Things to do: Listen to Navasota by Mance Lipscomb
When college campuses and musical cognoscenti were in the grip of a folklore/blues revival in the early 1960s, it seemed like every few months a blues performer was being “discovered”.
These were black men often tracked down by record collectors and music historians such as Alan Lomax and Dick Waterman who were active as live musicians and recording artists from the late 1920s through the 1940s.
But by the dawn of the Kennedy administration, many had faded back into small towns for menial work, perhaps picking up guitar or harmonica just for private amusement.
These guys like Son House, Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and the Lightnin’ Hopkins in Houston were often shocked and a little stunned that anyone–not to mention a young, white audience–knew who they were.
While some have clearly benefited financially, the blues guys got a second chance, better pay, exposure, and travel opportunities to play music than ever before. The audience got the “authentic” blues sounds. Even if it looks like they’ve been frozen from decades past and brought back to life just like Captain America.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Mance Lipscombe of Navasota, Texans had never put his music in wax before. But that was fixed when Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachowitz and blues music historian/folklorist Mac McCormick found Lipscomb after a full search.
And on a borrowed guitar, Lipscomb put 23 complete songs on tape one evening. 1960 Texas Sharecropper and Songster Marking both the poster and the artist’s debut, followed the following year (on a different poster) with problem in the mind, with more to come.
Lipscomb hit the playing field for an appreciative audience in clubs, campuses, theaters, and cafes (including the Berkeley Folk Festival and the Newport Folk Festival). Several of these shows have been discovered and now released in 2CD collection Navasota (Sunset Blvd Records). A dollar from each record sold will go to the Houston-based Knowledge First Empowerment Academy.
The first disc features a performance at Harvard University in 1972, and the second disc features a compilation of two performances at Texas at the University of Houston in 1963 and 1964, as well as other material recorded in Navasota. It’s mostly just Lipscomb and his voice and acoustic guitar. Blues scholar/writer, Bill Dahl, wrote the liner notes.
“Studio items are easy to keep track of, but it’s much more difficult with live items,” he adds. “You have to remember that Mance wasn’t discovered until 1960 when he was 65!”
Regarding the differences in sound between shows, Dahl says there’s not much development. “His style was quite full and developed by then. And unlike some others [discovered] Players, never scored before. He was only eight years younger than Charlie Patton, so he was already one of the [older] performers. ”
Some of the material may be familiar to listeners across the newer versions of rock bands: “See See Rider,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” “Key to the Highway,” “Motherless Children,” and “Rock Me Baby.” From blues standards, folk songs, the rhythms of Tin Pan Alley, and romantic pathos.
It’s fitting that Lipscombe didn’t call himself “Blosman.” He felt “The Singer” was a better description of how his playing embodies different styles and genres, including more catchy tunes like “Shine On Harvest Moon,” “Little Brown Jug,” and “When the Saints Going In.”
“Mance was more like Mississippi John Hurt, not a straight blues guy. He preceded him to blues, so he had all sorts of different songs. Belly bullets also fall into that category,” Dahl says. “He had a wide repertoire, but had to To have it to satisfy an audience that wanted to hear everything, including requests and dance material.”
He adds that it’s mostly white fans and musicologists who want to put musicians in a more proper box when it comes to genres. “They were basically entertainers, they even had music in the background while people were drinking all night. It wasn’t like [college concerts] where and [attentive] The audience sat on their hands straight into the stage and stared at the stage.”
as heard in NavasotaLipscombe’s partying demeanor is very relaxed as he tells (maybe practicing) jokes and sidekicks before setting off on the material. Presenting “Rock Me Mama,” it tells a story about coming home late to an unhappy wife as he tries to change the subject and asks for sex.
“Rock me Mama? I’ll rock you with a stick upside down!” he says, playing the role of the woman. Adding that if you’re a guy out for a walk and aren’t sure you’ll be greeted when you get home, throw your hat at the front door. If you go back outside, you’ve got your answer.
“Some men were better at [audience interaction] than others. Mance has always been straight and elegant. Like Mississippi John Hurt and unlike Skip James, who was very tough,” says Dahl. “But he had plenty of time to practice that.”
In terms of how being Texan affects Lipscomb’s voice in a way that won’t be the same anywhere else, Dahl says geography certainly plays a role.
“Texas has an amazing tradition in blues music. I had a T-Bone Walker, Blind Lemon Jefferson, later my hero Albert Collins and then Gatemouth Brown, even though he was born in Louisiana,” he says. “There are more blues traditions in Texas than in any other state.”
Unfortunately, Mance Lipscomb only had a little over ten years to record and perform. He had a stroke in 1974 and died two years later. was the subject of an oral autobiography, tell me to like By Glenn Allen, documentary, 1971 good life (whose director, Les Blank, also made TIt’s the blues according to Lightnin Hopkins). There is footage of the two playing together.
Through their recently discovered live shows, Navasota It also proves the theory that there is still a lot of undiscovered and missing music on tapes and records found in closets, attics, filing cabinets, and storage units. This includes musical genres. Navasota It definitely adds to the legacy of Mance Lipscomb. Today, a statue of the performer can be seen in the city’s Mance Lipscombe Park.
“We are just lucky that it was found. It could have easily fallen through the cracks,” Dal sums up. “It’s scary to think of how many of them there are. [blues performers] It was there that no one had ever heard of because they hadn’t recorded. They may be stars in the back woods, but we’ll never hear them for posterity.”