You can eat ribs on Beale Street. You can shoot pool on Beale Street. You can definitely see and be seen on Beale Street. But most of all, you can hear some of the world’s finest blues on Beale Street.
The connection between Memphis and the blues goes back to legendary musician W.C. Handy, who located there in 1905. He formed a band and started playing a kind of music that folks hadn’t heard till then. And they liked it. It wasn’t long before Louis Armstrong (Great American Things, May 11, 2009), Muddy Waters, Albert King, B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and others started playing the style that came to be called Memphis Blues.
Now Beale Street offers clubs for a variety of tastes, whether you feel safer with chains (Hard Rock Cafe, Coyote Ugly) or prefer eclectic little clubs like Miss Polly’s Soul City Cafe or Tater Red’s. Either way, you’re on a street that’s been declared a National Historic Landmark, and been declared “Home of the Blues” by Congress.
A good time to visit (if you don’t mind crowds) is during the Beale Street Music Festival, usually held in late April or early May. The official Web site brags: “Music lovers from around the globe gather at the Beale Street Music Festival to celebrate this vital heritage, this deep river of sound. Three magical days. Four big stages. More than sixty top acts. One outrageous weekend on thirty-three acres overlooking the Mighty Mississippi, right on the heels of historic Beale Street.”