August’s annual Navasota Blues Fest is a both a celebration of blues music and a way for musicians and aficionados to remember Mance Lipscomb. A talented songster and guitarist, Lipscomb, born in 1895, was part of a folk-song revival in the 1960s. Born near Navasota, Lipscomb and his musical accomplishments are close to the hearts of many Navasota residents and musicians alike.
As a way to honor Lipscomb’s imminence in blues, the first fundraisers for the Mance Lipscomb Scholarship Fund were held in 1993 by Glen Alyn. The Navasota Blues Fest wouldn’t come to life for another three years. Today, blues lovers kick off the event Thursday night at a showcase of blues musicians with Navasota roots then enjoy two days of non-stop music by blues legends from across the country.
The scholarship effort has continued to grow as well. The Navasota Blues Fest executive board announces the winning Navasota High School senior during the Blues Fest. Recently, the board of directors decided to award a Continuing Education Scholarship to previous Lipscomb Scholarship recipients who are still working toward degrees.
Mary K. Crawford, a former Blues Fest board member who still consults for the event, has a personal reason for her involvement with the annual festival. Having known Lipscomb personally and purchased many of his records directly from him, she knows the Navasota Blues Fest is something he would have enjoyed. “Mance loved traveling to participate in blues festivals,” says Crawford. “I think he would be overjoyed to know that this is happening in his hometown. Music was his passion, and he was a champion for education. He wasn’t able to go to college himself, but he pushed younger people to get as much education as they possibly could.”
The Navasota Blues Fest has seen many changes in the past few years, continuing to grow as more musicians get involved every year and more food vendors joining to make the weekend spectacular. Musicians come from all over the country to honor Mance Lipscomb and to remind the community what blues music is all about. “Many artists look toward Mance as a mentor,” Crawford says. “Being a part of the Blues Fest is about the prestige and being involved in keeping his memory alive.”
The year’s event is August 11-13 and offers a variety of performances, jam sessions and entertainment venues. Thursday night’s kick-off event will feature nine professional acts at the historic Miller Theatre in downtown Navasota. On Friday night the community can enjoy a cocktail hour with the musicians and on Saturday night they can participate in a free guitar session with Michael Birnbaum. Birnbaum knew Mance Lipscomb and often talks about what the blues legend was like. More than 10 groups of musicians will keep the spirit of blues alive including a Blues Brothers tribute band, Bernie Pearl, Don Kesse and The Bluesmasters and Tubie and The Touchtones.
The Navasota Blues Fest is about more than listening to blues music. It’s about the history of Navasota, the impact education has on our youth, and how influential musician is still teaching what the blues are truly about. – Tessa K. Moore
IF YOU GO
August 11 beginning at 6 p.m., the Blues Capital Revue will kick off at the Miller Theatre in downtown Navasota. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door; call Navasota Blues Alley, (936) 870-3331, for reservations.
August 12-13, The Navasota Blues Fest will be held at the Grimes County Expo Center, 5280 FM 3455, in Navasota. Friday hours are 5:30 p.m. until midnight with continuous music. Saturday hours are 1 p.m. until midnight. Admission is $14 for Friday night; $20 for Saturday night; or $25 for a both nights.
For more information on Mance Lipscomb and the Navasota Blues Fest as well as advance tickets and reserved tables, visit www.NavasotaBluesFest.org.