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. 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". 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. 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. 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. Following his "discovery" by McCormick and Strachwitz, Lipscomb became an important figure in the folk music revival of the 1960s. He was a regular performer at folk festivals and folk-blues clubs around the United States, notably the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, CA. He died in his hometown of Navasota in 1976, two years after suffering a stroke. A Well Spent Life (1971).
Documentary directed by Les Blank and Skip Gerson. El Cerrito, California: Flower Films. Released on video in 1979. ISBN 0-933621-09-4. He also appeared in Blank's The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins (1970) An annual Navasota Blues Festival is held in his honor, and on August 12, 2011, a bronze sculpture of him was unveiled in Mance Lipscomb Park in Navasota.
The statue was sculpted by artist Sid Henderson of California and weighs almost 300 pounds. It portrays Lipscomb playing his guitar whilst seated on a bench, with room for fans to sit beside him and play their own guitars "with" him. Mance Lipscomb (1895-1976), guitarist and songster, was born to Charles and Jane Lipscomb on April 9, 1895, in the Brazos bottoms near Navasota, Texas, where he lived most of his life as a tenant farmer. 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." Between 1905 and 1956 he lived in an atmosphere of exploitation, farming as a tenant for a number of landlords in and around Grimes County, including the notorious Tom Moore, subject of a local topical ballad.
He left Moore's employ abruptly and went into hiding after he struck a foreman for abusing his mother and wife. Lipscomb's own rendition of "Tom Moore's Farm" was taped at his first session in 1960 but released anonymously (Arhoolie LP 1017, Texas Blues, Volume 2), presumably to protect the singer. Between 1956 and 1958 Lipscomb lived in Houston, working for a lumber company during the day and playing at night in bars where he vied for audiences with Texas blues great Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins,qv whom Lipscomb had first met in Galveston in 1938. With compensation from an on-the-job accident, he returned to Navasota and was finally able to buy some land and build a house of his own.
He was working as foreman of a highway-mowing crew in Grimes County when blues researchers Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records and Mack McCormick of Houston found and recorded him in 1960. Arhoolie Records (El Cerrito, California) has released seven albums of material by Lipscomb: Mance Lipscomb: Texas Songster and Sharecropper (Arhoolie 1001); Mance Lipscomb Volume 2 (Arhoolie 1023); Mance Lipscomb Volume 3: Texas Songster in a Live Performance (Arhoolie 1026); Mance Lipscomb Volumes 4, 5, and 6 (Arhoolie 1033, 1049, and 1069); and You'll Never Find Another Man Like Mance (Arhoolie 1077). Trouble in Mind was released by Reprise (R-2012). Individual pieces are included in other anthologies.
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