BESSEMER, Ala. — Diane Guyton remembers a phrase her longtime boss and friend Henry "Gip" Gipson used to always say.
"No blacks, no whites, just the blues," Guyton recalled.
To Guyton, those words were the foundation philosophy the grave digger-turned-blues disciple carried with him his entire life.
"If you got to ever meet him, you loved him," Guyton said.
Gipson, the longtime owner of Gip's Place, a blues club and juke joint he ran out of his own backyard in Bessemer, died Tuesday after being in hospice care the last few months.
He was 99.
"Henry 'Gip' Gipson was the embodiment of blues - cool, smooth, passionate and dripping with soul," Birmingham mayor Randall Woodfin said on Facebook Tuesday. "Gip's Place, his legendary juke joint, still stands a monument to Southern blues. Let's keep his memory alive."
Gipson first started Gip's Place in 1952 as a way for local musicians to get together and play music. Over the years, the night spot became a popular attraction in the neighborhood that brought together musicians and music lovers from across the city and country.
"There is a temptation to describe Henry Gipson — his real name is Herman, but he says everyone calls him Henry — as straight out of blues central casting," Peter Breslow wrote in a 2011 NPR piece about Gipson. "That is, until you realize that everything about the man is strictly genuine. His hand swallows yours when you shake, and his smile is just as embracing."
No funeral arrangements have been announced. In a Facebook post, Gipson's son Keith Gipson asked for people to come out to Gip's Place at 7 p.m. Saturday to celebrate his father's life.