Famous backyard blues joint under fire

Gip's Place

BESSEMER, Ala. (WIAT) – It’s been called the last juke joint in the state and Gip’s Place put Bessemer on the map for music tourists.
Now the city is telling the historic back yard blues party to tone it down over complaints and zoning issues.

Henry “Gip” Gipson’s whole world revolves around a metal roofed shack in his back yard that many believe is one of the last true juke joints.
The thought of losing it- gets him choked up-  “I’m not dealing with it too nice. I’m really torn up about it,” said Gipson.

It’s personal to a lot of people because over the last half century or longer  Gipson has been getting together with music lovers of all backgrounds in his back yard.

Visitors from all over the nation and around the world are quick to sing Gip’s praises. Over the last several years its notoriety has grown and so have the crowds. Now the City of Bessemer says it can’t ignore Gip’s Place any longer.

“We’ve gotten some complaints from the residents about traffic, about parking, about noise, about litter, and you know unfortunately we’ve gotten some reports of people, you know some visitors to… to Gip’s Place of actually you know relieving themselves in the yards of people that live in that area,” said Toraine Norris, Mayor’s Assistant, City of Bessemer.”The bottom line is that as of right now and as we have found out- Gip’s Place has been operating as a business in a residential area.”

Cindy McGee, a friend of Gip’s who helps with the booking, is hopeful they can find some common ground with the city to keep Gip’s Place going.
“It is not a business it is a juke joint and it’s the last one in the State of Alabama and we need to preserve it,” said McGee. “We do ask for people to give donations and we know there are some that can’t give a donation and there’s hundreds that have been through these doors and had a great time that never paid a dime.”

McGee says she remains hopeful a compromise can be reached to keep Gip’s Place going.

“I got the answer I think, but I just don’t know where it’s at,” said  Gipson.

“We’re working on things, but it’s not something that can be resolved over night. We just want the city to hang on a minute and give us, now that we understand what their, the complaint is,” said McGee.

McGee says supporters of Gip’s Place are asked to attend the Bessemer City Council meeting Tuesday at 7 p.m. in a silent show of support.

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