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Beale Street: home of the Blues

Live music can be heard from every club, flashing neon signs battle for your attention and the unmistakable smell of barbecue wafts through the air. Welcome to Beale Street, the beating heart of Memphis. This famous street, with its rich history, is the perfect destination for a musical night on the town.

In 1977, Beale Street was officially known as the ‘Home of the Blues’ and designated a location of historical importance. In the early 20th century, Beale was a lively street full of music, drinking and crime. It was during this time that the first sounds of the blues could be heard. But over time the street became more and more dilapidated. All the same, this was where a young Elvis Presley found his inspiration in the 50s from such legends as B.B. King and Chuck Berry.

Beale Street
Beale Street

Memphis

Statue of W.C. Handy

The Memphis Blues

The real founder of the blues was W.C. Handy, who wrote the first blues song, ‘Mr. Crump’, in 1909. The song, which was later given the title ‘The Memphis Blues’, ultimately formed the basis for the specific blues style that originated in Memphis. He also wrote ‘Beale Street Blues’, which was the reason why Beale Avenue was renamed Beale Street in 1916 - he made the spot immortal in one fell swoop.

BB King’s Blues Club

One of the best clubs on Beale is the BB King’s Blues Club. Riley B. King (his real name) could often be found on Beale Street, which is why he was also called the ‘Beale Street Blues Boy’, later abbreviated to B.B. So it’s not surprising that a club has been named after him. Various musicians perform here nightly and on the weekend, you can enjoy live music starting at 12 noon. The club is not large and the atmosphere is intimate and inviting. If you want to be sure of a good spot, come early in the evening.

“B.B. King was known as the ‘Beale Street Blues Boy’”

A bar with goats

Silky O’Sullivans is known for its fantastic live music, the open patio where music is performed in the summer, its gigantic Diver cocktail and goats. Goats? According to the bar itself, O’Sullivans is the only bar in America with goats as pets. Silky O’Sullivans is a bar, club and restaurant in one. Here you can enjoy soul food while listening to soul music. Be sure to try the Po’ Boy sandwich with shrimp and order the Diver to go with it. If the rest of Beale Street has not yet gotten you swinging, it’s sure to happen here.

Silky O’Sullivans

Photo credits

  • Statue of W.C. Handy: Bhrris, Wikimedia
  • Silky O’Sullivans: Thomas Hawk, Flickr