Beale Street attracts musicians from Louisiana

It is no secret that Beale Street in Memphis is a hot spot for great music. Today, this legendary thoroughfare in the heart of the city is exploding with a mélange of musicians creating a new sound. Hurricane Katrina left thousands without a home including scores of artists from Louisiana and Mississippi who arrived here with little more than the shirts on their backs looking for work. “We reacted quickly by stepping up to the plate to coordinate musicians so that we can book them,” said Carson Lamn, a club operator on Beale Street. “They just want to keep at their craft. I am simply here to help.” Together with his father Preston, Lamn has booked hundreds of musicians, coordinated programs through Musicares and held fundraisers/street parties on Beale Street to provide the necessary equipment and housing for the musicians. While he does not have an exact count on how many displaced artists are in the area due to the transient nature of this phenomena, Lamn does know that Beale Street is welcoming them with open arms.

The Bourbon Street of Memphis

Out of the horrific situation that Hurricane Katrina brought to the lives of these musicians, comes something positive: Bourbon and Beale Street became one. With the influx of Louisiana and Mississippi talent, this area is experiencing a short-term renaissance that it has never quite seen in its history. It is interesting how the music of New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta meets the sounds of Memphis where rock music was born. “I always found it amazing how much Beale Street is like Bourbon Street,” noted Limn. “Now you can actually see it.” The Beale Street Tap Room, King‘s Palace Cafe, Blues Hall are just some of the places where Lamn has packed the house with out-of-town talent.

Chock Full Of Fine Music, Dining

No matter where you go on Beale Street these days, one thing is for certain: You will hear excellent music.

If you are in the mood for grooving blues music, then Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall will fulfill that desire. This club open seasonally and only on weekends, features some of the most eclectic bands in an intimate atmosphere. A maximum of 60 people are allowed in this small joint. For a faster and more youthful pace, check out 152 Beale Street. Live techno, house and alternative dance music envelopes this massive club that has recently added two floors.

Rhythm and Blues is the order of the night at the Rum Boogie Café where Carson Lamn has recently booked several out-of-town acts. The sounds of the café’s own James Govan and the Boogie Blues Band literally bring down the house with each appearance. Notable recording artists have appeared with the band for an impromptu session on occasion including Aerosmith and Athens’ own B-52s. Both acts have left their footprints here with signed guitars that are part of a collection that is proudly displayed on the café’s walls. By day, it is not uncommon to see Cajun fare and barbeque served alongside beer and an array of superfine rum.

Right in the center of Beale Street is Alfred’s Restaurant and bar, which is notorious for its awesome menu and live nightly music that goes well into the night. The owners are proud to say that they are one of the last places in Memphis to close its doors. You can also get in on the act at Alfred’s by making your moves on their spacious dance floor and by singing along on the karaoke machine.

If the karaoke machine feels synthetic to you, try an old fashioned sing-a-long at Silky O’Sullivan’s. Their old-fashioned piano invites you to sing well into the night. Those who are from New Orleans will feel at home here since there has been a Silky O’Sullivan’s the Big Easy for quite some time. The food selection here is spectacular. Memphis Style Ribs, Pulled Pork Sandwiches and the Diver house drink is signature Silky O’Sullivan’s that is a must-have if you visit.

Music Soothes The Soul In Times Of Tragedy

Even though Beale Street is hopping with more musicians these days, Carson Lamn laments how hard it is for the musicians. “I think that many of them are over-qualified to be playing in the places that I am booking them in,” he said. “But that is not the point. They just want to play.”

Time might heal the wounds of the Katrina victims, but that is the problem. Time takes time. Good music soothes the soul in an instant and that is just a small part of why they have come here to continue their craft. If you visit Memphis, perhaps you will feel that same feeling of calm and optimism. Carson Lamn is just one of many who have helped make this feeling happen.

Memphis Facts

From www.bealestreet.com

In 1899, Robert Church, the first black millionaire of the South, created Church Park at the corner of 4th and Beale; a recreational and cultural center.

Beale Street was named after an unknown military hero in 1841. The street acted as General Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters during the Civil War.

Beale Street Baptist Church, the first brick church in the South built by blacks, opens on Beale in the mid 1860's.

For most of its heyday from 1880's to the 1960's Beale Street was viewed as a Mecca for black Americans, a place where they could for the most part be themselves without fear of society’s restrictions.

After years of declining business, the first club reopened on Beale in 1983. One by one, clubs and businesses moved into renovated spaces, producing the most vibrant streetscape and activity center in downtown Memphis and the Mid-South.

Web sites:

Memphis Convention and Visitor’s Bureau http://www.memphistravel.com

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Beale Street

http://www.bealestreet.com

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Hurricane Katrina Assistance

http://www.bushclintonkatrinafund.org

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