Find Your Groove at Memphis' Best Dance Clubs

By Sally Walker Davies, Memphis Local Expert

Everyone knows Memphis is way into the live music scene, but finding true dance clubs in the city is a bit like the proverbial needle in the haystack. While folks have been known to get up and dance at places like B. B. King's or Rum Boogie Cafe, most spots on Beale Street are live music, not dance, clubs.

Fear not, however; plenty of the clubs on Beale and throughout the city offer dancing - but aren't strictly dance clubs.

Downtown is the best for club-hopping to find your groove, with a number of clubs centered on or around Beale Street. Alfred's is a favorite, thanks to the cover band that's as good as any DJ for a mix of dance tunes. Club 152 is basically three separate dance clubs in one, with crunk and hip hop, techno/electric and top 40 DJs spinning into the wee hours on three separate floors. Just off Beale, the Silly Goose is a ultra-swank lunge with a gorgeous crowd, and is an after-party spot for the young and beautiful.

Out in the suburbs, the Electric Cowboy is where the country boys and girls come to two-step and line dance, boots 'n all.

There's always a place to move to the Memphis beat; your job is to decide just what that beat is - and 10Best.com will hook you up with the perfect spot.

10. The Silly Goose Spirit Lounge
Photo courtesy of Silly Goose Spirits Lounge

The Silly Goose is really more of a hip bar with late night dancing Thursday - Saturday nights, and the occasional themed parties, but definitely worth the visit regardless of what's happening. With its dark, chic interior - think men's club meets upscale bar - the space transforms from an after-work drinks and appetizers hangout for young professionals into a late-night dance fest on the weekends. By the way - weekends do include Thursday as far as we're concerned. Just sayin'. ]On Thursday nights during the summer, the Goose tends to be the after-party spot following the Peabody rooftop party.

9. Mollie Fontaine Lounge
Photo courtesy of Mollie Fontaine Lounge

When they say food / spirits on the Mollie Fontaine Web site, spirits has a double meaning - as in, the kind your drink and the kind who haunt old, Victorian homes. Mollie Fontaine is housed in a gorgeous Victorian mansion, stuffed with a combination of retro and vintage-y chic decor - overstuffed loungers, funky little chairs, and super-cool lighting, from chandeliers to multi-hued, single Edison bulbs. Sometimes, a pro sits at the old piano in the first floor front parlor - sometimes a customer jumps on - not always a good thing - and sometimes there's a DJ mixing it up. There's a full bar, and very often anything wet and cold comes straight out of a cooler tucked behind the bar. Since the lounge is owned by Karen Carrier of The Beauty Shop fame, the small plates served up are always something scrumptious - Fontaine sliders with arugula and gruyere, crispy duck rice rolls, and avocado tempura are all part of the inventive fare, and there's always a creme brulee of the day to tempt the sweet tooth.

8. Alfred's On Beale
Photo courtesy of Alfred's On Beale

Located in the heart of Memphis's nightlife scene (the corner of Third and Beale), Alfred's is one of those places that you need to stop in if you plan on telling people you visited Memphis. Known for its live music, Alfred's offers one of the best cover bands you can dance to on Friday & Saturday nights; Kevin and Bethany Paige serve up a little bit of everything in their performances, and they perform from 10 pm - 2 am. Then, it's time for DJ J2, who mixes dance beats until 5 am. Weather permitting, the upstairs outdoor patio is a bit mellower prior to the dance club scene, with acoustic guitarist Jim Wilson usually setting up in one corner on weekend nights.

7. Rum Boogie Cafe
Photo courtesy of jbcurio

On any given night, you can walk into the Rum Boogie Cafe and hear great blues, rock or country bands. While the beer selection has its fair share of admirers, the bar's d�cor alone is enough to get most avid music fans in the door as the walls are adorned by guitars autographed by the likes of George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Joe Perry. This ain't the Hard Rock - the feel is local and authentic. If you get the munchies, you'll want to give their menu a shot – it includes everything from barbecued ribs to red beans and rice - and although not the best food ever, it certainly serves its purpose to soak up the alcohol.

6. Club 152
Photo courtesy of http://www.scootutopia.com

If there's a must-experience dance club in Memphis, Club 152 may just be it. With three floors of dance space, each with its own vibe, there's virtually something for every dance taste. The first floor offers either live music or DJs spinning true dance tracks from the 70's through today; depending on the night, live music starts the evening and then the DJ steps in for the late night crowd. The first floor is open nightly, while the other two floors are open on Friday and Saturday nights only. Floor two focuses on mainstream hip hop and old school jams, and later in the evening is truly crunk; the vibe is dark, hip lounge with an all-female staff. Floor three is funk-a-licious, no-holds-barred fun, with giant video screens and mirrored walls, and this is where inhibitions (and sometimes jaws) drop.

5. Electric Cowboy
Photo courtesy of Electric Cowboy

Think Urban Cowboy, but with laser lights and bikini contests...although you'll still find plenty of tight jeans, cowboy hats and tooled belts at this country music-themed bar, part of a small chain with outlets around the South. The crowd here is definitely country and not blues; this is one of the few dance clubs in Memphis where the clientele is not a mix of races. There's plenty of two-stepping and line dancing here, and if you're unsure of the moves, never fear: Lessons and instruction are offered in both, nightly. Of course, that's part of the best way to meet people - fake like you don't know how to two-step.

4. Purple Haze
Photo courtesy of Purple Haze Nightclub

Purple Haze is one block south of Beale Street, in what was once a celebrity-owned blues club across from the Gibson Guitar Factory. The 5,000- s.f. club isn't huge, as dance clubs go, but there's lots of flashy lighting and an amped-up sound system that makes the club rock. Purple Haze is one of the few bars off Beale Street that stays open until 5:00 a.m.; the kitchen stays open until 4:30 and serves up typical bar food. DJs play everything from old school dance to electro. The club has an unusual dress code – hats are okay, but no white t-shirts or head scarves.

3. Wild Bill's
Photo courtesy of Wild Bill's

With a menu of soul food and 40-ounce beers (or set-ups), Wild Bill's holds sway as the quintessential juke joint in Memphis. But what one needs to grasp here is that Wild Bill's is truly a juke joint – and that means folks sit together at tables, you better be sociable, and you are in Memphis, so that means a mostly African American crowd that's there to listen to great music and relax. This isn't a prettied-up version of a juke joint on Beale, this is the real deal. Those 40-ounce beers come with a couple of plastic cups on top, so you can share. The house band is the Memphis Soul Survivors, and they play most Friday and Saturday nights, so you know the music is always solid. The dance floor - and we hesitate to call it that, it's really tiny - gets crowded fast; don't be surprised if you're dancing with strangers more than you are your friends. It's simply that kind of place.

2. Rumba Room
Photo courtesy of Michael Donohue, The Commercial Appeal

The first salsa club in the city, Rumba Room is a little bit of a love letter to Latin culture. There's a swanky bar area, a colorful mural, a menu full of Cuban and Latin-inspired appetizers, and a large dance area that pulses with a salsa beat. Primarily a DJ-driven dance club, the Rumba Room offers salsa music every Friday and Saturday night, with an occasional live band featured. Free salsa lessons are offered both evenings starting at 9:30. On Friday nights starting at 7 p.m. until salsa time and on the third Saturday of the month, the vibe changes to West Coast swing. Thursday night features a mix of hip hop, R & B and old school jams mixed by a DJ. There's no cover on Thursday nights, when the minimum age is 21; entry for salsa nights is 18 and up; ladies over 21 are free until 10 p.m., and there's a $10 cover for all others.

1. Paula & Raiford's Disco
Photo courtesy of Paula & Raiford's

This is one of those spots your mom warned you about - and is, as we say in the South, a hot mess. But we love it anyway! For years, Hollywood Raiford entertained Memphians in a huge old building on Vance, just south of the central business district downtown. A light-up dance floor, a la 'Saturday Night Fever' was the main attraction, after Riaford himself. Fast forward a few years, and the club has re-opened in a two-story space on S. Second, with the same fog machine and disco ball, and Raiford himself. Daughter Paula is in the mix, too, but not much has changed - the crowd is a combination of suburban white folks, hipsters and medical students, plus a few well-heeled Memphians. The beers still come in a bucket, and cash is king here.