Mance Lipscomb (April 9, 1895 – January 30, 1976) was an American blues singer, guitarist and songster. He was born Beau De Glen Lipscomb near Navasota, Texas. As a youth he took the name Mance (short for emancipation) from a friend of his oldest brother, Charlie.
Lipscomb was born April 9, 1895. His father was an ex-slave from Alabama; his mother was half African American. For most of his life, Lipscomb supported himself as a tenant farmer in Texas. He had started playing guitar at an early age and became an accomplished musician.
He was discovered and recorded by Mack McCormick and Chris Strachwitz in 1960, during a revival of interest in the country blues. He recorded many albums of blues, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley, and folk music (most of them released by Strachwitz's Arhoolie Records), singing and accompanying himself on acoustic guitar. Lipscomb had a "dead-thumb" finger-picking guitar technique and an expressive voice. He honed his skills by playing in nearby Brenham, Texas, with a blind musician, Sam Rogers.
His first release was the album Texas Songster (1960). Lipscomb performed songs in a wide range of genres, from old songs such as "Sugar Babe" (the first he ever learned), to pop numbers like "Shine On, Harvest Moon" and "It's a Long Way to Tipperary".
In 1961 he recorded the album Trouble in Mind, released by Reprise Records. In May 1963, he appeared at the first Monterey Folk Festival, (which later became the Monterey Pop Festival) alongside other folk artists such as Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary in California.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Lipscomb did not record in the early blues era. 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 (published posthumously). He was the subject of a short 1971 documentary film by Les Blank, called A Well Spent Life.
He began playing the guitar at an early age and played regularly for years at local gatherings, mostly what he called "Saturday night suppers" hosted by someone in the area. He and his wife regularly hosted such gatherings for a while. Until around 1960, most of his musical activity took place within what he called his "precinct", the area around Navasota.
Following his discovery by McCormick and Strachwitz, Lipscomb became an important figure in the American 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, California.
He died in 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 videotape in 1979. ISBN 0-933621-09-4.
- The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins (1970). Directed by Les Blank.
An annual Navasota Blues Festival is held in his honor. On August 12, 2011, a bronze sculpture of him was unveiled in Mance Lipscomb Park in Navasota. The statue was sculpted by the 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 at his side.