Memphis is the home of the delta blues sound and here I was, walking with my ten feet off of Beale. Walking in Memphis, but do I really feel the way I feel?
While on a recent business trip to Memphis, Tennessee, I was able to experience Memphis itself, including my tour of the Blues Hall of Fame Museum, the Gibson guitar factory, and finally the home of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley’s mansion at Graceland.
While many business trips are rather mundane and not very musically inspiring, little did I realize I was in for a treat with this trip to Memphis. I had heard and read about Memphis and the famous Beale St. in my study of the Blues. After all, WC Handy, BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Minnie and many other artists laid the foundation for Blues and Rock and Roll from this very place that is still being built to this day.
A Modern Juke Joint in Memphis
Very fortunate for me, I was about a 40 minute walk from my hotel to downtown Memphis. The city itself is very easy to navigate around, either by foot, or by old school electric trolley. Old buildings and architecture reminiscent of an earlier age make up most of the buildings, preserved in time for me to enjoy today. I was kind of taken back by the security cameras, and dark alleys and old buildings. At first I had wondered what was I doing, walking in this strange city, a blonde headed surfer from Florida. I kind of felt like a fish out of water. I also noticed the heavy police presence , but I soon realized the people here were friendly and inviting. My sense was that the locals had pride in their city, and wanted to preserve its mid-south feel. I could hear the sound of a lead guitar in the distance, I continued to walk in the direction of the source…. Beale Street.
Beale Street in Memphis, TN
The one way I could describe Beale is that it was like a very large block party, loaded with street performers and live music. Places with names like Pee Wee Saloon, Silky O’Sullivan’s, The Blue Note, Rum Boogie Café Blues Hall, Blues City Band Room, and of
course BB King’s Blues Club, all have stages where live blues bands perform. (And a rather large security person at the front door). Duck in, have a beer and a burger, and listen to a live blues band. The music was every bit as smooth as the titles of some of these clubs. (and as smooth as that golden lager going down!). It doesn’t get any better. One could easily spend hours here, and lose track of time watching live bands perform, and street performers working for tips. Beale was closed to vehicular traffic during my visit, which made navigating both sides of the street safe and enjoyable.
BB King’s Blues Club
Another thing Memphis is famous for is their barbecue. BB King’s Blues Club serves up good Memphis style barbecue, I sampled their beef brisket which was awesome. While the sound of smooth blues guitar massages your ears, your nose will be equally pleased with the smell of various smokers churning out ribs, chicken, and brisket. Don’t go there hungry, it will be a hard choice! I guess a juke joint that serves up good blues and Memphis dry rub would be my first choice! But definitely go at night, that’s when it comes alive!
Sign Outside Pee Wee Sullivan’s Saloon
When most people think of a musical type of vacation, they might think Nashville. But for those of us who love rock and blues, Memphis must be high on the order for a visit. I know for a fact I could go back again, and not be bored, and likely learn something new. In my next installment, I will describe my visit to the Blues Hall of Fame Museum.
Our guest blogger, Dave Lamont, has been playing guitar for 11 years, and is a student of The Fretmentor, Dave enjoys blues, classic rock, and Christian Contemporary. Dave currently plays acoustic and electric guitar with the West Pines Baptist Church Worship Team. Dave’s favorite rock bands are Boston and .38 Special. His favorite Christian Contemporary bands are Casting Crowns, Third Day, and Mercy Me.