Where’s the Live Music in Memphis? Answer: Everywhere.

Check out these places to hear live music in Memphis.

A lot of cities like to claim to be live music capitals of whatever state, region, or world they’re part of. We get it. Memphis is a little different. We don’t have to toot our own horn so much as just give visitors a little bit of guidance on where they might find a good spot to hear some music on, say, a Tuesday night. Truth is live music is like barbecue in this town. The challenge isn’t necessarily where to hear live music, but which joints you want to check out. Or, you can just close your eyes and stumble around for a while until you find yourself in an unassuming club sipping on a drink and hearing a funky soul band, a garage rock throwback group, a sultry singer-songwriter, or a national touring act taking a night off from recording to try out some new songs.

Here are few great neighborhood venues to check out the next time you plan a visit to Memphis.

Beale Street Entertainment District

Every note of music that has emerged from Memphis started with the notes played on Beale Street. It was here that the blues found an urban home, having floated up Highway 61 from the Mississippi Delta. W.C. Handy, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Memphis Minnie and B.B. King all played regularly here.

The sweet notes of live music pour out of each club as you stroll down Beale Street. In the center of the street at W.C. Handy Park, musicians gather regularly on the stage to entertain passersby. It is the rare club on Beale that doesn’t offer live music nightly. Alfred’s presents a mix of cover bands, the Eric Hughes blues band and an Elvis tribute artist, while B.B. King’s stays true to the blues with up-and-coming artists like Will Tucker.

Silky O’Sullivan’s offers two grand pianos backing up blues singers – and the tavern’s resident goat – while Rum Boogie mixes blues with some good old-fashioned rock. (Be sure to spot the signatures on guitars hanging on the bar’s walls. You’ll be impressed!)

Once you get off of Beale Street the blues may fade a bit, but traditional and indie rock pick up the beat. Small bands play in the always-hopping bar area of Ernestine & Hazel’s on South Main, while Mollie Fontaine Lounge dishes up small plates and jazz singers. Nearby Goner Records – an independent label and record store – offers in-store concerts most weekends.

Young Avenue Deli

Near the corner of Young Avenue and Cooper Street sits Young Avenue Deli, the beating heart of one of the most entertaining and unique neighborhoods in Memphis, the Cooper-Young district. What keeps this heart pumping, though, is not necessarily the food Young Avenue Deli serves (great-tasting pub fare) but the small, intimate stage that sits in the corner. As one of the most popular live music venues in the city, Young Avenue is a top spot to find local musicians, like Amy LaVere and Al Kapone, but also significant national touring acts like Built To Spill and The Black Keys (before they got huge.) 

Hi-Tone

For years, the Hi Tone was a great jewel-box of a dive club located next to Overton Park. It was the constant hangout for local musicians, students at Memphis College of Arts, and artists in town recording at Ardent Studios no less than a mile away. But as the city grew, so did demand for more live music space. Thankfully, the Hi-Tone obliged and set up its new digs in Midtown on Cleveland Avenue. With more space, a bigger stage and a wide range of local and regional music acts, the Hi-Tone is a can’t-miss venue.

Levitt Shell

One of the great things about live music is how it morphs with the seasons. In the fall and winter, we all pack into clubs and theaters to see our favorite musicians. In the spring and summer, we put on our flip-flops and gig out in the sun. The Levitt Shell is part of this ritual. The summer concerts (often under the stars) at the recently restored Levitt Shell are always free, featuring over 50 musical performances sharing the same stage where Elvis got his start. It’s a great place to dance, relax on a blanket, and even chase the kids around as music fills the air.

Minglewood Hall

You never know what’s happening at Minglewood Hall. That’s by design, as the space’s flexibility allows it to accommodate all kinds of performances, not just musical acts. In fact, you’re just as likely to see a mixed-martial arts contest there as you will see Jack White plug in and blow your mind. A true event hall about a mile away from Overton Square, Minglewood Hall offers an expansive bar area, great food at its 1884 Lounge, and a number of live music performances from bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, local fave Lucero, and Sister Hazel.

B.B. King’s Blues Club

If Beale Street is ground zero for live music in Memphis, then B.B. King’s Blues Club is the epicenter. Located on the corner of Beale and South 2nd Street, basically the gateway to the Beale Street Entertainment district, B.B.’s is one of the best live venues in the city, as well as a full-service restaurant. With a primary focus on blues, R&B and soul music, B.B.’s literally teems with music. We highly recommend getting inside and taking in a show, even grabbing a bite to eat, but if it’s a packed house, hanging on the corner with a cold one works, too.  

Cannon Center for the Performing Arts

On the north end of Downtown Memphis sits the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. While the acoustics are nearly flawless, they are only matched by the beauty of the theater. Check the marquee to see who's headlining. 

Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education

With a state-of-the-art stage, 21st century technology and a 361-seat theatre, the Halloran Centre presents musicals, concerts, family programs and multicultural events. 

Germantown Performing Arts Center

To say there’s live music in every corner of the city would be an understatement. The only way to make the point any more clear would be to draw people a map (someone should get on that!). And that map would take you all the way from Downtown Memphis to the burbs. Yes, Germantown and the far-east suburbs of Memphis have their fare share of live music. In fact, they have one the best rooms in the area with the Germantown Performing Arts Center. With over 800 seats, this intimate (and elegant) venue has hosted artists as diverse as Yo Yo Ma and Jeff Tweedy. In addition to touring acts, the Germantown Performing Arts Center also hosts special themed events devoted to American music and family-friendly shows.

Memphis Symphony Orchestra

Memphis also offers professional music companies, including the Memphis Symphony Orchestra led by conductor  Robert Moody, and Opera Memphis, where soprano superstar Kallen Esperian often appears with the chorus.

by Peter Short
60 Years of Rock 'n' Roll event at the Levitt Shell. Photo Credit: Andrea Zucker

Celebrating 60 years of Rock n Roll at a free Levitt Shell concert in Memphis. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Gonerfest in Memphis - Craig Thompson

Rock out at Gonerfest every year in Memphis. Photo by Craig Thompson.

Hear Memphis Jones entertain at B.B. King's on Beale Street. Photo by Craig Thompson.

Live music at Rum Boogie Cafe: Andrea Zucker

Live music at the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street in Memphis. Photo by Andrea Zucker.

Visit the Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis on Beale Street. Photo by Craig Thompson.

Memphis is full of live music and must-see bands. Photo by Kerry Crawford

You'll hear all sorts of music on Beale Street. Photo by Andrea Zucker.