Sunday, April 28, 2013

US road trip: Gip's Place

There are very few genuine black juke joints remaining in the Southern states but Gip's Place, in Bessemer, Alabama, is definitely one of them. It's a small shack with an outdoor area and is hard to find, but well worth the effort, as we discovered last ni9ght. Gip Gipson, believed to be anywhere between 80 and 100, has been running the place since 1952 and showed that he is no mean bluesman himself. There's no booze on sale so we brought our own and arrived just in time to grab four of the best seats. The place was packed with a mixture of black and white locals, some of whom were no doubt attracted by the fact that a film crew was there making a documentary.
Gip was a genial host, smartly dressed in a gold and white shirt and he and two other guys played guitar and sang some gentle blues while the main band - the Chris Simmons Royal Blues Band - was setting up and during the interval later. After prayers (first time that's happened at a gig that I've been to) they got into their stride with a mixture of heavy blues and rock flavoured numbers, quite a few of which were written by the band members. Chris Simmons, a former member of Leon Russell's band, is an excellent guitarist and three of the band have pretty good voices, but the great thing about the night was the ambience of the place, with its Christmas decorations, pictures on the wall and fantastic Southern hospitality. When the locals discovered we were from England they made quite a fuss of us - clearly they don't get too many visitors from outside the area.
I've been to several juke joints in the past - Teddy's in Zachary, near Baton Rouge, Wild Bill's in Memphis and Red's in Clarksdale - but Gip's just about tops the lot of them This was really a night to remember. Long may Gip and his Place survive. Check out my photos in a week or two.
Nick Cobban.


At 8:42 pm , Anonymous Eugene said...

It was really great getting to meet you guys Saturday night at Gip's , hope you all had a good time.
I really love your blog here, you now have a new viewer. Hope the rest of y’all vacation is wonderful!
Be safe in New Orleans!
Until next time, your friend from across the pond.

At 10:01 am , Blogger Pete Gold said...

You are obviously having a great time. Be safe and enjoy the rest of the trip. It was pretty quiet for last friday's TFTW meet up, just 4 of us and I guess we all wished we were with you.
Pete G.

At 7:48 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Nick
I really want to go to Gip's Place - sounds great.

see you when you're back

At 2:43 pm , Anonymous David Cartwright said...

Are you at Jazz Fest? Flying out from Austin on Thursday for the second week end.

At 10:34 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spread the word...

At 4:40 am , Blogger Talkonme said...

I thought you would like to see this. The blues world is in an uproar.


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