Would you like a taste of the truly Deep South? Legendary blues club Gip’s Place in Bessemer, Alabama is one of the last Southern juke joints.
As a gravedigger / cemetery owner by day and a bluesman by night, Henry ‘Gip’ Gipson (1920-2019) opened his place in 1952 as a low-key sanctuary for musicians to get together and play the blues. Which quickly escalated to a full-blown house party in his backyard, drawing a crowd of all ages and as diverse as a bag of Skittles. Because at Gip’s, there’s no black, no white, just the blues.
Imagine a shack with a tin roof, decorated with Christmas lights, hand-painted signs, amps, guitars, buzzing neon, old photos and tons of blues gig posters. There’s seating inside and outside, but prepare for a packed house. And the some of best live blues in the South: the small stage is home to a varied roster of seasoned bluesmen and -women, but Gip always made it a point to get raw talent on there too.
Sound good? Time your landing in Alabama well, because Gip’s Place only opens on Saturday. Pack a cooler with refreshments (it’s BYB) and head down to Bessemer, about 20 miles from Birmingham. Set your sat nav to Avenue C and drive around until you see cars lining up or you hear the blues pumping – whichever comes first.
Until then, play some vintage John Lee Hooker and raise your glass to the man himself. You are missed, Gip!
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