.
The Bee Gees remained active until the death of Maurice in January 2003. While receiving treatment for an intestinal blockage he suffered cardiac arrest and died at the age of 53. Following his death, Robin and Barry decided to cease performing as the Bee Gees. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide