Thursday, October 18, 2007
The Gentleman from Navasota, Texas
In my post from 9/04, I gave a very brief biography of Mance Lipscomb, author of such great tunes as "Captain, Captain" and "Sugar Babe". The picture at the top is from the Guitar Styles Workshop on April 29. The lower one is from his set at the field house on April 28. I'd like to quote here from an essay by John Minton:
"Lipscomb represented one of the last remnants of the nineteenth-century songster tradition, which predated the development of the blues. Though songsters might incorporate blues into their repertoires, as did Lipscomb, they performed a wide variety of material in diverse styles, much of it common to both black and white traditions in the South, including ballads, rags, dance pieces (breakdowns, waltzes, one and two steps, slow drags, reels, ballin' the jack, the buzzard lope, hop scop, buck and wing, heel and toe polka), and popular, sacred, and secular songs. Lipscomb himself insisted that he was a songster, not a guitarist or "blues singer," since he played "all kinds of music." His eclectic repertoire has been reported to have contained 350 pieces spanning two centuries. (He likewise took exception when he was labeled a "sharecropper" instead of a "farmer.")
"His encounter with Strachwitz and McCormick (of Arhoolie Records) in 1960 marked the beginning of over a decade of involvement in the folk-song revival, during which Lipscomb won wide acclaim and emulation from young white audiences and performers for his virtuosity as a guitarist and the breadth of his repertoire. Admirers enjoyed his lengthy reminiscences and eloquent observations regarding music and life, many of which are contained in taped and written materials in the Mance Lipscomb-Glenn Myers Collection in the archives and manuscripts section of the Barker Texas History Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He made numerous recordings and appeared at such festivals as the Berkeley Folk Festival of 1961, where he played before a crowd of more than 40,000. In clubs Lipscomb often shared the bill with young revivalists or rock bands. He was also the subject of a film, A Well-Spent Life (1970), made by Les Blank. Despite his popularity, however, he remained poor. After 1974 declining health confined him to a nursing home and hospitals. He died in Grimes Memorial Hospital, Navasota, on January 30, 1976, and was buried at West Haven Cemetery."