Photo by Alessandro Gandolfi
Memphis, Tennessee, standing on the meandering bends of the Mississippi River, is the city of Beale Street, the “Official Home of the Blues”.
In the city of Elvis Presley and Ecko Records, names such as Amy LaVere, with her gypsy-blues, now grab the headlines. “I sing like Billie Holiday, but my voice is not quite as potent,” she says as we sit in the small courtyard of Archer Records, her record company. “I love living in Memphis, a city that forces you to keep trying to be creative and dynamic.”
The spirit of Memphis sails with the boats across the surface of the water, and vibrates in the crowded bars of Beale Street, the old road once frequented by black laborers and where a young Elvis went in search of his early, avant-garde fashions. Abandoned for years, Beale Street has recently been renovated and returned to its former splendor, and today it is one continuous strip of popular bars, music clubs and restaurants.
The late B.B. King’s Blues Club is at 143 Beale Street, where you can listen to music while sitting at restaurant tables that look out onto the street. Anyone who loves the blues will also want to visit Sun Studio, where Elvis recorded his first tracks. At Memphis Rock N’ Soul Museum, artifacts, photographs, and instruments of the old blues greats are on display and a searchable archive of original music is available to the public.
In recent years, Beale Street has become such a popular destination for tourists and locals alike that the state of Tennessee provided the strip with a special dispensation that allows the clubs and bars to stay open until 5am.