Vicksburg’s got Blues. And now the whole world knows it.
Down in Mississippi, the Vicksburg Blues Society has been pushing its blues culture and its tourism. Run by President Shirley Waring, she continually supports the blues culture and the blues society there, and never forgets who they’re dishing out heaps of southern hospitality and blues culture for; “an international audience for travelers who want to experience real Blues,” she says, knowingly. “We want to provide, to develop as a destination for the real blues, the Delta Blues. We want to provide world class entertainment.”
The blues world was reminded of that mission just recently at the 2014 International Blues Challenge when the man known as the Mississippi Blues Child, Castro Coleman, a.k.a. Mr. Sipp, took home top honors over 240 other bands in the competition — and Waring was beyond thrilled by the outcome.
“One of the people on our Blues Commission was at the competition,” she said. “When Castro came on, I said ‘Alright, put your seat belt on’, and he only hit three notes and the guy said ‘Now this is what I came for!'”
“It was really overwhelming,” Castro said, while working hard to use his recent win to bolster a career in music. “Actually, we competed last year in 2013 and at the time I was a month old. Me and my guys had only been doing the blues for a month. Signed up for the regional challenge, had never done a Blues show, won first place there, and made it to the IBC finals, didn’t win the finals, and I was encouraged to come back this year.”
Mississippi is authentic in every right, not only is it considered the cradle of America’s music, but the blues was born in it’s deep and fertile soil. While Mississippi has given the world well-known blues artists such as Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, there are also so many places of tourism in the area that the Vicksburg Blues Society supports and promotes for its travelers, one of them being the Mississippi Blues Trail. “There’s something like 180 markers and each one honors a location or a musician,” Shirley said. “This is major!”
Castro has been so grateful about Shirley and the Vicksburg Blues Society for being really supportive. “What the Vicksburg community did for me is create a venue at the Ameristar. I play a three hour show every month. What it did was give me an opportunity to create a sound, to create a style, to work on my live show in front of a nice audience. I built a nice audience there.”
He continued; “I got advice from Shirley. She was always available to sit down and talk to me and share her knowledge about the blues.”
One of the tips she had for him was something she thought was so true in the way blues music should feel. Shirley laughed, “I told Castro this is how the Blues felt. It’s like you have a lover does something just right, and you’re like ‘Please, do that again!'”
Castro’s biggest influence is blues legend B.B King, learning his signature phrasing techniques and working towards that unmatched blues sound, and when he took the stage at the finals to show off his own style, he had a simple plan of attack. “My plan was to be who I am. Don’t get there and look at other bands and start trying to change my show and change my style. I been working all year to prepare who I am. If I just do me, then everything will be alright. My dad always told me ‘No one can beat me being me.'”
“He is so refined, and so thought out, so disciplined.” Shirley recalls one guy saying that what he does that his so natural, so unique… So real.
“He has this one thing that he does, and I was telling him this morning that I wish I knew how to spell ‘Ah’,” she laughed. She couldn’t describe it much more than the sound, a primitive growl, a very emotional, passionate thing that he lets loose. “I said ‘Look, I can’t wait for you to do that.’ So I got to keep asking him when he’s going to do that. And he says ‘Well, I’m not sure’.”
A lot is happening so fast for Castro and the band since the big win, but he doesn’t forget how he made it to the end. “I wanted to hit them hard with the first two songs, slow it down and give them a taste of the real, real blues, and to leave out on a bang every time,” Castro said. “I was amped up to do the best that Castro Coleman could do, the best that we were, and that’s what we did.”