The blues and rock-and-roll trace their roots to Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, the city was so prolific for these genres that musicians like Sleepy John Estes and Memphis Minnie were credited with creating a new style: the Memphis blues. The area is rich in history, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to discover the blues today in this vibrant city. Visit these six places to enjoy music and music history while staying in Memphis.
International Blues Challenge on Beale Street
Image via Flickr by CHeitz
The International Blues Challenge is an annual event showcasing hundreds of blues musicians from around the world. The shows take place all down Beale Street, which is dotted with venues such as B.B. King’s Blues Club, Tin Roof, and Jerry Lee Lewis’ Cafe & Honky Tonk. You’ll also be close to dozens of restaurants and bars in the neighborhood. Check out a hotel room near Beale Street, and you’ll have no problem getting back to your bed once you’re done jamming out.
Blues Hall of Fame
The Blues Foundation has appointed performers to The Blues Hall of Fame since 1980 and, in 2015, the organization set up shop in a building by the National Civil Rights Museum. Pay a visit to learn about blues music and the history of the genre. The Blues Hall of Fame includes over 400 inductees, and visitors can browse 10 galleries with interactive touch-screen displays.
Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall
Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall is one of the best venues you can visit on Beale Street for live blues music. This venue is actually a stand-alone juke joint, meaning it’s a tiny room attached to another business — Rum Boogie Cafe. Stand shoulder to shoulder with other lovers of the blues, and get a personal experience with some incredibly talented artists.
B.B. King’s Blues Club
B.B. King’s Blues Club is a chain music venue with the Memphis location also being off Beale Street. The Memphis venue, however, is the original location. Come by to catch a live show from the B.B. King’s Blues Club house band or from a traveling artist. You can also order from a menu full of starters, entrees, and desserts whenever you get hungry.
Orpheum Theatre is another premiere must-see venue where you can catch a live show. The focus here is on the stage and setting — the Orpheum Theatre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the 2,308-seat main hall is a site to behold. The venue puts on concerts and other performances, and it also hosts the finals for the International Blues Challenge.
If you’re interested in music history, pay a visit to Sun Studio. The blues became rock-and-roll at this iconic location, which has recorded legendary performers such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. Stop by for a tour any day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There’s free parking behind the building, and the tour price for an adult is $14.
There’s no better place to celebrate the blues than Memphis, Tennessee. Plan your trip to a few of these spots on Beale street, and remember to hit up Sun Studio for more music history.