Memphis Blues Walking Tour, Memphis

Memphis Blues Walking Tour (Self Guided), Memphis

If you're a music fan, visiting Memphis, Tennessee, is a must! As the cradle of blues, this city has influenced many musicians and music lovers worldwide. The soulful blues genre is deeply rooted in the history of Memphis. Below is just a sample of an awesome list of places to learn more about Memphis Blues’ juicy past, present, and future.

One of the essential stops for any blues enthusiast is the WC Handy House Museum, dedicated to the "Father of the Blues," WC Handy, an instrumental figure in shaping the genre.

The Old Daisy Theatre is another historic location that has played a significant role in developing Memphis Blues. This venue has witnessed legendary performances, including the first jug bands, and remains an iconic symbol of the city's musical heritage.

Beale Street is at the heart of Memphis Blues. Running across Downtown, the street is lined with a number of locations which left an indelible imprint in the history of this style of music. Here, you can find the Beale Street Blues Gift Shop to pick up some souvenirs and immerse yourself in the culture of the genre. Nearby is the WC Handy Statue, a tribute to the influential musician.

For a more comprehensive exploration of Memphis music history, visit the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum. It delves into the roots of rock and soul music, highlighting the influence of blues on each of these genres.

When ready for a live gig, check out Silky O'Sullivan's, Mr Handy's Blues Hall, BB King's Blues Club, and Blues City Cafe. These venues showcase talented musicians who keep the blues spirit alive in the city.

Finally, to gain a broader understanding of Memphis' musical legacy, don't miss the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, the Center for Southern Folklore, and the Blues Hall of Fame, which honor musicians and contributors who have shaped Memphis Blues as we know it.

Indeed, Memphis Blues is an integral part of the city's identity. Whether you're a die-hard fan or just curious, visiting these venues will provide a deep appreciation for the music style that defines Memphis. So, take this self-guided walk, soak in the blues, and experience the soulful melodies that continue to echo through the streets of this iconic city.
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Memphis Blues Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Memphis Blues Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Memphis (See other walking tours in Memphis)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Author: val
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • W.C. Handy House Museum
  • Old Daisy Theatre
  • Beale Street Blues Gift Shop
  • W.C. Handy Statue
  • Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum
  • Silky O'Sullivan's
  • Mr. Handy's Blues Hall
  • B.B. King's Blues Club
  • Blues City Cafe
  • Memphis Music Hall of Fame
  • Center for Southern Folklore
  • Blues Hall of Fame
W.C. Handy House Museum

1) W.C. Handy House Museum

This modest Beale Street house was once the address of William Christopher Handy (1873–1958) who went down in history as the "Father of the Blues". Handy moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1909 from his native Alabama after touring through Mississippi. He settled in a two-room shotgun house on Jeanette Place in South Memphis. Here the legendary classics like "The Memphis Blues," "Saint Louis Blues," and "Beale Street Blues" were written, the tunes of which still seem to be floating in the air!

In the mid-1980s, the home was moved to Beale Street and restored; it currently serves as an interpretive center. Although the house displays just a sampling of Handy memorabilia and artifacts, numerous old photos will lead you through the highlights of W.C. Handy's fascinating life. There's even the desk at which he wrote many of his famous songs.

Whilst perusing old photos, you'll be able to listen to the commentary from a knowledgeable guide. The W.C. Handy house is a quick stop, since the museum is small and the tour only lasts about 20 minutes.
Old Daisy Theatre

2) Old Daisy Theatre

Located on the famous Beale Street, the Old Daisy Theater is known as the “#1 tourist attraction in the State of Tennessee". Built in 1902, the venue was a major stop on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” from the 1930s to the 1960s. The “Chitlin’ Circuit” was the only safe way for Rhythm and Blues artists to perform in the segregated South. George Benson, Ike and Tina Turner, Duke Ellington, the Jackson Five, Lena Horne, the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, and Wilson Pickett are just a few of the many musical artists who toured the South in this manner.

The theater reflects a Nickelodeon-Style design and features a horse-shaped balcony that is supported with iron rods, and a stage and screen located on the sidewalk. In the 1980s, the building was converted into a Blues Museum.

A new Daisy Theater was built across the street in the 1930s featuring live entertainment from established and up-and-coming artists, such as John Lee Hooker, Al Green, Sam and Dave, Bob Dylan, Alice in Chains, Justin Timberlake, Nelly, and the Cult.

Currently, the Old Daisy Theater serves as a banquet hall for meetings, events, and banquets. Catering services are available.
Beale Street Blues Gift Shop

3) Beale Street Blues Gift Shop

The Beale Street Blues Gift Shop in Memphis is a destination for anyone looking to purchase unique and memorable items, ranging from simple cards to intricate gift baskets. The store offers a diverse selection of keepsakes and mementos, making it an excellent place to discover gifts that capture and celebrate cherished memories for the future.

What sets the Beale Street Blues Gift Shop apart is its remarkable collection of music-related items, particularly those catering to fans of genuine Memphis music. It's a haven for enthusiasts seeking rare and classic blues recordings. If you're a fan of legendary artists like Howlin' Wolf, Willie Nix, Rosco Gordon, Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, Ida Cox, Junior Parker, Memphis Minnie, and many others, this shop is your dream destination. Whether it's old classics or new hits in the blues genre, the Beale Street Blues Gift Shop has an extensive selection that caters to all blues-infused souls.

Convenience is also a key aspect of the Beale Street Blues Gift Shop experience. Customers can enjoy a worry-free shopping experience with easy parking options available nearby. This makes it a stress-free choice, especially for those last-minute gift needs. The staff at the shop are known for their helpfulness and are always ready to assist customers in finding the perfect gift, ensuring a pleasant and satisfying shopping experience.
W.C. Handy Statue

4) W.C. Handy Statue

In 1960, Memphis, while still a segregated city, honored its favorite African-American son, the blues legend William Christopher Handy, with a bronze statue. Created by sculptor Leone Tommasi, this life-size statue was cast at the Fuse Marinelli foundry in Florence, Italy and was erected at the entrance to the park bearing his name in Beale Street to become the template for the Blues Foundation’s early W.C. Handy Blues Awards.

The commemorative plaque on the monument reads “In memory of W. C. Handy; Composer, Music Publisher, Father of the Blues; 1976; Erected by the Association for Study of Afro-American Life and History in Cooperation with the Amoco Foundation, Inc.”

Remarkably, in his song "Beale Street Blues" W.C. Handy said, "Yes, I'd rather be here, than any place I know, it's gonna take the Sergeant, for to make me go."
Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum

5) Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum (must see)

Located on the famous Beale Street, the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the story of Memphis music from its early beginnings to the present. Educating the masses about the music is the central theme of the museum and the seven galleries herein showcase a wide variety of genres, from the music sung in the fields to gospel, blues, country, rhythm and blues, and rock ‘n’ roll.

The museum was created by the Smithsonian Institution in 2000 as a research project. Visitors will enjoy the videos, recordings, photographs of artists such as, Otis Redding, Al Green, and Earth, Wind, and Fire.

Three recommended tour stops are the Bravo Gallery that honors artists who made an impact on the world music, the Soul Music exhibit that features the works of legendary record labels such as STAX, HI Records and Sun Records, and the Youth Culture exhibit that features artifacts from the record company that helped Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis get their start.

The on-site Levy Restaurants offers catering services for a variety of functions at the exhibition hall.
Silky O'Sullivan's

6) Silky O'Sullivan's

Located in the heart of Memphis nightlife, at the corner of Beale Street and B.B. King Blvd, Silky O'Sullivan's is a large place extending for three buildings. The caveat to this is that the second and third building appear to have caved in and been removed "except" for their front facades which are supported with steel to prevent them from falling.

Nothing really quite compares with what awaits visitors at Silky O'Sullivan's. Inside, there are two rooms, one of which is a dueling piano bar. Behind the frontages is a large "outdoor" patio with lime music. An interesting addition is the "goat" park at the West side of the patio. Visitors habitually buy beer for the goats out on the patio, who have developed quite a taste for it and will suck the whole thing down. The beer-loving goats entertain the crowd when they climb the tower.

Apart from the relaxing live blues or the dueling piano show, this Irish pub serves up Southern grub with ice-cold beer and a good choice of cocktails from their comprehensive wet bar in a raucous college atmosphere, which is an ideal combination for a pleasant evening.
Mr. Handy's Blues Hall

7) Mr. Handy's Blues Hall

Mr. Handy's Blues Hall is the last standing real juke joint on the Beal. Located next door to and connected with Rum Boogie Café, this storied honky-tonk hosts some of the best blues artists in town, who play live music "8 days a week!". Filled with rock memorabilia, The Handy refers to W.C. Handy, the father of the blues.

Smaller than most of the other clubs on the street, the walls here – adorned with random stuff and historic photos of the W.C. Handy family and other blues memorabilia – evoke the real feel of a juke joint, with tables crammed into the tiny space, worn wood floors and, of course, real blues being played. The latter is the main draw to the Blues Hall, so be sure to stop in, grab a seat (if you can find one), enjoy a Beale Street Big Ass Beer, and listen to the best blues in Memphis!

Why You Should Visit:
To listen to blues, blues and more blues! To experience the real thing at the only authentic juke joint left on Beale Street. To enjoy local bands playing the Memphis blues, both classics and originals, during the week and on weekends!

The place also serves up Southern grub, in case you are hungry for something more than just pure entertainment, with barbecue being one of the customer favorites.
There are no bathrooms within Mr. Handy's, but there's a door connecting the club to Rum Boogie, which is full-service in that regard.
B.B. King's Blues Club

8) B.B. King's Blues Club

If you fancy Southern food classics with some great live Memphis Blues in a brightly decorated listening room, then head to B.B. King’s! This iconic blues club opened in Memphis in 1991 and has remained a favorite of locals and visitors alike ever since. Widely regarded as the best restaurant, bar, and live music joint on Beale Street, B.B. King's is more than the just Blues but is also about classic Soul and Rock and Roll, much as it is about great barbecue (let alone the local specialties, such as Southern Fried Catfish or Broiled Steak) and signature drinks fit to fill anyone up to the brim!

You just have to experience it first-hand because words can’t fully describe the vibe of this place. With two levels of dining and a dance floor, and the daily live music show, featuring the in-house B.B. King All-Star Band, you should really prepare yourself for the late-night partying and, possibly, even dancing till the early hours in the morning! Just don’t forget your blue suede shoes!
Blues City Cafe

9) Blues City Cafe

"Yeah, I take my old guitar and I go down on Beale, play some good blues and get a real good meal,” sings the soul musician Dan Penn. According to him, this is “the one place in this world where you can get something good to eat.”

The old-school juke joint/eatery – specialized in the blues music & soul food of the Delta region – opened in March of 1991 under the name of “Doe’s Eat Place”. In October of 1993, investors bought Doe’s and changed the name to Blues City Cafe. Still, many of the old faces seen at Doe’s remain at Blues City Cafe today, making it the #1 business at the #1 tourist attraction in Tennessee.

In the early 90s, Blues City Cafe developed a menu that would work for the Memphis and Beale Street locals and tourists alike, comprising BBQ ribs, juicy burgers, oven-broiled steaks, catfish and homemade tamales, feat. a special blend of beef and the gumbo thick and tasty with just the right amount of kick. If you're hungry, you should try their “Best Meal on Beale” platter which serves a half-rack of barbecued ribs (served wet – not dry) and fried catfish (aka catfish perfection) with all the fixings.

Over the years, many musician celebrities have graced the Cafe's music venue, called the Band Box, including BB King, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ike Turner, Kid Rock, Keanu Reeves & Dogstar, Queen Latifah, Smashing Pumpkins, Charlie Watts, and others. There also have been just as many interesting guests, from the famous to the infamous, who have come to enjoy the hot blues, cold brews and barbecue here. Among them: President Bill Clinton, Robert Plant, Buddy Guy, Jesse Jackson, Steve Cohen, Milos Furman, Sydney Pollack, Keith Carradine, Jimmy Paige, Alice Cooper, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Robert DeNiro, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Hurley, James Gandolfini, Ed Harris, Conan O’Brien, Steven Seagall, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Murray, Samuel L. Jackson, and many NBA players.

The place has been featured on the Travel Channel's "A Taste of America", The Food Network's Bobby Flay Show and in the Bon Appetit BBQ issue.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame

10) Memphis Music Hall of Fame

The Memphis Music Hall of Fame pays tribute to the lifetime achievements of musicians from the city who have made significant contributions to various music genres such as blues, gospel, jazz, R&B, country, rockabilly, and hip-hop. Established on November 29, 2012, this institution has recognized nearly 60 individuals or musical groups. On August 1, 2015, it inaugurated its physical museum and exhibition space, showcasing previously unseen memorabilia, rare video performances, interviews with the inductees, along with other historical materials and interactive exhibits.

The annual induction ceremony takes place in Memphis, where each inductee into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame is honored with the Mike Curb Award, named after the renowned songwriter, producer, and record company owner, Mike Curb.

You can find the Memphis Music Hall of Fame situated at the intersection of Second and Beale Streets, nestled between the recently opened Hard Rock Cafe and the iconic Lansky's clothing store, famous for outfitting notable figures like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Rufus Thomas, and others.

In addition to the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, Elvis has earned induction into a total of four different music halls of fame. Given his extensive list of hit songs, successful records, and iconic movies, it's difficult to envision a time when Elvis was not a prominent figure in the music scene.
Center for Southern Folklore

11) Center for Southern Folklore

The Center for Southern Folklore is a non-profit cultural organization with the lofty aim of preserving and promoting the art, music, crafts and other heritage of the American South! The Center is a real treasure trove for Memphis blues, salsa and soul lovers. It has amassed tonnes of documentary films, a huge archive of video and audio recordings, contemporary and historic photographs, as well as printed materials, slides and other artifacts showcasing the people, music and cultural history of the Memphis/Delta region – from musical pioneers to mule traders to fife makers to folk artists and more.

Pursuant to its agenda, the Center offers a wide variety of events, programs, and customized guided tours. The onsite Folklore Store is a version of Alice's Restaurant: part general store, part art gallery, and part music hall, where you can purchase regional folk art, prints from the archive, great CDs and DVDs produced by the Center and regional musicians. Here you can also listen to live Blues, Jazz, Hip Hop, Rockabilly, Gospel and everything else Memphis and the surrounding areas has to offer music-wise, while enjoying some authentic, yummy Southern cooking and drinks.! The live shows are held most Friday and Saturday nights, starting around 8 pm.
Blues Hall of Fame

12) Blues Hall of Fame

The Blues Hall of Fame is a music museum located in Memphis that holds great value for both avid blues enthusiasts and casual tourists. Originally, the "Blues Hall of Fame" was not a physical structure but rather a recognition of individuals who made significant contributions to blues music. It was established in 1980 by the Blues Foundation to honor those who have made notable contributions to the world of blues through their performances, recordings, or documentation. The actual physical museum opened its doors to the public on May 8, 2015.

Presently, the museum boasts comprehensive exhibits and an in-depth historical perspective, providing visitors with an immersive experience in the world of blues culture. In total, it showcases over 400 inductees across five primary categories: Performer, Individual, Album, Single, and Literature.

Within the museum, you'll find ten distinct galleries equipped with interactive touchscreens, as well as three central databases where visitors can listen to music, watch videos, and delve into the life stories of each of the honored inductees. Each gallery also features unique memorabilia, such as Charlie Musselwhite's harmonica, rare album covers, tour jackets, Mavis Staples' Grammy gown, Otis Spann's piano, and other iconic artifacts. Additionally, there are rotating traveling exhibits upstairs that change every four months, providing fresh experiences for guests.

The museum was made possible through the generosity and support of blues enthusiasts, with the aim of fulfilling all four aspects of The Blues Foundation's mission: preserving the history of blues, celebrating excellence within the genre, supporting education related to blues, and ensuring the future of this cherished musical tradition.

Walking Tours in Memphis, Tennessee

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