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The World According To Gip



August 07 2012


In this very spot back in 1952, in Bessemer, Ala., you might have found Henry "Gip" Gipson on the porch giving an impromptu guitar lesson to little Earl Williams, or anybody else who came and wanted to learn, and there were lots of them. Soon after, a few friends would have stopped by to shoot the breeze, have a beverage, and play. Black, white, young, old, it didn't matter; everyone was welcome at Gip's place.

Some 60 years later, not much has changed. Kids still come to learn and play, like the 15-year-old boy from Helena that Gip says is "every bit of Jimi Hendrix." Little Earl "Guitar" Williams still comes, though he’s not little anymore and now has his own following as a lead blues guitarist.

Gip's friends still come by to play, too, but now they include big-name musicians who seize the rare chance to play at what’s grown over the years into a bona-fide juke joint—basically a stand-alone garage behind the house, converted into a stage and decorated with strings of Christmas lights and a smattering of metal chairs and tables that spill out into the yard. People come from miles around—sometimes hundreds of miles—to hear the music at Gip’s Place, with the capital “P” one of the very few nods to officialdom that you’ll find here, along with the $10 armbands sold to help cover the electric bill. No alcohol is sold, though coolers are welcome, and what passes for a concession stand is just a backyard barbecue, with Gip’s son Keith and Gip’s old friend Ms. Bay serving up fried fish, chicken wings, and sausage dogs. Many guests are regulars, while others are making a first appearance, but none of them are strangers for the simple reason that Gip has never met one.

In fact, if Gip's is famous for one thing other than the sweet sounds that emanate from the stage, it's the open arms Gip extends to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, money, or anything else.  This is a melting pot in the form of a house party.

"Music doesn't care about color," he says emphatically, noting that an early inspiration was the race-transcending rocker Chuck Berry, who once gave Gip one of his guitars as a present. "It ain't about the black and the white.”

Over the years, Bobby Rush, Microwave Dave and the Nukes, Mikey Junior, T-Model Ford, Kent and Cedric Burnside, Liz Brown, and countless other greats have appeared (even Tina Turner was scheduled, though she got sick at the last minute and had to cancel). But you almost get the impression that for Gip, whoever happens to be onstage is less important than what the crowd takes away from the experience. He sees the music as a form of love itself, bringing people together and spreading a little joy. In the world according to Gip, it’s as simple as loving thy neighbor as thyself. The music takes care of the rest.

Gip’s faith in mankind is reaffirmed every Saturday when the fans come back, again and again, regardless of heat, frost, or football—even near-tragedy, as when a fire on the property threatened to take down the stage this past summer. The flame consumed some of Gip's most treasured possessions, including that guitar Chuck Berry gave him, but Gip got out safely, and the juke joint was spared. "More people were here that Saturday after the fire than have ever been here before," he says proudly.

Gip keeps the spotlight away from himself, but he's always good to play some John Lee Hooker, his favorite, or the "Uniontown blues" from his hometown of Uniontown, Ala., upon request from some of the older folks in the crowd. It all comes so naturally to Gip that he's been known to sing and play even when he's by himself at one of the three cemeteries he owns and where he still shows up to dig graves every day. Suffice to say, fame, even of the underground variety, has not gone to Gip’s head. If it translates to more enthusiasm for the music, that’s all that matters. While Gip’s Place is known for the blues, Gip himself is wide open to whatever kinds of music people want to play or hear. There are country nights, too, and gospel almost always makes it into the mix, fittingly enough for a place whose namesake never tires of quoting scripture and begins each Saturday night with a prayer from the stage. "God bring peace on everyone here."

http://www.npr.org/2011/05/21/136497027/gips-place-a-blues-lovers-dream

 

HENRY "GIP" GIPSON is a Regions customer.

Click photo to enlarge

 

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  • Wonderful writeup. Proud to call Gip a friend. He's a treasure in every sense of the word.

    Deon Gordon
  • I would like to thank Bob Miller for the time he spent making this video. Bob spent many hours getting to know Gip and what Gip stood for, and we appreciate it. Great work Bob!

    Cindi McGee
  • Loved it!!!!!! I could listen to him play for hours.

    Connie Evans
  • I love to hear stories like this.I would love to go and meet him.

    Beverly
  • I have several musician friends that go to "Gip's Place", and many Nashville musicians come there. In times to come, many stories and legends will be written about a humble and talented man from Bessemer who made a real difference in many people's life. Thanks "Gip", for just being real and who you are.

    max brown
  • What a great story. I've been to several juke joints around the South but have missed this one. Now on my list. Red's in Clarksdale, MS is another one in our footprint.

    Leo Nelson
  • Having been raised in Hueytown, I never before heard about Gip's Place. I definitely have to go there. What a great story!

    Debbie
  • Mr. Gipson is truly a treasure. He had me at Uniontown, AL., as this is the place where I too learned a love for the blues. Excellent feature!!

    Ella C. Shakeel
  • I want to go there and meet him and hear the music. Anybody interested in going with me?

    Joan Creel
  • Loved this story. Powerful and an inspiration --especially the music.

    Anita
  • This is an inspiring story. It is uplifting to know, despite trials, Gip has pushed through and created such a wonderful outreach to the community through the love he has for music. He is a true treasure and inspiration to us all.

    Bobbie Morton
  • Enjoyed the video and loved the story.

    Sybil
  • I love this story and the blues. Hopefully, I can catch him play one day.

    Ricky
  • WOW!!! This was such a wonderful article about a wonderful human being. My family, friends, and I go there often to enjoy not only great music, but also good food. What a true earthly treasure we all have in Gip.

    Carol Forge Hatcher
  • It's so nice to hear there are still people like this in the world, only affected by love and positivity and seemingly unaware of the negativity in the world. He's an inspiration.

    Leslie E.
  • What an experience. Everybody was so friendly and the music was great!!

    Cindy Fisher
  • What a great story!

    Gina Bobon
  • This was a fantastic video--makes me want to go down and listen!

    Steven
  • Awesome! Great story.

    Latonya D Dixon
  • My wife and I will definitely have to make a stop by "Gip's Place." We love listening to the blues! Must be in my Mississippi blood...

    Derick
  • I plan on making the trip to see Gip! Blues and Gospel get me through life.

    Danielle Brown
  • GREAT GREAT PART OF HISTORY...

    massetta jordan
  • I think this is wonderful.

    IRENE PERRY
  • "There's two kinds of music, the blues and everything else. May God save us from everything else." - Emmylou Harris This just made my day. Thanks!

    Matt Redmond
  • What a cool story! Gip seems like a real Alabama treasure, and I love his sense of faith and community spirit! Keep up the good work with these great stories!!

    Wendy Weathers
  • I will be making this pilgrimage soon. What an amazing man.

    Matt
  • Love the blues! Love Eric Clapton and now the Black Keys play sensational blues. But Mr. Gipson sounds like the real deal. Would also love to see him.

    Jose Zayas
  • I LOVED this story!!! Gip is surely an AL treasure.

    Deborah Davis
  • I am a Hueytown girl and, sad to say, this is all news to me. I plan to remedy that situation by finding Gip's Place and having a listen soon!

    Robbie
  • I LOVED THE STORY OF GIP'S PLACE. I DID NOT KNOW THAT IT EXISTED, AND I DO PLAN TO VISIT. THANKS FOR BRINGING GIP'S PLACE TO OUR ATTENTION. SEE YOU SOON!

    DIANE
  • I absolutely loved this story and Gip! Thanks so much!

    Tonya Smith/ Robinson, IL.
  • So very good to have something positive. My dad's name was Gip, and he would have loved this. Also, my daughter is a Regions employee. Never been to a juke joint but truly hope I can get to visit this one. Cheers to all the Gips in this world.

    Shirley
  • I am amazed at the diversity of the stories here on see the good! I have enjoyed the music at Mr. Gips and the food! Looking forward to going again in late September when the Banditos (my son is a picker) will be playing there again. They are more Honky Tonk than true blues, but they love Mr. Gip. He is so supportive of younger musicians. He is a wonderful host! If you go, get good directions!

    stephen pierce
  • We need more people like GIP. Would love to meet him.

    Sue Smith
  • I think we should use these stories in our advertisements. Yes, we're in the business of banking, but more importantly, we're in the business of life. These stories are what life is all about, and I am inspired by them all.

    Tina Redmond
  • These "Old Timers" are, sadly, a dying breed who should be acknowledged for their legacy and the impact the music had on all facets of life, even today. Thank you all.

    Michael Greer
  • I have just recently heard about Gip's Place, before reading this great write up. I will be visiting Gip's soon.

    Terrell Dilworth
  • I would love to meet Mr. Gip, and I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to hear his song.

    michele renee meadows
  • I'm proud to have met him and sat to listen to him play. What a wonderful man.

    Joel L
  • Was honored to play at Gip's last summer for the first time. Certainly hope to get to return. It's a real piece of Folk Life, Americana, and the BLUES.

    Russell Gulley
  • I see a road trip in my future!

    Bonnie B
  • OMG I grew up in the Jefferson county area. When I am back in B'ham again, I will be sure to visit. This story touched my spirit. Thanks to Regions Bank, I learned some nice things to share.

    Joanne