Trudy Lynn considers meeting the legendary blues singer Ruth Brown in 2000 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, about a year before she passed, as one of the most memorable moments of her lifetime. Both Lynn and Brown were part of a bill that made up one of the original iterations of the Monterey Blues Festival.
“That was one of the most glorious moments to me because I had never thought that I’d meet Ruth Brown,” Lynn says. “I was bowing to her and she said, ‘Don’t do that!’ I cherish the photo of us together.”
Lynn can’t remember a time of her life that didn’t involve the blues. She grew up in Texas, listening to Bessie Smith and Lightning Hopkins. By 1965, fresh out of high school, Lynn was already part of the local blues scene, performing with Clarence Green & The Rhythmaires. Lynn also dabbled in soul, inspired by luminaries like Aretha Franklin and Faye Adams.
“I’m a true Texan, so I’ve been around [the blues] all my life,” Lynn says. “I heard country and I heard the blues a lot because my parents would buy me old 78 records – there were also a lot of neighborhood cafes and you could hear the blues coming out of the jukebox.”
Lynn looks forward to returning to Monterey for the International Blues Festival this weekend and getting a break from the unforgiving Houston heat.
The Texas performer says her Monterey set will feature original music spanning her entire career. Lynn’s powerful voice hovers between alto, tenor and baritone, channeling the souls of Bessie and Ruth, concocting her own smattering of Texas-meets-the Delta-and-everything-in-between.
“Blues ain’t nothing when a woman wants to see her man/ ’cause she wants some lovin’ only women will understand,” croons Lynn on the fiery, harp-fueled “Blues Ain’t Nothing.”
Lynn says there’s a possibility she may even throw in a Ruth Brown tune or two, just to commemorate that Monterey meeting.
Representing Mississippi, Castro Coleman – aka Mr. Sipp, aka “The Mississippi Blues Child” – was born and raised in McComb, Mississippi. He is proud to hail from the state.
“A lot of the great blues musicians are from Mississippi,” Sipp says.
Everyone from Willie Dixon and B.B. King to Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters came up in the Magnolia State.
“Years later, I come carrying the torch, in the footsteps of those great musicians who paved the way for artists like myself, and other great musicians throughout the world,” Sipp says. “I’m just one of the musicians in Mississippi who’s continuing to spread the great news about the blues.”
Born into a family of musicians – his parents and aunt had a gospel group – Sipp first picked up a guitar at age 6.
“I was the kid who was allowed backstage and allowed to hang in the dressing room and sit in on recording sessions,” Sipp recalls. “Before I became a blues musician, I walked in the footsteps of gospel musicians.”
Eventually, Sipp started his own gospel group, The True Believers, which led the Williams Brothers to produce their first record and take them on tour.
“They knew I had been around the music my whole life and I understood it,” Sipp says.
Bigtime gigs followed, performing with national recording artists within the gospel scene, including The Texas Boys, Brian Courtney Willison, The Jackson Southernaires and The Canton Spirituals.
As a gospel performer, Sipp picked up awards and gained national recognition, but in 2010, the artist began to cross over into the blues realm after feeling burnt out on touring as a gospel artist.
“I’m capable of doing any style of music,” Sipp says. “But I wanted to do something that made sense for me and the blues was it. The connection, the feeling and the delivery for me, was pretty much the same [as gospel].”
Sipp’s rollicking “Gotta Let Her Go” cries out with sweet electric guitar blues from the strings of his Epiphone. The riffs were immortalized by Muddy and B.B., but Sipp keeps on spreading the good word – in 2017, the shredder appeared at the Monterey Jazz Festival where his hypnotic rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” mesmerized the packed audience.
In addition to wowing audiences wherever he plays, Sipp’s picked up several accolades, including the International Blues Challenge, the Albert King Gibson Guitar Award and Bobby Rush Entertainer of the Year Award. Sipp also scored the Spirit of Little Walter Award, and in 2016, he became the first blues artist to have his handprint inducted into the Wall of Fame in Frederikshavn, Denmark. On top of all the recording, touring and producing, Sipp is also on the Mississippi Arts Commission.
Along with Sipp and Trudy Lynn, the third Monterey International Blues Festival features San Francisco powerhouse, often compared to Etta James, Terrie Odabi, and The Guidance Band frontman, singer-songwriter Keith Batlin. Additionally, 2017 Blues Music Award-winning saxman Terry Hanck and local favorite, sextet Blues at Eleven, round out the bill.
MONTEREY INTERNATIONAL BLUES FESTIVAL 11am-7:30pm Saturday, June 29. Monterey County Fair and Event Center, 2004 Fairgrounds Road, Monterey. $35-$125; free/children 10 and under. montereyinternationalbluesfestival.com