From Blues to Rock to Soul, Memphis' Music Scene Is Original, Deep

It's no surprise that the city's live music scene centers around Beale Street, made famous as the home of the blues during the early 20th century. Beale is full of live music, whether it is the raucous beat from the house band at B.B. King's to the more mellow tunes of a cover band at Alfred's.

Beale is a great place to just grab a cold drink and wander - and the only district in the city where doing so is perfectly legal. It's usually late afternoon when the cops shut the street down (read:5 .m.), cutting off traffic so the district becomes pedestrian-friendly. And that's when more street musicians open their cases and tune up their guitars, and when bands of all types (and sometimes freelancers looking for some exposure) set up on the stage at W.C. Handy Park.

The Cooper Young area of Midtown is an excellent spot for alternative music, pure rock, local talent, and the occasional Irish pub band. And a variety of venues, from Minglewood Hall to the Mud Island amphitheater, host great national acts in larger venues that still are small enough to really feel the vibrations from the band.

Whether it is pure blues, indie rock or even crunk, Memphis offers breadth and depth when it comes to the live music scene.

This funky little spot in Cooper Young opened in 2013 with little fanfare but loads of fans; chef Karen Carrier's latest nightspot is fresh and hip and a great addition to the neighborhood nightlife scene. Decorated with treasures from around...  Read More

In the ranks of Memphis's most famous nightspots, B.B.'s is one of those rare places that you must visit if you spend any time in the city at all. Featuring an amazing nightly repertoire of blues, along with great food and cold beer, the bar...  Read More

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...  Read More

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...  Read More

The tiny Mr. Handy's is a stand-alone juke joint, but connected to Rum Boogie Cafe. It evokes the real feel of a juke joint, to, with tables crammed into the tiny space, worn wood floors, random stuff on the walls, along with historic photos of...  Read More

Everything about Celtic Crossing feels authentically Irish pub, and walking into the bar is like going through a wormhole into another dimension. Like any respectable pub, the decor offers a mix of tables and chairs, there's always a football...  Read More

Young Avenue Deli
Photo courtesy of Courtesy Young Avenue Deli

Don't be thrown by the name; this cavernous space is indeed a deli (and a tasty one, at that) but it also doubles as a live music must-hit for Memphians. While the atmosphere of Young Avenue screams ROCK!, there's a surprisingly eclectic...  Read More

As the revitalized Overton Square reemerges as a hot dining and nightlife district in Memphis, it seems only natural that one of the Square's most-loved, but short-lived, clubs has made a comeback. Layfayette's Music Room was once known as...  Read More

With more than 50 free musical performances, movies under the stars and a smattering of dance and drama performances, the Levitt Shell in Overton Park serves as true common ground for residents of Memphis. The historic shell - Elvis once sang...  Read More

If music is akin to religion in Memphis, then it's not ironic that this rowdy Midtown nightspot is now located next to the Jehovah's Witnesses in its new strip center digs. The new space, like the old, is a few rooms - a lounge area, and two...  Read More


Meet Sally Walker Davies

Sally Walker Davies is enchanted by Memphis' music, history, and characters. From the artsy South Main Historic District to the grittiness of her favorite live music clubs to the sophisticated...  More About Sally

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