Just Keep Groovin’: Grover Lipkins Answers the Call to Music
Jun 24, 2020 02:00PM
By Liz Stevens
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
There aren’t many days where local music legend Groovin’ Grover Lipkins isn’t playing one of his Fender Stratocaster guitars. The instruments call to him, Lipkins said.
Lipkins first heard the call to play music at age 7, when his brother brought home a Custom Craft six-string electric guitar. Lipkins was mesmerized by the instrument and would sneakily practice on his brother’s guitar until acquiring his own at age 9. From there, Lipkins taught himself how to play—and he’s never stopped.
Lipkins owns his craft by mastering different music styles and perfecting his technique. Playing countless shows from Omaha to Las Vegas, the songwriter continues to pull inspiration from a variety of music genres, but he is mainly influenced by Jimi Hendrix.
“I listened to a lot of different music because there wasn’t a particular soul station,” Lipkins said. “I ended up listening to a little bit of everything. Rock and roll was the first thing that made me want to play because the guitar stood out—and I had one.”
Lipkins said his first performance was in sixth grade at a school contest, where he performed music from the Jackson 5, dance moves and all, with a few of his friends.
In the late 1970s, his path crossed with local musician Nathaniel Bray. At the time, Bray was familiar with Lipkins’ family. One day, Lipkins’ older brother walked up to Bray with a boom box over his shoulder and played Bray a recording of Grover playing the guitar. “Immediately, I went to his house and met Grover. I thought, ‘I’m going to get this young cat in my band.’”
Lipkins was a high school student at the time, so Bray discussed the idea with his father. “That day Grover was working in the garden outside the house. I’m responsible, in a lot of ways, for him putting down the [gardening tools] and picking up the guitar,” Bray said.
To this day, Bray and Lipkins continue to make time to play and perform together. “One big prerequisite—there had to be a spiritual component that had to be part of all the musicians I worked with or it wouldn’t last. Meaning that the love and respect among the people that was family. That spiritual component is a part of Grover as well.”
The most challenging part of being a musician is simply waking up every day, Lipkins said. Truly, there is always something new to learn. When it comes to writing music or recording a song, Lipkins makes what he likes.
“As far as my music, I am just going to throw it out there and if people like it I’ll be very happy. If they don’t like it that is cool too,” Lipkins said. “You never know if you have anything until you put it out there. My stuff is not as modern sounding as the music you hear today. It still has an old-school kick to it. I don’t use a lot of musical tricks, you know, a lot of sound.
“It all starts with practicing, practicing, practicing,” he continued. “You have to start there first. You can’t be afraid of failure in order to be successful, because not everyone is going to like everything you do, no matter how good it is. You’ve got to be able to accept that and be happy in your own skin.”
Lipkins is recording his own music. He plays every instrument on the track. He said some of the more technical tracks can take up to a year while others can be done in a week. There are moments where every musician considers giving up, Lipkins said. In those times, he just picks up his guitar and starts playing. “I am hooked on the thing,” he said.
The coronavirus brought his live performances to a standstill. Normally, Lipkins said he plays in bands and will occasionally do duets with a friend. His favorite moments happen when everything comes together on stage and the music jells.
“I have friends who like what I do—I am not an egotistical cat—I am just a guy who likes to play guitar and I just happen to be good at it because I’ve invested a lot of years in it,” Lipkins said. “I appreciate people who appreciate what I do—they’re my friends not fans.”
This article first appeared in the July/August 2020 edition of 60PLUS in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.