I was chatting with a friend of mine about traveling (of course!) and when I told her I was looking forward to my upcoming trips to Memphis, TN to revisit one of my all-time favorite destinations, Beale Street, she had no idea what I was talking about! At first I thought she was joking: Beale Street is one of America’s most famous thoroughfares and one of Memphis’ most popular tourist destinations. It’s listed on the national register of historic places. But more than that, Beale Street is quite significant in the history of American music, being the birthplace of Memphis Blues. This is where musical giants such as W.C. Handy, B.B. King and Elvis Presley learned their craft!
I went on to explain some of Beale Street’s fascinating history. I told her that back in the late 1800’s through much of the 20th century, Beale Street was predominantly an African-American neighborhood, known for its nightclubs, bars, and distinct style of music. During the 1920’s, Beale Street was booming, but it was known as much for its crime (gambling, prostitution, murder, voodoo) as for its music. The area really went downhill during the 1960’s and 70’s, but it was cleaned up and revitalized in the 80’s and today is one of America’s most iconic streets.
Walking up and down Beale Street is one of the highlights of any visit to Memphis. Here you’ll find charming clubs and bars, live music venues, casual BBQ joints alongside fine restaurants, an eclectic variety of shops, all types of music festivals and so much more. Blues fans can pay homage to W.C. Handy, the “Father of the Blues”, at his home which is now a museum. The Memphis Rock and Soul Museum is also nearby, as is the world-famous Orpheum Theater. All of the main attractions are located within a couple of blocks, so you don’t have to walk far. But there’s so much to see and experience that you can easily spend a day here.
I was about to continue with my enthusiastic endorsement of Beale Street when my friend stopped me. She asked when I was going, checked her calendar and announced that she was coming with me! I know she will love it and I can’t wait to show her around. I hope I’ve convinced some of you to visit, too!
Image Source: Flickr/Sean Davis