Henry “Gip” Gipson
Henry “Gip” Gipson is a lot of things to different people. To some he is a true old school Bluesman, to some, he is a gravedigger and cemetery owner, to others he is a spiritual advisor, and for many, he is the owner and host of perhaps the last real Juke Joint in America, but to all, he is an authentic American treasure. At 97 years old Mr Gip is a man of wisdom as well as a man of God. Too some people’s mind a man that runs a Saturday night Juke Joint and a man of God is a contradiction, but Mr. Gip is no contradiction. Born in Uniontown Alabama in 1920 Gip developed a love of music early in life. He left the fields of Uniontown to work building train cars at the Pullman Standard plant in Bessemer Alabama. For over 65 Mr. Gip has opened his home to friends and strangers alike every Saturday night to enjoy music and fellowship. Each Saturday night party begins with a prayer and the singing of Amazing Grace. A few simple rules are given, such as no cussing is tolerated and respect is expected for all. Patrons come to Gipʼs expecting a unique musical experience but are often unprepared for the undeniable feeling of unity and love. If anyone has a reason to harbor bad feelings it would be a 97-year-old black man raised in the deep south during a time of oppression and prior to the civil rights movement. Despite the difficult times that he endured, Mr. Gip shows no signs of resentment or hate but rather has dedicated his life to promoting love and hope. He has found the perfect bridge to connect people of all backgrounds and beliefs and that bridge is music. Gipʼs Place is known today all over the world. On most Saturday nights are attended by visitors from other countries. Recent shows have been attended by music lovers from Belgium, Germany, England, Japan, The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Brazil, Italy, France, Ireland, and many other nations as well as from all 50 states.
It is truly incredible that a place is so humble and pieced together that is run by a man so humble and of such meager material means has become the destination of so many from far and wide. A common statement of visitors is “I have never seen a place like this” and also many say that their visit was life-changing. The music always seems to sound so good at Gipʼs despite a modest PA system, food seems to taste better at Gipʼs but most important the fellowship seems so real and true. You will be greeted at some point by Mr. Gip and when he hugs you and tells you that he loves you, you know that he really does. He is a real bluesman that plays his guitar and sings every day with the haunting conviction that was born in heartache but heals the hearts of others. He is an ambassador for Alabama and for Alabama Music. To those that truly get to know Gip on a personal level, he is like a prophet. Young Alabama blues artist Todd Simpson, who has been mentored by Mr. Gip since he was 9 years old, calls him the Uniontown Prophet. For anyone that needs a little guidance and truth from a man that hasnʼt been corrupted by the material world and the greed of the world can find it from Mr. Gip. Henry ʻGipʼ Gipson is the recipient of the 2017 Alabama Music Awards “ Lifetime Achievement Award”. It’s hard to imagine that anyone has achieved more in their life in the music world than Mr. Gip, not in fame and fortune but rather in the impact on people’s lives and the more than 3,500 Saturday nights of enjoyment and escape from life’s struggles through the magic of music.