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Ala. Juke Joint Shuttered After More Than 50 Years

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Longtime blues joint Gip's Place, in Bessemer, Ala., has been forced to close its doors. Weekend Edition profiled the place two years ago. Host Scott Simon takes note of the closing.


And this final note on the blues. Two years ago on this show, we profiled Gip's Place, a real juke joint nestled in a residential neighborhood in Bessemer, Alabama.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: It's not like going to a bar. It's not like going to a club. It's like going to your best friend's house and putting on just the newest record and sitting there and enjoying it together. Literally, there is truly a mix between the musicians and the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Welcome again. Y'all ready to get started?

CROWD: Yeah!

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Guess what? We're going to start on time.

SIMON: Gip's is a true house of blues: a tin-roofed roadhouse owned by Henry "Gip" Gipson who, say the locals, has celebrated his 86th birthday five or six times. Gip's has been bursting with down-home music for more than 50 years without benefit of proper city certification. But now, Gip's is being forced to close its doors. The local news reports last weekend say the Bessemer police shut down the joint, and the city of Bessemer has released a statement saying that there have been numerous complaints from Gip's neighbors about traffic, litter and loud music. Loud music in a juke joint? We're shocked. The city encouraged Mr. Gipson to apply for the proper zoning and licensing or move his establishment to a commercially zoned location. But Henry Gipson told WVTM TV he will not relocate and he invited the city to come out every Saturday night and shut his place down. Maybe it'll add to the show. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

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