Beale Street Blues

40th anniversary of the Beale Street Music Festival kicks off April 29

flickr_photo_by_Lindsey_Turner_1Beale Street in Memphis, Tenn., is considered “Home of the Blues,” according to an Act of Congress in 1977, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966.

The western end of the street stops at the Mississippi River and this section was a busy commercial and industrial area in the middle of the 19th century. It was down on lower Beale, in the many cafes, restaurants and bars, where traveling black musicians up from the Mississippi Delta and down from the streets of Chicago, began playing that special American musical genre known as the blues.

On April 29, in Tom Lee Park down next to the river, the 40th annual edition of the Beale Street Music Festival will kick off, beginning three days of almost nonstop music, dancing, good barbecue and fun. Headliners at this year’s festival include Neal Young, Beck, Paul Simon (sans Garfunkel) and Weezer, with another dozen or more bands and singers.

flickr_photo_by_Lindsey_Turner_3Of course, all the venues up and down Beale will also be cranking the blues during and after the festival. Some of the best places to catch a few sets include B.B. King’s Blues Club (143 Beale), Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall (174 Beale), Lew’s Blew Note (341 Beale) or Beale Street Tap Room (168 Beale). All of these places have in-house bands and welcome visiting artists for evening concerts.

Elsewhere in town, don’t miss Wild Bill’s (1580 Vollintine Ave.), the Buccaneer Lounge (1368 Monroe Ave.) or the Hi-Tone (412 North Cleveland). All are authentic juke joints with cold beer, hot wings and blues until dawn.

The Beale Street Festival kicks off a month of celebrations in Memphis. The International Festival this year honors Canada, with food, fun, exhibitions and events from May 2-9.

Finally, the World Championship Barbecue Contest (May 12-14) will bring the redolent scent of slow-cooked brisket to the city’s streets.

For full details, visit