Monday, 20 August 2012

Featured artist: Mance Lipscomb

Mance Lipscomb
April 9th 1895 – January 30th 1976
Like Leadbelly and Mississippi John Hurt, the designation as strictly a blues singer dwarfs the musical breadth of Mance Lipscomb.
Lipscomb was born April 9, 1895 to an ex-slave father from Alabama and a half Native American (Choctaw) mother. Lipscomb spent most of his life working as a tenant farmer in Texas and was "discovered" and recorded by Mack McCormick and Chris Strachwitz in 1960 during the country blues revival.
He began playing guitar early on and played regularly for years at local gatherings, mostly what he called "Saturday Night Suppers" hosted by someone in the area. These gatherings were hosted regularly for a while by himself and his wife. The majority of his musical activity took place within what he called his "precinct", meaning the local area around Navasota, until around 1960.
His debut release was “Texas Songster” (1960). Lipscomb performed old songs like "Sugar Babe," the first song he ever learned, to pop numbers like “Shine On Harvest Moon” and “It's A Long Way To Tipperary”.
A proud, yet unboastful man, Lipscomb would point out that he was an educated musician, his ability to play everything from classic blues, ballads, pop songs to spirituals in a multitude of styles and keys being his particular mark of originality. “Trouble in Mind” was recorded in 1961, and released on a major label, Reprise.
In May 1963, Lipscomb appeared at the first Monterey Folk Festival in California.
He released many albums of blues, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley and folk music (most of them on Strachwitz' Arhoolie label), singing and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. He had a "dead-thumb" finger-picking guitar technique, and an expressive voice. Lipscomb often honed his skills by playing in nearby Brenham, Texas, with a blind musician, Sam Rogers.
He went on to appear at numerous blues and folk festivals throughout the '60s.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, he did not record in the early blues era, but his life is well documented thanks to his autobiography, “I Say Me for a Parable: The Oral Autobiography of Mance Lipscomb, Texas Bluesman”, narrated to Glen Alyn, which was published posthumously and also a short 1971 documentary by Les Blank, “ A Well Spent Life”.
In 1974 he retired from the festival circuit and passed away on January 30, 1976 in his hometown of Navasota, Texas. He was 81.
With a wide-ranging repertoire of over 90 songs, Lipscomb may have had a belated start in recording, but left a remarkable legacy to be enjoyed.

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