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Whether it's art, literature, bluegrass or blues, Black Kentuckians have had a hand in shaping it. The African American Folklorist explores that history by providing a more personal look at culture. Building upon the existing newspaper and podcast series, The African American Folklorist presents a chance to share lesser known stories of influential figures.

The African American Folklorist: The Mississippi Blues Child

Julie Bowles

Born and raised in McComb, Mississippi, the home of Bo Diddley, Castro Coleman has, like the legends who pre-date him, made a name for himself in the blues and gospel field.

Starting in the church, like many of our most notable Black musicians, Coleman has grown to become an A&R, producer, songwriter and artist at the iconic Malaco Records. 

Coleman, whose alter ego stage name Mr. Sipp, "The Missippi Blues Child," is a play on the name of his home state, easily solidifies his name amongst Black traditional music royalty.

Understanding the connection of blues and gospel music, as well as the church and festival scene, Mr. Sipp works to make sure you are never seated during his performances, and that the history, tradition, and origins of the music are understood and appreciated by those it comes from.

“Part two of an interview with Castro Coleman, also known as Mr. Sipp, "The Mississippi Blues Child" recorded at the W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival in Henderson, KY.”

The African American Folklorist recently sat down with Sipp to discuss his journey through blues and gospel music at the W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival in Henderson, KY.

Here's an except of the interview:

Lamont Jack Pearley: If you weren't aware blues and gospel go hand in hand. They are the foundation of black traditional music. Mr. Sipp, nicknamed “The Mississippi Blues Child,” definitely honored the foundation on both sides. As we continue with our interview series recorded at the W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival in Henderson, I speak with Castro Coleman, aka Mr. Sipp about his journey and blues gospel, and Malaco records. You come from one of the many foundational epicenters of black music, let’s talk about. 

Mr. Sipp: 26 years! 26 years of professional gospel music, a massive library of national songs. Grammy nominated songs,  Stellar award winning songs, Stellar award winning records. Grammy nominated records. A long list of that stuff and a lot of what people are seeing now in the blues from me is the church, is the church in me! You know how to obtain the crowd, get them and hold them for 90 minutes.  You know, that's church! That’s church you know! That’s gospel, that’s blues! For me they are first cousins.

Lamont Jack Pearley: How intertwined is the blues and gospel?

Mr. Sipp: Well what intertwines both of them, what brings them so close together is the feeling that it invokes and the feeling that it comes from.

Lamont Jack Pearley: Coming out of Mississippi, Louisiana. Even black Florida, just this whole space of what's considered the Delta. In the traditional black church

Mr. Sipp: The Bible Belt.

Lamont Jack Pearley:  The Bible Belt! And the belt comes out when you talk about the blues!

Mr. Sipp:  Exactly!

Lamont Jack Pearley:  So how are you able to kind of navigate that coming from a church background? What was that experience like? 

Mr. Sipp: Well, I will say this, I believe that my whole career from when I started when I was six, I believe it was designed from the Almighty, for this place, meaning at six years old, they never saw me as a church boy, playing church music.  They saw me as a young, young guy with a lot of energy and very edgy.  So at that point, at the age of six, I started creating myself as an artist, not a guy that plays gospel music, or a church boy, or a gospel artist. I was an artist grateful to be a Mississippi guy. That's where Mr. Sipp comes from. 

Lamont Jack Pearley: Now, No, you're currently with Malaco?

Mr. Sipp: Yes. 

Lamont Jack Pearley: Talk to us about Malaco.

Mr. Sipp: Malaco, first of all I'd like to say that Malaco is the last and the oldest living Soul label in the world. Straight out of Mississippi. What I'm so intrigued about being at Malaco, I can remember as a kid coming to Malaco, you know, with my dad doing session work.  And you know, I'm just bumping around the studio with some of the older guys.  And now becoming one of the main faces at Malaco years later, it's like life is making a full circle. 


Lamont Jack Pearley is an applied folklorist, ethnographer and African American traditional music historian and practitioner enrolled at WKU in the African American and Folk Studies programs. He is an African American Studies Ambassador with the African American Studies Department, hosts a weekly segment on WKU Public Radio called the African American Folklorist, and is the editor of the African American Folklorist Newspaper. He was inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer (2017) and Great Blues Artist (2018).
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