Interview w. GIP GIPSON Written by: Shein Die PHOTOGRAPHS by SHEIN DIE ~ American Blues Scene Magazine ran an article on Henry Gip Gipson and his juke -like Gip’s Place in January of 2011. It gives you background on Gip and on his legendary Gip’s Place. It’s a ‘must read’ article, for sure! – *add link Henry GIP Gipson – he, of GIP’S PLACE, is a ‘once in a lifetime’ Authentic Bluesman (in his 90s I believe) who, if you have the chance to meet, and watch perform, should NOT be missed … –
- It was prior to that ABS article that I had heard of this Bluesman, who brought people together ‘through music’ ~ “No Black, No White, just BLUES”. Gip decided, in l952, to host parties in his backyard (61 years ago!) …he’d put out folding chairs, pillows, set up some tables..spread everything out and invite his friends (i.e. Bobby Rush, T-Model Ford) to come on over and jam – “bring coolers, BYOB, bring your friends” ..so I went out to Bessemer, AL in August, 2013 to spend an afternoon with Henry ‘Gip’ Gipson ~ singer, songwriter, harp player, guitar player, grave digger – a spiritual man who quotes Bible verses (when appropriate) chats easily and makes friends of everyone he meets… my hope was to hang and chat with Gip.
- We kicked back, he played a bit, I met Miss Mary his elderly friend, and then he was kind enough to talk a bit, tell a story and answer a few of my questions: My first was ~ HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO REMEMBER YOU? Gip: all people are the same … no black, no white ..my place brings them together ..I read the Bible; I have simple rules of life: start and end each day in prayer, always say you’re sorry, live as if it was your last day, love the Lord with all your heart – (he is a kind, deep and Spiritual man). Gip continues: I make a place for people to come together in friendship, in music.. like a church ..I make a place for everyone to congregate, meet, talk, listen and have a good time … I’ll teach kids, I’ll teach anyone who asks. I bring people together through music. ME: WHAT MADE YOU START YOUR BACKYARD PARTIES? Gip: I wanted a place for ALL people to congregate – like a Church – to socialize, to eat, to listen…to feel good ME: WHO CAME? Gip: my friends ~ I like to play slide (his slide guitar work is awesome) ~ I have a harmonica, too ~ everyone came and played and congregated (he quotes Bible verses now) ~ T-Model (James T-Model Ford, of Mississippi) came (shakes his head) .. I went to one of his fundraisers in the winter (I tell him his friend sadly passed July 16, 2013) … Oh No ~ I didn’t now know that (a moment of silence ~ a muttered prayer)… Bobby Rush comes in a lot. I have parties Saturday nights now – my Backyard Parties…no food! BYOB ~ lots of music and friendship. ME: WHO INFLUENCED YOU THE MOST, IN MUSIC? Gip: John Lee Hooker! I went to Michigan to play at his club (JLH played at the Apex Bar) .. I played WITH him, too! It was in the l940s. ME: SO, YOU HAVE ACTUALLY TRAVELED OUTSIDE OF ALABAMA? Gip: Yes – the BEST trip was traveling up to NYC with my brother. We went to Brooklyn. ME: BROOKLYN? WHY BROOKLYN? Gip: Why? To see Jackie Robinson play! Me: WOW, YOU WENT TO EBBETS FIELD? Gip: You know Ebbets Field?!? Me: SURE DO. IT WAS IN THE CROWN HEIGHTS SECTION OF BROOKLYN (since demolished to make way for apartments). Gip: Yes, Ebbets Field to see Jackie Robinson. Then, we had FUN, fun in the BIG CITY (Manhattan) – we stayed, me and my brother (Gip grins as he remembers) ~ Then, l went to The Bronx. (that was surprising to hear, since tourists do not go up to The Bronx! – unless it’s to The Bronx Zoo) Me: WHY? WHY THE BRONX? WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT IT? Gip: Trains, trains, more trains (he laughs) .. note: going up to The Bronx entails taking the subway and changing trains to get to this borough of NYC. Gip: I have a story ~ a funny 😀 story (he laughs out loud) The Story: I’m in The Bronx. I’m having fun (he winks) – I’m in a club. A BIG CITY (Manhattan) girl come in ~ says she’s from NYC!!! I say, I was from a BIGGER city than New York.. she says ‘there IS no city bigger than New York’ ! .. ya know, she’s saying she’s a BIG CITY GIRL! ..well, I’m having fun 😀 .. don’t tell her MY big city .. she’s guessin’ – NO NO NO, I say to her. … she asks ..WHAT CITY IS IT?!?!?! Bigger than New York, you’re sayin’? … I say: Bessemer, ALABAMA! – (Gip cracks up with laughter…) She did NOT find it funny, but I sure did! .. (I started laughing, too – actually, the way he told the story, it was Very Funny). Gip then picked up his guitar….he began to sing, he began to play ~ and as Gip would say: “We were having FUN” …. (Written by Shein Die) all PHOTOGRAPHS BY SHEIN DIE ~ copyright, all rights reserved ~