After playing gospel music successfully for 26 years, touring the world and winning multiple awards, Castro Coleman wanted a change. He took two years off at home, got bored, and decided to make the transition to blues music, changing his image (cutting off inches of his hair, buying a new wardrobe) and his stage name, to “Mr. Sipp”—short for Mr. Mississippi, paying homage to his home state. “I didn’t want the gospel and the blues to get crossed up,” he says.
For singer-songwriter-guitarist Coleman, who’s playing in the Bradenton Blues Festival Dec. 1 at the Riverwalk, the change meant quickly gearing up with his equally musical cousins to take part in a Vicksburg, Mississippi, regional blues challenge. With just days to prepare, Coleman created three brand-new blues songs and won the competition, moving on to the nationals in Memphis. His group didn’t win there that year, but came back the next to win the International Blues Challenge in 2014, and since then there’s been no stopping Coleman.
What sets him apart from his fellow blues musicians? For one thing, he says, “I’m a performer, an entertainer, and it’s all about my connection with the crowd. Some blues guys, they’re very engaged with the music, but not so much the audience; they might even turn their backs to them.” For another, he says, his music is “high energy and fun. A lot of people think the blues is just about trials and tribulations. But with my songs, my words, the outcome is a happy one, if you follow it all the way through. I’m promoting a good time.”