Memphis, Tennessee, is one of the historic cradles of music in the United States. It was here, at Sun Studios, where Elvis, B.B. King, and others merged musical influences as diverse as country music and gospel to create modern American styles that include rock and roll, blues, and soul. But the music scene in Memphis is more than historical. It’s a living, breathing culture, and you can still experience it any night of the week. Find out where to go to find the best live music in the city.
B.B. King’s Blues Club
Image via Flickr by theogeo
Memphis’s fabled Beale Street, the street of live clubs where Elvis secured his early influence, has become a full-fledged visitor destination with many hotels, museums, eateries, and shops.
Plenty of live music clubs still exist, and B.B. King’s Blues Club is a local favorite. The club serves a full menu of classic Southern comfort foods, but the real attraction is the live entertainment every night of the week. Blues is a staple here, of course, but you can hear great soul music and rock and roll, too.
Blues City Cafe
Another Beale Street favorite known for both its barbecued ribs and its live music is Blues City Cafe. This venue specializes in showcasing local talent, so if you want to discover new performers coming out of Memphis, you should definitely stop by. One of the favorite local bands is Freeworld, a jazz-funk band that plays regularly at Blues City Cafe.
Handy Park Pavilion
In the afternoons, you can swing by Handy Park, named for W. C. Handy, “Father of the Blues,” and catch a free band performing. The park pavilion captures the spirit of emerging musicians, and Memphis’s story of the roots of blues music and its evolution into rock and soul, better than most of the more polished clubs.
Handy Park is also on Beale Street. If you want to appreciate the local music, you’ll find yourself spending much time on Beale Street. A hotel within walking distance will serve you well. Consider The Westin Memphis Beale Street Hotel or the legendary Peabody Memphis, famous for the red-carpet parade of ducks in the lobby every day since the 1940s. Check out more Memphis hotel options for places to stay that keep you near all the action.
Off Beale Street
Locals consider Beale Street a visitor attraction. They prefer to head deep into Memphis’s urban neighborhoods for musical experiences that are more raw and immediate. Wild Bill’s at 1580 Vollintine Avenue is a smoky dance club with beer, chicken wings, and a beloved revolving house band. The Hi-Tone at 412 N. Cleveland St. is a small club that features a range of music that could all be scooped under the rock umbrella. Overton Park’s Levitt Shell Pavilion at 420 N. Cleveland St. offers free shows five nights a week during the spring and fall.
Memphis offers a musical pilgrimage to people who love rock, soul, or blues. While Graceland and Sun Studios are fun stops along the way, experiencing the city’s rhythmic heartbeat at a live show is the best way to connect with music in Memphis.