Beale Street is known as the birthplace of blues music and the home of the Memphis blues scene. It’s also famous for its restaurants and nightlife, particularly its jam sessions that can last well into the night.

Historic Beale Street in Memphis, TN.

Beale Street in Memphis is known as the music capital of the world. Blues and R&B emerged on Beale Street and the scene is still going strong today. These late night sessions have become an institution, with people coming from all across the globe to experience the magic of a live performance. With their vast array of genres and performers, these jam sessions are an eclectic mix of musical talent.

Beale Street is home to the most famous blues clubs in the world, such as B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill, Silky O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub, Hard Rock Cafe, B.B. King’s Blues Club, and the Rum Boogie Cafe’s Blues Hall among others.

It is home to many bars, restaurants, and music venues that are popular among locals and tourists alike. Beale Street has a rich history and is a must-see for anyone visiting Memphis.

Eef and the Blues Express at Alfreds on Beal Street
Eef and the Blues Express at Alfreds on Beal Street

International Blues Competition

Every year, Memphis hosts the International Blues Competition. This event is a week-long celebration of blues music that features competitions among blues musicians from all over the world, as well as a variety of other activities to entertain attendees. The competition is judged by a panel of experts in the blues music industry, and the winner is awarded a cash prize and other accolades.

The IBC was founded in 1984 by the Memphis Chapter of the Blues Foundation and was originally called the Blues Amateur Talent Contest. The first Blues Amateur Talent Contest was held at the New Daisy Theater. This was created by Blues Foundation founder Joe Savarin. It attracted about sixty contestants, and was won by a band called “Reliance,” from Memphis. The following year, the competition moved to a larger venue on Beale Street at the Orpheum Theatre. The winner is determined by a panel of celebrity judges drawn from the ranks of blues performers and fans. The competition has resulted in the discovery of several new blues artists, including Susan Tedeschi, Albert Cummings, Tommy Castro, and Jason Ricci.

NOTE: Normally the International Blues Competition is in January. However, due Covid concerns, the event was canceled and rescheduled starting May 6, 2022. (See below for details.)

IBC Important Dates for 2022

 Friday, May 6: Quarterfinals Night 1 

Saturday, May 7: Quarterfinals Night 2 

Sunday, May 8: KBA Ceremony, Youth Showcases, & Semifinals 

Monday, May 9: IBC Finals at The Orpheum

All previously purchased passes will be honored for the new dates, without any action on your part. Passes will now be mailed out in mid-April. 

The Orpheum Theater

The Orpheum Theater is one of the most popular attractions on Beale Street and has a list of shows that are open to everyone. It is home to many events such as plays, musicals, concerts and much more.

The Orpheum Theatre opened on October 10th, 1887. The Orpheum Theatre is a famous and prestigious theater in Memphis, Tennessee. It is the home of Broadway shows, ballet performances, international jazz artists and more. The theater is rich with history and beautiful architecture that will leave you feeling like you’re in one of the classics. The Orpheum Theatre bills itself as “the oldest continuously operating theater in the United States.”

And in the interest of full disclosure, the theater has been said to be haunted by a little girl called Betty, who has been watching over the artists and patrons since 1920.

Beale Street Music Festival

The first weekend in May, the Beale Street Music Festival brings major headliners to Tom Lee Park, located on the banks of the Mississippi River. The festival features performances by artists from a variety of genres, including blues, rock, country, and soul.

NOTE: Due to construction at Tom Lee Park, the 2022 Beale Street Music Festival will be located at The Fairgrounds in Liberty Park in Midtown.

The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum

The Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum is an interactive museum that tells the story of music in Memphis. The museum features photos, memorabilia, and artifacts from the music scene in Memphis, spanning from the 1950s to the present day.

National Civil Rights Museum—Lorraine Motel

The National Civil Rights Museum is a must see for anyone who visits Memphis. It tells the story of the struggle for civil rights and is located in the Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is one of great significance. He was a man who fought for justice and human rights, and his work has had a lasting impact on the world. Dr. King’s decisions, actions, and speeches were all important in the advancement of civil rights in America. He was an effective leader and preached nonviolence as the most effective way to bring about change. Don’t rush your visit–-take time to explore all four floors of this incredible museum.

Sun Studio

Sun Studio is a recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee that was opened in 1950. The studio was originally called Memphis Recording Service, and it was located on Union Avenue. The studio is most famous for being the birthplace of rock’n’roll music. Some of the most famous musicians to record at Sun Studio include Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison. The studio has been restored and now contains priceless memorabilia from these legendary musicians. Visitors can also hear voices of some of the musicians who recorded at Sun Studio as they listen to outtakes from recording sessions. The studio offers tours for visitors who want to learn more about the history of the studio and the music that was created there.

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a museum in Memphis, Tennessee that celebrates the history of soul music. The museum features exhibits on some of the greatest soul artists, including Isaac Hayes, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding. One of the most popular exhibits is Isaac Hayes’s 1972 Cadillac.

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music is a museum dedicated to the history and preservation of soul music. It contains over 2,000 artifacts and interactive exhibits, including a recording studio, concert stage, and retail shop.

Memphis Music Hall of Fame

The Memphis Music Hall of Fame is the place to go if you want to learn about the history of Memphis music. It is a museum that celebrates the achievements of many different Memphis-born or Memphis-living musicians. It offers photos and interviews, video performances and interactive exhibits where one can really sink their teeth into the musical heritage. Some of the famous Memphis musicians include Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Justin Timberlake. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducts 2,000+ artists from all over the world each year, but Memphis has a rich musical history that is worth celebrating in its own right.

Blues Hall of Fame

The Blues Hall of Fame was started in 1980 as a way to recognize performers and individuals whose lifetime of work has had a major impact upon the blues genre. The Blues Foundation inducts new members into the hall of fame every year. It has inducted over 400 members into five key categories: Performer, Individual, Album, Single, and Literature. The Blues Hall of Fame is an important program that helps to fulfill the mission of The Blues Foundation, which is to preserve blues music and its history.

B.B. King’s Blues Club

B.B. King’s Blues Club is one of the most popular clubs on Beale Street in Memphis. It has been voted the best blues club in Memphis numerous times and has some of the best live music around. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable and the food is some of the best BBQ you’ll find anywhere. The vibe is electric and it’s a great place to see some of the best blues bands around.

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis

Hard Rock Cafe Memphis is located on legendary Beale Street in the heart of our nation’s music capital. This iconic restaurant pays homage to the city’s musical roots with memorabilia from some of the biggest names in blues and rock ‘n’ roll. From its location to its menu, Hard Rock Cafe Memphis is a must-visit for any music lover visiting Memphis.

Jerry Lee Lewis’ Cafe & Honky Tonk

Jerry Lee Lewis’ Cafe & Honky Tonk is a legendary spot on Beale Street in Memphis, TN. It’s famous for its live music and friendly atmosphere. It’s been a favorite of Memphis locals and visitors for years and is the perfect place to spend an evening. The atmosphere is laid-back and friendly, and the music is top-notch.

A. Schwab

A. Schwab is a Beale Street-based store that has been running for over 100 years. The store has always been dedicated to preserving the rich history of Beale Street and providing glimpses into its past for customers. It is a cornucopia of items, from music memorabilia to clothing to general oddities. Their nostalgic soda fountain will take you back in time with its classic decor and menu items. Share a homemade soda or creamy milkshake with a friend and enjoy the atmosphere of this Memphis institution. They are dedicated to preserving the rich heritage of the store and telling the story through historic artifacts and relevant merchandise.

Gus’s Fried Chicken

When we’re in Memphis we always go to Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken. This restaurant in Memphis is a popular fried chicken restaurant chain that was founded in the tiny town of Mason, Tennessee. Gus’s Fried Chicken is a Memphis staple. However, the recipe remains a mystery to many. Unfortunately, you will not be able to get your hands on that recipe as the family has kept it tightly under wraps.

Blues City Cafe

The Blues City Cafe is a Memphis institution. Though many things have changed on Memphis’ Beale Street, one thing that has remained consistent is the Blues City Cafe. Opened in the early 1990s, the restaurant has been a staple of the street and features many of the same faces today.The cafe is famous for its ribs, steaks, catfish, tamales and mouth watering desserts. But it’s the music that keeps people coming back. You can always find some of the best blues musicians playing here.

Rum Boogie Cafe

Rum Boogie is a world-renowned blues club that was established in Memphis, Tennessee in 1985. It quickly became a cornerstone of the city’s entertainment district and has been drawing crowds ever since with its down-home Delta cuisine and live blues seven nights a week. Some of the biggest names in music have played at Rum Boogie, including Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, Joe Walsh, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Billy Joel, and Rufus Thomas. If you’re looking for some authentic Southern BBQ ribs or pork shoulder, this is the place to go.

Cotton Exchange Building

The Cotton Exchange Building was one of the most iconic buildings in Memphis and helped put the city on the map. The building was used for cotton trading and is now open to the public so they can learn about this once highly valuable commodity. Stepping back in time, visitors can see what life was like in Memphis during its heyday.

The Cotton Exchange Building was constructed in 1891 as the headquarters for the Memphis Cotton Exchange. The cotton merchants needed a trade organization to regulate cotton marketing and once established, the cotton exchange produced rules, regulations, and standards for trading and pricing cotton in Memphis and the mid-South region. This allowed Memphis to become the largest cotton market in the world. In 1984, the building was renovated into The Cotton Museum, which now educates the public about cotton and its importance in Memphis.

Graceland

Elvis Presley purchased Graceland in 1957 when he was just 22 years old. The sumptuous property welcomed friends and family members over 20 years of Elvis’s life. Many people visit from all over the world to pay homage to ‘The King’. Graceland is a National Historic Landmark.

The original owner named the property after his daughter, Grace, who inherited the land in 1894. The mansion got its name from her and was later sold to Elvis Presley in 1957. Graceland has 23 total rooms, many of which have their own unique themes, such as the Jungle Room and the TV room. If you want to see Elvis’ personal planes and vast collection of memorabilia, go across the street to the two museums.

The Meditation Garden is a place where Elvis, Gladys, Vernon, and Minnie Mae Presley are buried.

NOTE: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Graceland, which is about 10 miles from Beale Street. You can catch a tour bus at Sun Records to Graceland, or you can drive yourself.

Final Thoughts

Memphis is known for its music, and that reputation is well-deserved. The city has a rich history of legendary live music, thanks to its many nightclubs and restaurants. From blues to jazz to rock ‘n’ roll, Memphis has it all. If you’re looking for a good time and some great music, Beale Street is the place to be.

Happy Trails,

SIG DoraKSaparow 1

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