Beale Street is the Heart of Memphis Music and Entertainment
In the heart of downtown Memphis with three blocks of nightclubs, restaurants and retail shops, the Beale Street entertainment district is a melting pot of delta blues, jazz, rock 'n' roll, R&B and gospel. With cold beer and hot music, Beale Street is one of the coolest places in Memphis.
Beale originally was home to traders and merchants that used the convenient location to move goods along the Mississippi River. By the 1860s, many traveling musicians began performing on Beale and over the next few decades, Beale began to flourish. The Orpheum Theatre, “The South’s Finest Theatre” was added in 1890 and in 1899 Robert Church (the first black millionaire in the south who purchased the land around Beale) created Church Park at the corner of 4th Street and Beale. Church wanted to give musicians a place to gather. At that point, Beale slowly began transforming into a recreational and social center, where folks could unite and listen to music.
In the early 1900’s a young man by the name of W. C. Handy made his mark on the city by creating hit songs like “Blues on Beale Street” and “Mr. Crump” (for a local mayoral candidate). Handy’s influence ran deep and from the 1920s to the 1940s, other blues and jazz legends like Albert King, Louis Armstrong, Memphis Minnie, Muddy Waters, and B.B. King (B.B. stands for Blues Boy) all performed on Beale. Their influence created a style known as Memphis Blues.
In 1966, Beale Street was declared a National Historic Landmark and in 1977, Beale Street was officially declared the Home of the Blues by an act of Congress.
Today, all you need to do is take a stroll down Beale Street’s neon row and you’ll hear music spilling out of clubs and restaurants like Rum Boogie Café, B.B. King’s, Silky O’Sullivan’s or the Hard Rock Café. Beale Street is serious about its music, and jam sessions at many of these clubs tend to go deep into the night. For a good time, grab a drink, soak up the sounds and throw a few bucks in the tip jar for the Beale Street Flippers.
The downtown Memphis music scene isn’t just about the blues. The New Daisy Theatre located at the north end of Beale Street is home to visiting national alternative acts like The Raconteurs, The Strokes and Cat Power. The New Daisy is the perfect size venue - big enough to bring well-known artists, but intimate enough to feel like a club.
Every May, the Beale Street Music Festival brings major music acts like Wilco, John Mellencamp, Snoop Dogg and John Legend to Tom Lee Park at the end of Beale Street on the Mississippi River. The festival launches a month of festivities citywide known as Memphis in May.
Regardless how you spell it (Beal or Beale) or when you visit, you’ll sure to have an amazing time in the heart of downtown Memphis.
Interested in more? Check out these 5 things to do on Beale Street by night.