- MEMPHIS FROM 1000 THROUGH 1928 -

For detailed photographs see this link:
 
Contains

John Overton
City of Memphis
Mississippi River
Beale Street
The Daily Appeal
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Hunt-Phelan Mansion
Abraham Schwab Dry Good Store
The William M. Randolp Building
First Baptist Beale Street Curch
W.C. Handy
W.C. Handy's Home
Pee Wee's Saloon
The Higbee School for Girls
Bensieck Building (Rum Boogie Cafe)
Oakey's Saloon (Beale Street Barbecue)
Ida Well-Barnett
Club Handy / Pantaze Drug Store No. 2
A. Greener & Sons (Hard Rock Cafe)
Morris Lipmann Building (King's Palaca Cafe)
Sam Slaky Shoe Repair (Blues City Cafe)
Commercial Loan Office (Sam's Town)
The Monarch Saloon
Beale Avenue Market (Alfred's)
Lippman's/Nathan Novick's Loan Office (Blue Hall)
Hammitt Ashford Saloon
Midway Cafe
Gallina Building (Silky O'Sullivan)
The Randolph Building (The Elvis Presley Statue)
Epstein's Loan Office (King's Palaca Entrance)
Rosenbaum  and Medel Furniture (Girls Inc. of Memphis)
Plessy v. Ferguson
Jim Crow
The Riechman-Crosby Co. Warehouse (Beale Street Landing)
Panama Cafe (The Rich)
Beale Street Marked House (Handy Park)
Robert Church Parkl
Civil Right Movement
Watson Building (Wearable Art/Gestine's Gallery)
Morris Minstein (This Is It)
Beale Avenue Sales Store (Strange Carco)
Julia Ann Britton Hooks
TOBA ( Theater Owner's Booking Association)
Elks Club (Hotel Mens Improvement Club)
Mutual Furniture Co. (Silky O'Sullivan)
Edward Hull Crump
W.E.B. Bu Bois
Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington High School
Chisca Hotel
Brooks Memorial Art Gallery
Piggly Wiggly (Capital Loans) (Blues City Cafe)
Daisy Theater (Beale Sreet Blues Museum)
Lerner Buildin
Palace Thater
Loew's State Theater
Fred L. Schwantz/Sigmund Feder (B.B. King's Club)
Lorraine Hotel (National Civil Rights Museum)
WGBC ( World's Greatest Bible Class)
The Orpheum Theater
Ralph Sylvester Peer
The Talking Machines Comes to Memphis
 

1000

Indians of unknown origin control the hunting grounds along the Mississippi River and built a  ceremonial village (later called Chucalissa) at present-day Memphis.

1541

Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto crosses the Mississippi River near here. He was the first  European to get the blues in the Delta, DeSoto found his way to the banks of the Mississippi,  a few miles downriver of the fourth Chickasaw bluff, the future site of Memphis. DeSoto was  hoping for the sort of reception he'd found in Peru with his old boss Francisco Pizarro. But  instead of easily conquered Incas and wealthy cities filled with gold, de Soto and his troops  found only hostile, Catholicism-resistant Chickasaw and other local tribes. Disheartened, the  Paniards quickly built four rafts, escaped across the river, and headed west.

Back then, the future home of the blues and rock and roll was still just a happy hunting  ground. Bear, panther, and deer roamed the muddy banks of the Mississippi and on up to  what would one day be Union Avenue, Beale Street, and other Memphis landmarks. The area  became a battleground in the French and British wars of the eighteenth century, local tribes  of the Chickasaw Indians were supplied with English guns.

The Chickasaw Bluffs that later became Memphis proved strategically vital to their namesake  tribes, who used them as vantage points from which to wage guerrilla warfare.

1619

The first shipload of African slaves sold to the colonies docks in Virginia.

1682

French explorer Sieur de LaSalle travel south along the Mississippi River and claims the  Mississippi Valley for France.

1739
Louisiana Governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, sieur de Bienville sends French forces upriver  to built Fort Assumption on the South Bluffs and push the Chickasaw Indians from the area.  They fail, and the soldiers abandon the fort within months. Despite his superior weapons and  sizable army, Bienville waited too long to launch his attack, remaining in the fort his men  had constructed, Fort Asuncion. By then his forces of Frenchmen, African- Americans, and  Indians of other tribes were decimated, the Europeans by disease, the rest by desertion. It  wasn't much of a fight, but Bienville's halfhearted, unsuccessful campaign has the distinction  of being the first documented historical event on the site of what became modern Memphis.

1763

The treaty ending the French and Indian War gives French territory west of the Mississippi to  Spain; lands east of the river go to England.
1766

JOHN OVERTON (See: Historic Memphis)  born (1766-1833). It is quite easy to argue that only John Overton that can  be called the true father of Memphis. Not only did he purchase the land, he was the most  active in the quick surveying, layout and promotion of the planned community.

Truly the  land would have been less valuable without the behind the scenes machinations of Andrew  Jackson in ridding the land of Indians and other government favors, but even there it was  Overton who brought Jackson in as a partner. Overton, like all successful early Americans was a Virginian. His earliest Overton ancestors to  appear on the continent came here in 1660.  
 
The youngest of five brothers John was born to  tobacco growers who were struggling under poor conditions. He and his five brothers all  migrated further south to Kentucky and Tennessee.

After finishing his studies John Overton moved to Nashville, or as he called it at the time  “West Tennessee“. He took up lodging in the house of the Widow Donelson, whose daughter,  Rachel Robeson would become one of the most well-known (for good and ill) women in  America. One of the other boarders in Mrs. Donnelson's boarding house was Andrew Jackson,  a young lawyer who was to become Overton's fast friend and partner for life. Jackson would  go on to marry Rachel Robeson before her divorce was official, creating a great scandal  during his presidency, but both men would go on to create many and sundry land deals that  were to become profited nicely, in part due to Jackson's political power.

Overton first purchased the tract on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff from one Elisha Rice, the  brother of the original owner John Rice who was killed by Indians before he could develop  or profit from the area. As was the custom between Jackson and Overton, half of the  property was considered to be Jackson's. Jackson paid Overton $100 for the half, although  Overton's purchase price was $500. Whatever the consideration both men were apparently  happy with the deal.

Once known as the richest man in Tennessee Overton was basically an administrator. Adroit,  efficient, his reputation was that he administered without conflict. Overton served as  Tennessee's Supervisor of Revenue, Judge of the Court of Law and Equity and Judge of the  Superior Court. Over time he and his partner Jackson owned 80,000 acres of claims in West  Tennessee.

Overton remained a bachelor most of his life. At the age of 54 he finally married. His bride,  Mary McConnell White May was the widow of Francis May and the daughter of General James  White and sister of Hugh Lawson White a senator and one-time presidential candidate. Nine  inches taller and 17 years younger than Overton, Mary already had five children. Overton  continued to take an interest in his children, nieces and nephews throughout his life.

The same year he married John Overton and business partner James Winchester traveled to  the fourth Chickasaw bluff to look over their claim. The previous year Overton, Winchester  and Jackson had signed a 10 year contract to hold their profits in common and Overton had  successfully petitioned for the formation of Shelby County. The trip to Memphis was largely  to sell lots, which proved a disappointment. At the time there were 53 residents within the  county lines.

Before his death in 1833 Overton managed to insure the incorporation of Memphis. The sales  had continued to be meager however as Memphis growth was quite gradual. Overton still  died a very wealthy man with few detractors. His life was marked by work, diligence and  sound financial judgment. There are certainly worse things that may be said of a man.  Memphis's most beloved park is named for John Overton. The park and enclosed zoo are  held so sacred by Memphians that the area constitutes none of only two breaks in Interstate  40 which otherwise spans the North American continent.
1775

Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos, the Spanish governor of Louisiana with his Spanish troops  move into the area and built Fort San Fernando near the present-day site of The Pyramid. He  bought a section of the lower bluffs from France for thirty thousand dollars. President  George Washington responded quickly, however, calling the purchase 'an unwarranted  aggression'. Facing potential attack from the young country, Gayoso's garrison in 1797  burned their fort and crossed the river to build Fort Esperanza. Later known as Hopefield,  the Arkansas settlement would develop a reputation for rowdiness and lawlessness that  outstripped even its wild and woolly neighbour across the river. Gayoso remains a part of  Memphis life today in the form of a street name. In his case, history became notoriety:  Gayoso Street, which runs parallel between Beale Street and Union Avenue, became home to  some of the city's more opulent brothels in the late nineteenth and early twentieth  centuries. Employing light-skinned black women, the Gayoso Street whorehouses, catered  exclusively to a well-to-do white clientele. Many a prominent Memphian, waiting to go  upstairs, first developed a taste for the blues and ragtime he heard on those whorehouse  pianos played by itinerant musicians from the Gilded Age onward.

1797

Spain relinquishes its claims to the region; the soldiers abandon and burn Fort San Fernando.  U.S. Troops then take over and built Fort Adams on the same site.

1798

Fort Adams' swampty, hard-to-defend location forces the U.S. Army to abandon the site and  instead built Fort Pickering on the South Bluffs.

1802

Trading posts had been set up in the area for the purpose of running the Chickasaw Indians  so heabile into debt that they would be forced to sell their land. That bit of strategy came  from Thomas Jefferson and would be revived years later in a slightly altered form in the  plantation-sharecropper system. The plantation store would replace the trading post, as  recently freed African-Americans, lacking land, traded their newfound freedom for seed,  tools, and other necessities, spending themselves and often their descendants back into  virtual slavery.

1818

Andrew Jackson, John Overton, and James Winchester meet to plan the new town of  Memphis. The following year, surveyors lay out the town and the Tennessee legislature  creates Shelby County.

1819

British claims to its former colony had forever been severed by the War of 1812. General  Andrew Jackson and James Winchester, in partnership with retired Tennessee Supreme  Court chief justice John Overton, founded the city of Memphis.

Overton and Jackson had been working toward that moment since they'd first acquired the  site in the 1790s from the estate of John Rice, who was killed by Indians in central  Tennessee. Overton got the 5,000-acre tract for $500, $2,000 less than the late John Rice  had paid for it. With political connections in mind, he sold a half share to his friend Jackson  for a mere $100. That was a good start, but it wasn't until 1818, when the Chickasaw ceded  almost 7 million additional acres for around $300,000, that Memphis became more than a  pipe dream.
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE (See: Historic Memphis)  Memphis is much more than just Elvis Presley. The only large city in  the Delta region, the city stands at a natural crossroads, with the Appalachians to the east,  New Orleans to the south, St. Louis and Chicago to the north, and Texas to the west. Those  who passed through left the legacy of their regional music styles: blues, jazz, country, hillbilly folk, and rock and roll. This enviable musical heritage extends back to the turn of  the century, when the Memphis music scene belonged to crude vaudeville versions of blues  tunes played by makeshift ensembles known as jug bands. 
 
In 1819 land speculators Andrew Jackson, John Overton, and James Winchester capitalized  on the removal of the Chickasaw Indians by founding the city of Memphis on 5,000 acres  they had purchased in the 1790s.
 
 
In its infancy the "Bluff City" was a rough-and-tumble  frontier town, a haven for the boisterous flatboatmen bound for New Orleans who "got  lickered up" and cavorted in the local fleshpots. The arrival of the steamboat - and later the  railroad - helped establish Memphis as a trade center, but of primary importance was the  emergence of King Cotton in the Old Southwest.

The city's overwhelming dependence upon  the crops, as well as the system of labour that produced it, resulted in its reorientation as a  southern city; it supported a thriving slave market in the antebellum years and  enthusiastically cast its lot with the Confederacy after Fort Sumter.

Prior to the 1870s Memphis sported a heterogeneous population mix in which Germans and  Irish figured prominently in the local cultural scene. After that decade's harter in favour of a  state-administered taxing district, the foreign born avoided the location. As a result, the  arrival of the rural inhabitants - both black and white - fuelled the city's population growth.

The steady infusion of native-born farm folk led H.L. Mencken to term Memphis the "most  rural-minded city in the South" and the "buckle" of the Bible Belt - a reference to the  fundamentalist religion that saturated the community. Memphis also became the economic  and cultural center for mid-South blacks. Robert R. Church, a rural transplant from nearby  Holly Springs, Mississippi, reputed to be the South's first black millionaire, headed the  region's largest black business community. His son, Robert E. Church, Jr., went into politics  and became the nation's most powerful black Republican by the 1920s. For nearly the first  half of the 20th century the city's government was dominated by another native of Holly  Springs, Edward Hull Crump. Boss Crump was president over a Democratic machine so  powerful that he single-handedly ruled not only Memphis but Shelby County and exerted  considerable statewide influence as well. The city's reputation and morale received a blow  in 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel there while  assisting a garbage worker's strike.

A Crump contemporary, songwriter W.C. Handy, penned "The Memphis Blues" in 1909, and  Beale Street, the main thoroughfare of the city's black community, gained the reputation as  the birthplace of that distinctive musical form. During the 1940s the city's sound underwent  a revolutionary change when an upbeat jazz influence, coupled with electrical amplification,  helped create rhythm and blues.

This pioneering Memphis rhythm and blues sound in turn influenced the sound of Sun  Records, responsible for, among other things, introducing a host of blues and rock-and-roll  performers including B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, and its "father" of rock and roll, Elvis Presley to  the world in the 1950s. Elvis Presley's hybrid of blues and country - the combination that  became known as rockabilly - encouraged the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis (Lewis has developed  a habit of dropping in, allegedly uninvited, to Beale Street clubs to "challenge" whoever's  playing to a jam), Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, and Carl Perkins to come to Sun  Records. In the early 1960s, at the newly formed American Sound Studio(*) and Stax  Records(*) across town, black and white musicians played together, despite heavy  segregation. Stax Records artists like Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding shaped a new form of  rhythm and blues named - soul - and Stax Records became the most successful label in the  south.

A decade later, nearby Hi Records reaped similar kudos and sales with Al Green, the soul  superstar of the time.

Memphis went through a rough patch in the 1970s, both musically and financially, as  businesses left for the suburbs and the wrecking ball flattened most of Beale Street. But  since the mid-1980s, the city has been spending money. Much of downtown has been  smartened up; Beale Street, with its museums and nightclubs, is thriving, even if it does  resemble a giant blues theme park. The opening of Graceland, Presley's mansion, to the  public draws three-quarters of a million visitors a year, and the restoration of Beale Street  reflect the city's attempt in recent years to preserve its rich musical heritage, and almost  always a music festival of some kind, like the Blues Music Week in October, is going on. The  Pink Palace Museum and Mud Island Museum emphasize the historic link between the "Bluff  City" and the Mississippi River. With Memphis State University, Christian Brothers College,  LeMoyne-Owen College, Rhodes (formerly Southwestern at Memphis), and the University of  Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences, the city serves as the educational heart of the  mid-South.

The Memphis Music Hall Of Fame, located at 97 South Second Street, is a museum does a fair  job of explaining how Memphis became a major recording center. Dotted throughout are  pictures and well-researched bios of Hall of Famers, whose ranks include Elvis Presley, Jerry  Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Otis Redding and Isaac Hayes. Among the mementos are a Jerry Lee  Lewis piano and a Booker T. organ, while Rufus Thomas' white cape and hot pants and Isaac  Hayes' exotic costumes show there. Listening posts give a chance to hear some of the sounds  that made Memphis famous.

The Ardent Studio, this smart suburban studio, moved to a current location in 1971, it  shifted from one ad hoc address to another, settling in at 1457 National Avenue for five  years at the end of the 1960s. In those days Stax Records would send musicians over to  Ardent when their space was booked up, which is how Isaac Hayes ended up cutting his  massive-selling "Hot Buttered Soul" often touted as the epitome of Stax's technique, at  Ardent. A band led by ex Box Tops singer Alex Chilton, came here to record their first album;  unhappy with the name they were using, Ice Water, they wandered outside, spotted the Big  Star supermarket opposite (since demolished), and realized their search was over. The  Ardent studio, started by Federal Express founder Fred Smith in 1971, is now run by former  Big Star drummer Jody Stephens. ZZ Top's "Eliminator" (1983), the Replacements' "Pleased To  Meet Me" (1987), and R.E.M's "Green" (1988) were all recorded here. Visitors during the  1990s have included the Bar-Kays, the Gin Blossoms, Primal Scream, and locals Big Ass Truck,  who have been signed by Rounder Records. Ardent studio is now located at 2000 Madison  Avenue.

Besides the rare singles and latest releases in Memphis, the Shangri-La record store is home  to an alternate record label in Memphis (the roster includes the local Grifters), and a shrine  to 1970s tack. You'll find such delights as a Kiss board game, Partridge Family lunchbox, and  Mork from Ork radio. The store is located at 1916 Madison Avenue.

In 1995 the Memphis premier alternative studio, located at 2272 Deadrick Street, played  host to Sonic Youth. Feeling a need to offload the band's legacy, the fellow came here toying  with the idea of changing their name to Washing Machine, but used it for the album title  instead. Offering some of the best rates in the city, Easley has long been popular with local  acts. Big names from out of town who have recently recorded here include the Jon Spencer  Blues Explosion and Pavement (studio owner Doug Easley engineered "Wowee Zowee" and  played steel on some tracks).

Soul, and gospel fans, visiting the Full Gospel Tabernacle, located at 787 Hale Road, off  Highway 51, Whitehaven, musicians, tourists, and the actually religious drop in to this  suburban church a few miles south of Graceland to catch the world's most soulful preacher,  the Reverend Al Green. The former Mr. Soul got religion big time in 1977, when a girlfriend  threw a pan of hot grits over him. He now tells his congregation, "Don't come here with a  solemn look on your face. We're here to have church". Sunday services start at 11 a.m., but  as the Reverend Al is in big demand to preach around the country, he isn't here every week.  He's also a popular choice for weddings, there's a two-year wait.

A small-but-healthy indie scene ensures that Memphis does not remain rooted in the past,  and bands are lining up to use such studios as Easly Records and the rejuvenated Sun. In  short, the city, now a major destination, is a not-to-be-missed stop for music fans. The 1984  Memphis population was 648,00.
MISSISSIPPI RIVER - The largest river in North America, the Mississippi River was named by  Indians the "Father Of Waters" and created the central South both literally and figuratively.  The lower Mississippi over geologic eons built a fertile valley and delta to which it adds even  now from a drainage area of 1,245,000 square miles including all or parts of 31 states and  two Canadian provinces.

The river system severed soil from the slopes of the Appalachians  and Rockies, from prairies and plains, and carried it downstream eventually to become the  croplands, forests, and swamps of an alluvial valley with a 35,460 square mile area  bordering the 1,000 miles of the Mississippi downstream of Cape Girardeau, Mo.
 
Celebrated in fiction, film, and music, the Mississippi was the setting for many Old South  stereotypes: of crinolines belles and riverboat dandies, of cheerful roustabouts toting bales  to steamboats as the levees, and of colonnaded mansions and cotton fields saved by heroic  fights against floods. Steamboat transport, starting in New Orleans in 1811, once was vital to  the economy of the central South, and there were indeed belles, dandies, roustabouts, and  mansions; yet, the stereotypes did not convey the richness of the cultures blended by the  river - the Native American, the Spanish, French, British, and African threads that are part  of the rococo fabric of the southern heritage.

The history of the river falls into two phases: efforts to secure strategic control of the  stream and its hinterlands followed by efforts to control the river itself through engineering.  In 1541 conquistador Hernando de Soto became the first European to see the Mississippi, and  he later was buried in it, the French first settled the valley building the first levee for  protection against flooding in 1717. Through byzantine diplomacy and military raids, the  Europeans wrested control of the river from the native tribes and from each other, the  Spanish taking New Orleans and the British occupying Natchez after the French and Indian  War in 1763. The Spanish and the Americans drove the British from its banks during the  American Revolution, and the Americans purchased full control of the river from Napoleon in  1803, subsequently repulsing an effort by the British to retake it at New Orleans in 1815.

Through construction of levees, Americans then wrested croplands from the rich floodplain,  establishing an agricultural system made possible not only by the soils brought south by the  river, but also by flatboats crammed with midwestern foodstuff and manufactures, barges of  Pittsburg coal for sugar refineries and steamship fuel, and thousands of steamboats  funnelling downriver the commerce of a network of waterways reaching as far north as St.  Paul, Minn., as far west as Fort Benton, Mont., and as far as Olean, N.Y.

The Mississippi also brought less welcome guests south: northern soldiers in ironclad  steamboats breaking the chain the Confederacy placed across the river, scalawags and  rascals, and the floodwater from its immense watershed. Southerners lost the fights against  both the soldiers and the floods, but, through formation of the Mississippi River Commission  in 1879, enlisted some of those soldiers in the efforts to control flooding and maintain  navigation. Supplemented by floodways to sap the river's strength and by reservoirs to stop  floods where they originated the levee system was fortified after the 1927 flood. By 1972  1,683,8 miles of the proposed 2,193,7 miles of levees had been completed and they  successfully withstood the record 1973 flooding.

Powerful diesel towboats pushing barges supplanted steamboats after 1930. The 1,832-mile  navigation channel maintained between Baton Rouge and Minneapolis and the 12,350-mile  network of connecting waterways bore a tonnage far larger than that carried by steamboats.  The barges moved through the Illinois River to the Great Lakes and via the Gulf Intracoastal  Waterway west to Houston and east to Tampa. The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway offers an  alternative to the Mississippi for barge traffic, but it is not expected that tonnage moving on  the Mississippi "Ole Man River" will significantly diminish.
1822

English performer Charles Matthews travelled through America collecting African-American  dialects, stories, songs, and malaprops to use in his productions. He would later tell of  attending a performance of Hamlet by the African Theater Company. During the play's  famous soliloquy, Matthews recalled, the audience of freedmen misinterpreted the phrase  "by opposing" as "by opossum" and, preferring American fiddle music to Shakespeare, began  raucously calling for "Possum Up A Gum Tree", a dance tune still played by American fiddlers.
1824

Shelby County settlements in the area, was set ten miles east of Memphis on the Wolf River  in the town of Raleigh. An exodus of the more refined settlers followed, as Memphis was  already earning its reputation as a wide-open frontier river town. Bears would occasionally  wander into the city from the surrounding woods, roaming streets filled with holes so deep  that as late 1843 a team of oxen drowned after falling into one. Memphis was working  overtime to make a name for itself as a sprawling, brawling, hard-drinking, hard-living river  settlement.

1827

Marcus B. Winchester, son of Memphis' cofounder, becomes Memphis' first mayor. His black  wife, Lucille Lenora, was described in historical accounts as 'a beautiful French quadroon'.  The couple had married in Louisiana, where, unlike in Tennessee, racial intermarriage was  legal. The marriage caused some talk - hypocritically enough, as white male Memphians had  black mistresses. Nonetheless, Winchester managed to be reelected, a situation that would  have been unimaginable even twenty years later, as racial lines began to be more rigidly  drawn.

1828

The first yellow fever epidemic here causes 150 deaths.

1830

The first Memphis whorehouse opened his doors, but years before that prostitutes were  already freelancing up and down the muddy streets. Whisky sold for twenty-five cents a  gallon and was even served outside religious camp meetings, which, like most activities in  early Memphis, tended to be rowdy affairs. For those who needed an excuse, there were  sound medical reasons for preferring whisky to the local water, which was pulled out of the  unsavoury Wolf River that snaked through the settlement.

There was whisky. There were women. And in Memphis from the start, there was music. The  earliest "Memphis Sound" was provided by itinerant fiddlers and banjo players sawing and  plunking tunes like "Zip Coon" (better known as "Turkey In The Straw"), "The Eighth of  January" (commemorating the War of 1812s "Battle Of New Orleans", with lyrics by Ozark  folk singer Jimmie Driftwood, "Old Dan Tucker", "Arkansas Traveler", and "Boatman". Tunes  were similar to the reels played by British and Irish fiddlers. The African influence, with its  greater emphasis on supple, syncopated rhythms, was already beginning to enter the music  in Memphis.

Minstrelsy had taken on a distinctly authentic flavor. The humor remained condescending at  best and flagrantly racist at worst, but many of the tunes performed on the stage came from  folk tradition. Thomas D. Rice, adapted a hobbling "jig-walk" dance he'd learned in 1828  from an old crippled slave. Rice's "Jim Crow" became such a popular minstrel act that it later  entered daily speech in the term for segregation legislation - "Jim Crow" laws.

T.D. Rice introduces blackface and "Jump Jim Crow".
1831

Nat Turner's slave rebellion.

1833

German immigrant Christian Friedrich Martin arrived in New York to establish one of the very  first guitar-making shops in the country. Martin, a carpenter, had made boxes in his native  Germany in which makers of fine violins shipped their instruments. Crafting those crates, he  came up with the idea of a box that made music as well as contained it. And though Elvis  Presley leading the rock revolution with his leather-bound C.F. Martin D-18 "box" was 120  years and a whole universe away, Martin's instinct was true. He created a new instrument  for a new country.

But change came slowly, and the violin continued as king of the instruments. For the rest of  the nineteenth century the guitar remained primarily a status symbol of the rich, found in  fashionable drawing rooms where its delicate catgut strings were primly plucked by the lilywhite  fingers of cultured young ladies.

1834

The Mississippi was becoming a more important route of travel and commerce. The flatboat  gave way to the steamboat, with the first packet line between Memphis and New Orleans  was starting.

1835

The Tennessee legislature grants the first railway charter to the Memphis Railroad Company.  Memphis achieved a powerful position as the trade center between St. Louis and New  Orleans.

1840

With the population numbered 1,800, Memphis began calling itself a city; twenty years later  it was home to 22,623, and had overtaken Nashville as the largest city in Tennessee.

That same period saw the growth of a uniquely American form of theater: the minstrel show.  Many of the dance tunes that set feet to stepping in Memphis' early years were first  popularized in the day's minstrel revues, fast becoming the country's most popular form of  theatrical entertainment. The African minstrel was not far behind.

In the 1840s Beale Street was part of South Memphis which included a large area south of  Gayoso Avenue. Memphis proper stood just north of Gayoso, its southern border stopping at  Union Avenue. Both towns were consolidated in 1849. Robertson Topp, a Memphis attorney  and entrepreneur, gave the street its name in honor of an American military hero. In the  1840s, especially at its eastern end, Beale was a suburb for the affluent. There is only one  mansion left: the Hunt-Phelan home. During this period a number of businesses were  established in the western part of Beale near Main Street.
BEALE STREET, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Would become known as "the Main Street of Negro  America", one of the most celebrated streets in the South, was the black main street of  Memphis and of the surrounding rural region, comparable in its heyday to Auburn Avenue in  Atlanta and Maxwell Street in Chicago. Beginning at the Mississippi riverfront and extending  eastward a mile and a half, the street was lined with commercial buildings, churches,  theatres, parks, elegant mansions, everyday dwellings, and apartment houses.  The street was honor of a military man named John Beale, who gained some fame for  some now-forgotten heroics in the War of 1812. Until the Civil War, it was primarily the  home of rich white Memphians, who graced it with such imposing structures as the Hunt- Phelan mansion.
 
Beale Street, 1950s. For  an extensive collection Beale Street photographs see: Historic Memphis website.

Constructed in 1841, this house at 533 Beale Street served as General  Ulysses S. Grant headquarters during the war.  The diversity of its built environment showed that Beale was a mosaic of southern  cultures. For more than a century, indigenous white and black southerners, Italian  Americans, Greek Americans, Chinese Americans, and Jews lived or worked on Beale  Street.

Unlike its northern counterparts, Beale Street never became a black ghetto. But it was  Beale's black culture that gave the street its fame, and the street stood as testimony to  the decision of black people to strive to achieve the American Dream in their American  homeland, the South, rather than to move North. From the 1830s, when the street was  laid out, to the Civil War, black people were present on Beale Street, either as slaves living  in quarters behind their masters' homes or as free blacks, some of whom owned Beale  Street property. After emancipation, thousands of freed slaves left the declining farms and  small towns of the rural South and came to Memphis and to Beale Street in particular,  seeking to fulfill the promises of freedom. Alongside white-owned establishments, they  founded banks, insurance companies, retail shops, newspapers, schools, churches,  fraternal institutions, nightclubs, and political and civil rights organizations. From the  1880s to the 1920s Beale Street was one of the South's most prosperous black  communities. On weekends, thousands of blacks from Memphis and the surrounding  countryside came to Beale for shopping and entertainment, crowding the sidewalks so  thickly "you had to walk in the street to pass by".

As the urban center of black nightlife for north Mississippi, east Arkansas, and west  Tennessee, Beale attracted hundreds of musicians and became one of the nation's most  influential centers of Afro-American music. Variety was its hallmark - vaudeville  orchestras, marching bands, ragtime, jug bands, blues, jazz, big bands, and rhythm and  blues. A meeting place for urban and rural styles, Beale served as a school where young  talent was nurtured and it produced musicians who shaped the course of American music.  In 1909 W.C. Handy was the first person to pen the blues, a form of music he had first  heard in the Mississippi Delta town of Clarksdale, thus enabling it to be played around the  world.

Since the 1920s Beale Street has produced a succession of outstanding jazz musicians,   such as Jimmy Lunceford, a principal creator of the big-band sound. Every day life on   Beale, especially on Saturday, jumped with activity. In the daytime, the crowded levee   overflowed with riverboats, roustabouts, bales of cotton and other goods, various   hucksters and vendors, as well as an assortment of characters who frequented the nearby   saloons and cafes. Further east on Beale, sidewalks were filled with displays of clothes,   racks of shoes, and swarms of people. Pullers hovered in front of pawn shops and dry   goods stores trying to attract customers.

Street vendors sold a variety of food, like tamales   and fried fish, while fresh fruit was available from Tony's Fruit Stand and Joe Spinoza's   fruit wagon. Peddlers pushed their earts as they began their rounds. Farmers in overalls,   in town to do their Saturday shopping, boarded their horses and wagons at Keck's Livery   Stable (later a parking garage) on Second Street, right around the corner from Beale. If   they had produce to sell, like vegetables, eggs, or chickens, they parked their wagons next   to Handy Park or somewhere on Beale Street. Handy Park echoed with the rhythmic pulse   of preachers and bluesmen, as well as the awkward shuffle of winos, sounds which   staggered into the evening hours.

After dark, the attention of the crowd shifted to the theaters, dance halls, and restaurants   which lit up the street with a steady stream of bright multicolored lights. Slick and roughand-  tumble hustlers moved in and out of the Hole In The Wall, Midway, and Panama, three   of Beale's numerous gambling lairs. The Chop Suey, New York, and New Orleans Cafes   braced for the onslaught of dinner-time patrons and waited eagerly for the after-theater   crowd. The Avalon, Monarch, and Rex pool rooms cracked with the snap of cue sticks and   billiard balls. Shadowy bordellos, on Third and Fourth Streets, switched on their porch  lights (white patrons had their emporiums two blocks north on Gayoso). Night life on Beale   Street was exciting, some of it gnarled and dangerous, but typical of any place which   concentrated an assortment of characters, easy money, and booze.
Music was certainly heard during the daytime, but evening is when everything began to  cook. Amid the hubbub and bustle of night life, music filled the air between Third Street  and Danny Thomas Boulevard, as well as up and down cross streets. Itinerant blues  musicians and the popular jug bands played for hangouts on street corners and in Handy  Park.  Blues combos and pianists pounded out their rhythms in seedy smoke-filled clubs and  in the many rough gambling dens.
 
Jazz orchestras performed for dances, dinners, and  proms, in Church Park Auditorium, in nightclubs and theaters, and for the many fraternal  organizations, such as the Elk's Club and Masonic lodge.

As if to keep everything honest and in balance, gospel music rose from the pulpits and  pews of both storefront and larger churches, such as Centennial Baptist and Union Grove  Baptist Church. Two of them, Avery Chapel and First Baptist Beale Street Church, were  only a few doors away from Beale and Fourth, the intersection that was home to some of  Beale's most notorious gambling and drinking spots.
 
In the 1940s and 1950s Beale Street musicians like B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland blended   traditional blues with jazz arrangements to help produce the new form of music known as   rhythm and blues.

In the 1950s young white musicians from the region like Elvis Presley   were attracted to the music, dance, and dress styles of Beale Street and merged these with   their country music traditions to shape a new type of music, rockabilly, and to lay the   foundations for rock and roll. 
 
But if Beale Street was a cultural sanctuary, it was a precarious one. Segregation denied   blacks effective access to political and economic power beyond their own community, and   they were therefore unable to protect their Beale Street haven when hard times came.   After World War II, downtown Memphis, like other American inner cities, began to change   radically in character; the two most dramatic responses, the civil rights movement and  urban renewal, transformed Beale. While the civil rights movement achieved integration   of Memphis' public facilities, it ironically damaged Beale by enabling blacks to do business   throughout the city. The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., near Beale Street and   the turbulent aftermath accelerated the street's decline. Urban renewal then cleared most   of the old buildings in its supportive community.

In 1966 Beale Street was placed on the national register of historic places. Eventually, this   came to include only those blocks between Second and Fourth Streets. From 1969 until   the early 1970s, the street and its surrounding environs underwent extensive urban   renewal in which hundreds of buildings were demolished.

In the late 1970s and 1980s, however, Beale Street like other historic areas in the South   received new recognition as a cultural resource; and governmental, nonprofit, and private   organizations have substantially revitalized the street. The result of two statues and music   notes of W.C. Handy and Elvis Presley. (Elvis Presley's statue was unveiled on August 14,   1980, sculpted by Eric Parks, on Elvis Presley Plaza), preservation of original landmarks   together with the establishment of new nightclubs like B.B. King's and the Rum Boogie   Cafe (The letters from the original Stax Records sign at the demolished studio take pride of   place above the stage at Boogie, joined by guitars donated by Albert Collins, the Black   Crowes, and others. Acts here play traditionalist rhythm and blues), King's Palace Cafe   (Offers up "championship gumbo" backed by blues more commercial and contemporary   than what's on at the other joints), restaurants, retail stores, and an interpretive center   has produced significant blends of old and new, and the future development of the street   will no doubt continue to reflect major trends of urban southern culture. For the most   part, however, the dozen or so nightclubs within this four-block stretch put on traditional   urban blues and rhythm and blues for a mixture of tourists and fashionable locals. Slick   and professional, the clubs also double as reasonably priced restaurants at lunchtime and   early evening. For a more down-home feel, the Unnamed Joint below Earnestine and   Hazel's Sundry Store, located at 531 South Main Street, off Beale Street, for instance, puts   on a worthy "Kickin' Saturday Live Blues" night.
1841

The Daily Appeal, forerunner to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, begins publication.

Hunt-Phelan mansion is constructed, this house at 533 Beale Street served as General  Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters during the Civil War; it still stands today and was reopened  for tours in 1996. When Grant was in residence, a few blocks toward the river on the north  side of Beale Street between Hernando and Third stood one of the city's two public markets,  built in 1859 in the European style popularized in New Orleans' French Quarter.
MEMPHIS COMMERCIAL APPEAL (See: Historic Memphis) - To maintain the presence of a Democratic newspaper in  Memphis, Colonel Henry Van Pelt took over the defunct Western World and Memphis Banner  of the Constitution in 1840. In 1841 he changed the paper's name to the Weekly Appeal, and  the first issue appeared on April 21.

With hopes of appealing to "the sober second thought of  the people", a phrase adopted as the newspaper's motto, Van Pelt used the paper to promote  the Democratic principles of states' rights and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. In  1847 the paper began daily publication, except on Mondays, and published weekly and  triweekly editions as well. 

As dissension between the North and South increased during the 1850s, the Appeal became  a strong advocate of southern nationalism. Editors John R. McClanahan, Leonidas Trousdale,  And Benjamin F. Dill believed that the Democratic party and southern unity were the South's  only hopes for maintaining its rights within the Union. Their stance, in a city with few slaves  and many northern commercial ties, was bold. Not until late in 1860, though, did the paper  become an exponent of secession, and then it determined to be a voice for the South  throughout the war. Fleeing Memphis just hours before occupation by federal troops, Dill  and McClanahan (Troudale left the paper in 1860) settled and published the Appeal first in  Grenada, Mississippi, then in Jackson, Atlanta, Montgomery, and Columbus, at the war's end,  Union soldiers finally captured Dill and destroyed some of the equipment of what one officer  called "this defiant rebel sheet". With Dill as sole editor, the Appeal reappeared in Memphis  on November 5, 1865. Dill's death two months later marked the beginning of a short period  of instability, but in 1868 John McLeod Keating began a 21-year term as editor. Under his  direction, the paper became an advocate of the New South movement, promoting sanitation  reform, agricultural diversification, manufacturing, and political rights (but not social  equality) for blacks.

When William Armistead Collier bought the newspaper in 1889, Keating became editor of the  newly established Memphis Daily Commercial. In 1890 Collier purchased the Avalanche, a  rival newspaper in the city. By 1893, however, the Appeal Avalanche had fallen victim to  financial misfortune. The Commercial Publishing Company bought the paper in 1894 and  issued the first edition of the Commercial Appeal on July 1, 1894.

Charles Patrick Joseph Mooney edited the paper from 1908 to 1926. Although it gave no  support to the cause of racial equality, the Appeal won a Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for its  coverage and condemnation of Ku Klux Klan activities. J. P. Alley's cartoon "Hambone",  featuring a little black man, became a popular feature and appeared regularly until it was  discontinued following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968. One of Mooney's  primary local concerns centered upon the Memphis political machine of Edward Hull Crump.  "Bos" Crump's control of the local politics began with his 1909 election as mayor and  continued later through his position as a Shelby County trustee. While the Appeal did not  favor the state prohibition law, Crump would not even enforce it. Mooney and others used  this failure to force Crump's resignation as mayor in 1916, but the principle of one-man rule  had been and remained the editor's chief concern.

Before his death, Mooney encouraged the establishment of an evening paper. The first  Evening Appeal was published on December 1, 1926 but, in June 1933, was absorbed into  the morning paper. The Commercial Appeal came under chain ownership when the Scripps- Howard news organization, the current owner, acquired it in 1936.

Today, the Appeal  publishes only morning and Sunday editions and no longer officially allies itself with any  political party. Its circulations is over 227,500 daily and in excess of 292,000 on Sundays.
HUNT-PHELAN MANSION  (See: Historic Memphis)   - (1828-1851) Architect Robert Mills constructed in 1828, located on  533 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this meticulously restored Southern mansion was  home to the same family for 150 years. In 1828 a house was built for George H. Wyatt, a  land surveyor, in a forested area about two miles from the center of Memphis. The mansion,  completed in 1832, was the first to be constructed in the neighbourhood and the only one to  survive the ravages of urban renewal.

Around 1833 Colonel Eli M. Driver, Wyatt's cousin, moved in. Eventually he purchased the  property in 1850 from another cousin, Jesse M. Tate. Colonel Driver's daughter, Sarah  Elizabeth, married Colonel R. Hunt who took possession of the house in 1851 after Driver's  death due to consumption.
 
Six generations of the Hunt family and their descendants, the  Phelans, have lived in the house.  The property originally covered the entire block (about ten acres) and included a  smokehouse, barns, stables, and slave cabins. The long tree-lined driveway brought visitors  in full view of a striking brick house sitting in a grove of magnolias. Its two-stories, each  balanced with four rooms and a central hallway, eyed the beautiful gardens and grounds  through windows crowned with stone lintels. Guests stepped from their carriages to face a  handsome front entrance with a wide, square transom over the door and two strips of  narrow side lights. Built in the Federal style, the house was and still is an impressive sight.

In 1850 Colonel Driver added a two-story kitchen at the rear which contained servants'  quarters, a laundry room, a repair shop, and a wood storage area. A two-story porch joined  it to the main house. Colonel Driver also left orders in his will that the small Dorian portico  over the front entrance be moved to the side entryway. A much larger portico, in Greek  Revival style, replaced it. Four channelled Ionic wood columns, each having a cast-iron base  and cap, supported its wooden roof.

Colonel Driver, a land commissioner, had extensive real estate holdings which were  estimated to be worth $225,000 in 1850. Driver maintained a large number of slaves who  worked as house servants and as field hands on his cotton plantations in Mississippi. In his  will he provided that his slaves be freed, although seven chose to remain with the family.
In July 1861, Confederate General Leonidas Polk, a friend of Colonel Hunt, stayed at the  house to organize the Army of Tennessee and to plan the defense of the Mississippi River.  Jefferson Davis, another personal friend, assigned Hunt to command the arsenal at Atlanta  which was later moved to Selma, Alabama. After Memphis fell to Union forces on 6 June  1862, General Ullysses S. Grant appropriated the house for his headquarters, where he  planned the siege of Vicksburg in its library.

After Grant left, the house and grounds were heavily fortified against raids by General  Nathan Bedford Forrest. In building trenches and camouflaging key positions, Union troops  tore down most of the structures surrounding the residence. They also enlarged and  lengthened a tunnel originally built under the center of the house by George Wyatt for food  storage and to hide from Indians. The new tunnel, now used for the transport of soldiers and  dispatches, stretched across Beale Street to another house. On a foggy morning in 1864,  Forrest's Raiders attacked Memphis. Their goal was to capture the city's Union commanders,  but they were only partly successful. Riding up Lauderdale Street, his cavalry fired a rifle  barrage at the house which scared the daylights out of the Union officers living there.

In February 1863, the house was turned into a hospital and kind of U.S.O. operated by the   Western Sanitary Commission. Called the Soldiers Home, it cared for thousands of Union   troops. During the war, the Freedman's Bureau built a schoolhouse for newly liberated slaves   which still stands, shrivelled and dilapidated, just behind the Grench gardens at the rear of   the house.
 
In 1993 Stephen R. Phelan, the last member of the family to live in the house, died. His   cousin, William Day, placed the house under a foundation with the prospects of turning it   into a museum. Remarkably, the family never threw anything out.
 
The contents of the home include: antebellum furniture, a rare 1859 Steinway grand piano,   original furnishing and antiques, as well as diaries and letters spanning six generations, of   special significance are the library of around 3000 antique books, with its round mahogany   table, correspondence from President Andrew Johnson, Jefferson Davis, and General Nathan   Bedford Forrest, among others, and two previously unknown photographs of Jefferson Davis.   All of this adds considerably to the significance of the house and to the history of Beale  Street.

Visitors are guided through the beautiful grounds and house with the aid of an audiotape and   docents dressed in period attire. Known for years as Memphis' "mystery mansion" and home   to a pack-rat/recluse who shut himself off from the twentieth century, the structure is now a   treasured historic landmark.
1842

Dan Emmett, who introduced the anthem "Dixie" - formed the Virginia Minstrels, banding  together in hopes of surviving the economic recession then battering the entertainment  business. Though the quartet broke up the following year during a successful tour of  England, they would inspire hundreds of similar minstrel troupes. Many minstrels toured the  South. Between 1945 and 1860, at least one minstrel troupe a year performed in Memphis,  but minstrelsy wasn't the only entertainment enjoyed by antebellum Memphians. 

Construction begins on the Gayoso House, Memphis' first luxury hotel.

1843

First public minstrel show, in Virginia.

NOVEMBER 1, 1844

Memphis' modern daily newspaper, Commercial Appeal, advertised: "To the ladies in  particular... a new splendid log of Music offered by E.W. Rowlett. To play that sheet music,  the merchant also offered pianos, violins, flutes, harps, and guitar for sale. Lessons on those  instruments were being offered by "Mrs. Johnson, late of Boston", in her school for young  ladies. And Mrs. Johnson's wasn't the only palace of higher learning in Memphis. The  Collegiate Institute of Memphis offered two departments, "one for each of the sexes".  Memphians then were enjoying a variety of pastimes, from horse racing on the Central  Course to the Vaux Hall Gardens resort.

1845

The U.S. Navy builds a shipyard at Memphis.

1846

The Memphis Medical College - the city's first - opens downtown in the Exchange Building.

1848

Stephen Foster publishes "Oh Susannah". California Gold Rush.

1849

The Tennessee legislature merges the separate towns of Memphis and South Memphis into  one city.

1850s
Black freedmen settled in the section of Beale Street and, during the Civil war, their number  increased sharply.

1851

Famed opera diva Jenny Lind first sang in Memphis at the Crisp's Gaiety Theater and the Old  Memphis Theater. Shakespearean actors like Edwin Booth and James Hackett regularly made  stops in the Bluff City.

1852

Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin".

1853

One of the most popular of the pre-Civil war performers of banjo specialties, Picayune  Butler, still used an instrument made out of a gourd as late as the 1840s, but when the first  band of blackface performers appeared on the stage of what was to become the first  minstrel show, he banjo had been Americanized.

1856

Norwegian violinist named Ole Bull, appeared in Memphis. At one of his performances in New  Orleans, "a nigger fiddler" stolen the show.

1857

Memphis links with the East Coast with the construction of the Memphis & Charleston  Railroad.

Frenchman Leon Scott invented the phoneautograph which translated fluctuating air  pressures into a scribed trace on a smoked cylinder by means of a stylus attached to a  membrane. The resulting transcription could not reproduce the sound.

1860

Former plantation slaves continued leaving their plantations in Mississippi and West  Tennessee, and Memphis was usually their goal. In 1860, the black population of Memphis  was 3,882 strong; a decade later it was 15,471, and continued to grow steadily through the  rest of the century. When the 1900 census topped 100,000 Memphians, and event  celebrated with fireworks, more than 50,000 were African-Americans.

1861

Memphians vote to secede from the Union; the city establishes a Confederate Army  headquarters and supply depot in Memphis.

1862

Union forces defeat the rebels in a naval battle at Memphis; the city remains in Union  control throughout  the war. The Civil War left Memphis relatively unharmed, but peace was heel. The North's  victory at the Battle of Memphis (which despite its grandiose name was a minor naval  skirmish on the Mississippi that lasted just a couple of hours), Union troops took possession  of the city. The presses for the city's newspaper, the Memphis Daily Appeal, were loaded  onto a railroad car and taken down to Grenada, Mississippi, where the Appeal continued  publishing on the run from Union troops. Back at home, for the remainder of the war,  Memphis life and business, particularly trading in cotton and contraband, went on relatively  undisturbed.

1862-1864
A series of congressional acts facilitates the building of the nation's first transcontinental  railroad, the Union Pacific.

1863

Emancipation Proclamation.
1865

ABRAHAM SCHWAB DRY GOOD STORE  (See: Historic Memphis)   - Ca. 1865 was built. Located at 163-165 Beale Street,  Memphis, Tennessee, between Second and Third Street, their long-time motto "If you can't  find it at A. Schwab's, you are better off without it!". Those doors first opened in 1876 and  have remained open throughout urban renewal efforts, making Abraham Schwab the oldest  continuous business on Beale Street. In 1912 Abraham Schwab moved his dry goods business from 149 into larger quarters at 163  Beale.

Abraham Schwab sells jars of "Money Drawing Oil", bottles of "Most Powerful Helping Hand  Bath And Floor Wash", tins of "Come To Me Love Drawing Incense", or a jar, bottle or tin of  something made to satisfy whatever you need or desire can be purchased here.

Elvis Presley purchased "Triple Active Success Hair Oil" at Abraham Schwab in the early  1950s. Take a look at some John The Conqueror root - a mandrake named for the mythical  figure who tore off the Devil's arm and whipped his butt with it.

Virtually unchanged in  appearance since the opening, the oldest store on Beale claims "If you can't find it at  Schwab's, you're better off without it", but that assumes you do feel a need for 99 cent  Mississippi Slim Jim ties, grossly oversize clothes, and a specialty line of voodoo powders.

In 1912 Abraham Schwab moved his dry good business from 149 into larger quarters at 163  Beale Street. The family business had been on Beale Street since 1876, first as grocers then  as dry goods merchants. L. Bauer and Sons (dry goods) and then a Piggly Wiggly grocery store  occupied 164 Beale Street until Schwab took over the building in 1924.

Schwab's is the only original business still in operation on the street. Inside and out, it is a  remarkable holdover from old Beale Street. The iron attic vents and architectural design is  brought out by the deep rich colour of the red brick. The interior has high ceilings, wooden  floors, old style display bins, and a variety of merchandise which suggests the old-time dry  goods store. The original building shows the store front with an overhang that extended to  the curb to protect customers from bad weather, a common feature during this period.
1865

In granting basic rights to ex-slaves (including the right to many to own land), the "Black  Codes" passed by most Southern state legislatures in the aftermath of the Civil War also  ensure segregation of public facilities. More than 2,000 passengers died when the steamboat  Sultana explodes and burns near Memphis.

It was a desperate time for proud ex-Confederates, who faced the humiliation of losing the  Civil War, their plantations, their slaves, and their rights. Confederate dead totalled 260,000  people, more than one-fifth of the South's entire white male population. Of the survivors,  thousand were maimed. A full 20 percent of Mississippi's total revenues in 1865 went to the  purchase of wooden limbs for wounded veterans. White Southerners bitterly watched their  former slaves transformed from servile plowshares into electoral swords, wielded again their  former owners by radical Republican politicians.

Beale Street became the center for African-American business and social activities in  Memphis, when Beale Street became the home of the Beale Street Baptist Church, the  street's first black religious institution. At first the church members gathered outdoors in an  old-fashioned brush arbor meeting, similar to the camp meeting of thirty years earlier but  minus the whisky. The sang the old shapenote hymns, so called because they were taught in  books that used shapes to symbolize the different notes. In 1871, the congregation made the  leap of faith and began construction of the historic church that still stands on Beale Street,  just west of Church Park.
1865

THE WILLIAM M. RANDOLPH MANSION (ORIGINAL BUILDING DEMOLISHED)  (See: Historic Memphis)   - A super exemple of  Italian Renais sance architecture, the William M. Randolph Mansion stood among several  elegant mansions which occupied an area between Wellington (now, Danny Thomas  Boulevard) and Orleans.

A fire, excessive vandalism, and an inability to secure restoration funds, led to its demolition  in 1976.

William Randolph was a lawyer from Little Rock, Arkansas, who eventually became a judge in  Memphis. He built the Randolph Office Building in 1891.  In the late 1800s, Randolph  unsuccessfully argued for the rights of a black man to sit anywhere he wished on a train.

The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court which determined that the railroad could sit  customers where they wanted as long as the seats were of equal quality. This 1896 decision  (Plessy v. Ferguson) established the policy of separate but equal facilities.

1866

Formation of Fisk Jubilee Singers.

A secret society, the Ku Klux Klan founded in Pulaski, Tennessee, taking its name from  kuklous, Latin for "circle". The Ku Klux Klan, purportedly modeled after a college fraternity,  was organized by a handful of privileged young man, bored with civilian life after their  military experiences in the Civil war. What started as an isolated rash of mean-spirited  pranks soon spread throughout the South, degenerating into the violence and terrorism for  which the night riders of the Klan are remembered today. As the story goes, in 1867 local  heads from the various Klan "dens" met in Nashville to organize under a secret national  charter.

It was at this meeting that the distinguished Confederate general and prominent Memphis  businessman Nathan Bedford Forrest is said to have been installed as the grand wizard of the  Invisible Empire of the Ku Klux Klan. Before the Civil war, Forrest had been Memphis' leading  slave trader, the foremost dealer in human flesh in the largest slave market between the  eastern seaboard and New Orleans.

His market at 87 Adams Street in the north end of downtown which boasted "the best  assortment of field hands, house servants and mechanics", earned Forrest a reported one  hundred thousand dollars annually. Ever the canny businessman, he showed how healthy and  happy his slaves were with daily parades outside his market featuring his slaves singing and  playing fiddles. Ironically enough, these performances were some of the first documented  public performances by black musicians in Memphis.

General Forrest never swayed from his white supremacist convictions. After Emancipation,  the ex-general was allowed to legally continue what was for all intents and purposes slavery,  running a combination penal farm and cotton plantation for black prisoners on President's  Island just southwest of downtown Memphis. Forrest was considered important enough as a  Confederate hero and military strategist that today a statue in his honor stands in the park  at Union Avenue and Manassas Street that bears his name. The park and statue continue to  arouse protests from the city's African-American citizens, but so far with little effect.
APRIL 30, 1866 MONDAY

Like the rest of the South, Memphis took Reconstruction hard. Troops quartered in Memphis  at Fort Pickering trigger a three-day race riot. Forty-six people are killed and more than a  hundred buildings are burned. Beale historian George Lee writes in his Beale Street: Where  The Blues Begin, that it was caused by a fight between two young wagon drivers, one  African-American, the other Irish American, which resulted in the latter's death. The fight  escalated into a battle between back federal soldiers and local Irish cops bristling under  their new, lower status. However it began, white Memphians rioted for three days, burning,  looting, and raping their way through the black section of town. When it was over, forty-six  black Memphians were dead. No whites were reported killed.

Racial conflict was just beginning. Union loyalists in western Tennessee were frequently  attacked, and reports emerged from the city in late 1866 that gangs of unrepentant rebels  were confiscating guns from blacks. Things soon got worse for the freedmen and -women,  not just in Memphis but in all of Tennessee.

Robert Reed Church, black son who had served on his white father's boats as chief steward  became one of Memphis' first black saloonkeepers after the Civil War. At age twelve he went  aboard his father's riverboats as a cabin boy and advanced to the position of steward, in  charge of buying food and liquor. When federal troops commandeered his father's boats,  after a brief naval battle on the Mississippi River in 1862 put Memphis in the hands of the  Union, young Church used his experience to get a job ashore in a saloon. As an enterprising  black man, he was a target during the race riots of 1866, but he survived a gunshot wound  and went on to become the South's first African-American millionaire.

1867

First collection of spirituals published: William Allen, Charles Ware, and Lucy McKim  Garrison's "Slave Songs Of The United States".

The boiling racial cauldron was soon overturned by a tiny mosquito, as yellow-fever-bearing  "galley-nippers" forever changed the face of Memphis. The disease had been a problem since  the city on the river was founded, and by war's and Memphis had already seen two minor  outbreaks. This year, the third yellow fever epidemic hit, killing hundreds.

In Memphis, the city's water cisterns, the fetid Wolf River, and the stagnant Gayoso Bayou  proved even more ideal environments for the deadly Aedes aegypti, as well as other  infectious insects and bacteria in profusion. In the oppressively humid summer heat minor  cuts often turned to gangrene, and major infections were almost invariably fatal.

Ever since the war, the region's black population had been leaving the plantations. The  exodus occurred so rapidly that, in 1867, cotton plantation owners considered various plans  to replace their lost labor force, among them importing Chinese workers. That idea had  worked successfully for the western railroads, but not on the plantation.
1867

FIRST BAPTIST BEALE STREET CHURCH (HISTORICAL FIRST BAPTIST BEALE CHURCH)  (See: Historic Memphis)   - 1867-  1881 architects Edward C. Jones and Mathias H. Baldwin constructed the building.  Located  at 379 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, Reverent Morris Henderson organized this church,  one of the oldest African-American congregations In Memphis, around 1854.  The poor and  small congregation met in a number of other buildings before it moved to its resent location.
 
 
They worshipped in a "brush arbor" before a small stone structure was built. In 1867  construction began on the basement of the present facility, but due to lack of funds,  completion of the church did not come until 1881.

The church's architecture is only a slight reminder of its past beauty. What remains is two  towers on either side of a rosette pattern of windows, which resemble the rotary dial of a  phone, and three large arched doorways. Originally, a great deal of Victorian ornamentation  was present in the pediment and in its towers. The right (west) tower supported a celtic  cross sitting on top of a cupola-like structure. In the early 1880s, the cross fell into the  center of the church during a windstorm. The other tower(east) bore a tin statue of John  The Baptist pointing to Heaven. One day a drunk climbed the roof and hacked off one of the  arms.

The end came in 1938 when lightening struck the statue. Workmen went up to make  repairs but accidentally dropped the statue off the roof, bending it beyond repair.

FEBRUARY 1867

Black Tennesseans were given the right to vote, although the best government jobs  remained in the hands of carpetbagging whites. When the Ku Klux Klan arrived in Memphis,  some newspapers, such as the now-defunct Avalanche, supported it. Perhaps its harsh rule  of intimidation seemed preferable to the post-war chaos that kept alive Memphis' renown as  the wildest city on the Mississippi.

An estimated three thousand Memphians reportedly were addicted to opium, either smoking  it in pipes in the oriental style or taking it orally in socially acceptable laudanum, available  at every apothecary. Gambling and prostitution remained popular pursuits, and roving youth  gangs made travelling alone at night potentially fatal.

1868

Unlike the night riders who terrorized rural blacks, the Memphis Klan took a less aggressive  tack, organizing boycotts of Unionist businesses and showing its strength in parades. There  were, however Klan-like organizations of a more sinister nature, such as the Supreme  Cyclopean Council. When a clandestine Supreme Cyclopean meeting was broken up on April  6, 1868, at Hernando and Beale Street, the group's hierarchy was found to unclude an  assassination committee targeting prominent Reconstructionists.

1868

Tennessee was particularly ripe for racial strife, and its no surprise Memphis was the scene  of that first post-Civil War race riot. Mountainous East Tennessee, with no plantations  requiring a large labor force, had been a Unionist stronghold throughout the Civil war. It was  also the birthplace of Andrew Johnson, who succeeded to the presidency following Lincoln's  assassination. The Tennessean in the White House gave his home state special attention,  putting it through Reconstruction much faster than other Southern states. Cities like  Memphis tended to be refuges for freedmen, but the Klan also found safe haven there.  Arriving in the city shortly after the Nashville meeting, its first activities were recorded in  1868.

1869

Beef is shipped from Detroit to Boston in a railroad car chilled with ice from the Great Lakes  - a primitive form of refrigeration.

1870s

Although hundreds of blacks fled Memphis, a sizeable population remained in the Beale  Street area. A series of yellow fever epidemics in the 1870s devastated the city of Memphis,  especially in 1878.
1870

Section One Of The Fifteenth Amendment supposedly guarantees the "the right of citizens of  the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged... by any State on account of race,  colour, or previous condition of servitude".

1872

The Grand Duke Alexis of Russia visits Memphis, the first member of European royalty to do  so.

1873

Business leaders organize the Cotton Exchange in Memphis to establish trading practices for  the regions' number-one crop.

Yellow fever returned in Memphis area, striking five thousand citizens and killing two  thousands. An attack of cholera took almost three hundred additional live.

NOVEMBER 16, 1873 SUNDAY

W.C. Handy was born in Florence, Alabama.
W.C. HANDY  (See: Historic Memphis)  - (1873 - 1958) Handy is a musical icon, the Father of the Beale Street Bemoan  as well as the Beale Street Blues. In 1909 W.C. Handy's band was engaged by E.H. Crump's  forces to deliver the black vote to their man. In his campaign for mayor of Memphis, Crump  promised to clean up the city, particularly Beale Street. Though hired by Crump to promote  his campaign, Handy wrote a piece called "The Memphis Blues".

This was the first time the blues came out of the backwoods and the cotton fields, off the  levees, work camps, and lonesome roads to land on Main Street. Called "Mister Crump" at the  time, the piece was an immediate hit, launched W.C. Handy as a local celebrity, and helped  elect Crump mayor of Memphis.
 
 
Born William Christopher Handy on November 16, 1873 in Florence, Alabama, son of former slaves, eight years after  the Civil War, Handy said he received no musical talent from his parents, nor did he have any  encouragement from them when he showed promise in music. In fact, his father, a Methodist  minister, hinted that he would rather see him dead than pursue a career in music. But his  teacher knew music and taught his pupils to sing. By the age of 10, young Handy could  "catalogue almost any sound that came to (his) ears, using the sol-fa system".

Handy sang old-time country tunes, he played fiddlesticks with his uncle Whit Walker, a  former slave fiddler, Handy readily admitted that he had not created the blues but merely  transcribed and arranged the sounds he first heard in rural Mississippi, he has long been  attacked by jazz and blues purists as a thief and a charlatan. Handy's inspiration for the  blues grew out of his personal experiences and the life around him. But his conscious  decision to make the blues his forte was formed in Clarksdale, Mississippi. One night while  playing a dance, he was asked to play some of his native music. He tried to comply. The  request then came for a local group to be permitted to play. Three rather ragged young black  men began to play, as he recalled in his autobiography, "one of those over-and-over strains  that seemed to have no very clear beginning and... no ending at all. The strumming attained  a disturbing monotony, but on-and-on went, a kind of stuff that has long been associated  with cane rows and levee camps".

Before long, "A rain of silver dollars began to fall around the outlandish, stomping feet. The  dancers went wild". After it was over Handy strained his neck and saw "there before the boys  lay more money than my nine musicians were being paid for the entire engagement. Then I  saw the beauty of primitive music". Seeing that folks would pay money for this unpolished  music, Handy concluded "there was no virtue in being blind when you had good eyes".

Fighting both the general racism of the day and the low esteem in which musicians of all  races were generally held, Handy became an overachiever. No rounder he, Handy in his early  years led and arranged for bands, played a variety of instruments, and generally showed the  business acumen that would later help make him one of the first black music tycoons of the  twentieth century.

Handy grew up in the midst of the brass-band craze, so his first instrument was the cornet,  on which he took lessons in a Florence barbershop. By nineteen he was teaching music  himself; soon thereafter, inspired by itinerant musician Jim Turner, Handy hit the road with  Mahara's Minstrels. He performed at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, the event generally  acknowledged as the birthplace of the ragtime craze. He travelled as far as Cuba with the  band, where he recalled first hearing the Afro-Cuban habanera rhythms that would later  turn up in the tango section of "St. Louis Blues". By 1902, a married man of nearly thirty,  Handy opted to settle down in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

It was shortly after arriving in Clarksdale that Handy first heard the blues at a railroad  station in nearby Tutwiler. As he waited for a train. Not long afterward, when Handy  witnessed the popularity of that Mississippi string band southwest of Clarksdale in Cleveland,  he began adding the local music to the band's repertoire, arranging such sons as "Make Me A  Pallet On Your Floor" for his band.

While his sojourn in Mississippi gave Handy a postgraduate course in the blues, he soon  outgrew Clarksdale. When the offer came to organize a Knights of Pythias band in Memphis,  Handy still based in Mississippi, began the twice-weekly, seventy-six-mile train commute, in  another demonstration of his strong work ethic. His K. of P. band, as he called it, was too  formal for dancing and so had to settle for the occasional funeral. Determined to break into  the bustling Beale scene, Handy moved his family up to the Greasy Plank section of Memphis  into a tiny shotgun house.

Handy was cheated out of his profits on the "Memphis Blues" when he published it in  September 1912. However, he lived long enough to have the copyright reverted to him 28  years later. When Handy, frustrated at not finding a publisher willing to invest in a new form  of music composed by a black man, published it himself. Handy composed "Memphis Blues"  while standing at the cigar stand at Pee Wee's, but his wife later revealed he'd actually  written it in a small apartment he used as a studio, writing songs there to escape the chaos  of a house full of children. Handy reacquired the rights to "The Memphis Blues" in 1940, just  as the song was being used in the Bing Crosby film The Birth Of The Blues.

Handy's first  royalty check for the tune he'd written thirty-one years earlier was five thousand dollars, a  tidy sum in pre-World War II dollars. Shortly after the fiasco with "The Memphis Blues",  Handy and his partner, Harry Pace, formed the Pace & Handy Music Company Publishers.

In 1914 Handy wrote the "St. Louis Blues", which became a national anthem and established  Handy in the forefront of American composers. His tale of the jilted country girl who lost her  man to the painted charms of that more sophisticated "St. Louis woman" turned the blues  from fad to full-fledged movement, the song defined the blues. Handy continued turning out  blues, such as "Yellow Dog Blues" and "Joe Turner's Blues".

Before Handy left Memphis, he paid tribute to the street that had been the catalyst for his  success. In 1916, Handy and Pace published their "Beale Street Blues", a song that found its  way into the repertoires of everyone from Louis Armstrong to the hillbilly string band Charlie  Poole & His North Carolina Ramblers.

In 1919, Handy and Pace moved to New York to recorded for Columbia Records. By the  1930s, Handy, then living in an upper-middle-class section in New York, was losing his  eyesight, and had turned to composing spirituals. Cynics might suggest that his conversion  was inspired by the phenomenal success that Thomas A. Dorsey was enjoying with "Peace In  The Valley" and other songs. On May 22, 1936, Handy and his sixteen-piece St. Louis Blues  Orchestra were returning to Memphis to begin a week's engagement at the Beale Street  Palace Theater. An April 22, 1936, article in the Commercial Appeal staked a Memphis claim  on Handy, saying he lived in New York for business purposes, but Memphis has always been  his home, the white folks of Memphis always his white folks.

In 1980, New York honors Handy the title "Father Of The Blues", and renaming a cession of  its jazz thoroughfare, Fifty-second Street, "W.C. Handy Place". In 1931 Memphis honoured  W.C. Handy by naming a park for him, and in 1949 he was named among the 10 outstanding  older men in the world. When Handy appeared on the Ripley Believe It Or Not! radio program  in 1938, New Orleans jazz pioneer Jelly Roll Morton was tuned in. Hearing Handy introduced  as "the Father of Jazz" as well as of the blues, the hot-tempered pianist fired off an angry  letter to Downbeat magazine.

Handy wrote patriotic songs foe World War II, including "There Is No Fifth Column On Beale  Street", celebrating the obvious lack of blond, blue-eyed Nazi spies in black Memphis. In  1947, the W.C. Handy Theater, declaring itself "the only negro theater south of Chicago that  is completely air-conditioned", opened on Park Avenue in Memphis, just east of Airways in  Orange Mound, the city's old black community.

Handy's career had begun before the blues were born; by the fall of 1954, as his old patron  E.H. "Boss" Crump lay dying and Elvis Presley was just beginning to enjoy some local success  with his first Sun singles, W.C. Handy, by then totally blind, was honored as a guest  performer with the Dixieland band at Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe nightclub in  Manhattan. In his lifetime he'd seen the blues go from a folk style in rural Mississippi to the  single most important innovation in twentieth-century American popular music.

W.C. Handy died of natural causes on March 28, 1958, in New York. He was buried in  Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, the burial site of such luminaries as Duke Ellington and  Bat Masterson, the western lawman who ended his career as a New York sportswriter.

Today the Handy Awards are presented in his honour each year at the Orpheum Theater on  Main Street, across Beale Street in Memphis by the Blues Foundation to recognize the  nation's outstanding blues musicians, W.C. Handy was a first-class stamp in 1969, decades  before Elvis Presley was even a gleam in 1992 in the postmaster general's income  projections.
W.C. HANDY'S HOME   (See: Historic Memphis)   - Located at 353 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this tiny shotgun  shack was Handy's home between 1908 and 1912, but not on Beale Street. It originally  stood a few miles south, at 656 Jeanette Place in Memphis, in the Greasy Plank section,  and was transported here during Memphis' mid-1980s museum-opening craze. Inside are  original furniture, photos, and sheet music, and a staff that does its best to make Handy  live up to his reputation.
1876

Custer's last stand of Little Big Horn.

1877

Reconstruction ends as Federal troops are withdrawn from the South.

In 1877 Thomas Edison invented a phonograph which could record and reproduce while  experimenting with a method of recording and repeating telegraph signals. Thomas Edison  files patent on a phonograph consisting of a metal cylinder with a fine spiral groove, two  diaphragm-and-needle units (one for recording, the other for playback) and a small  speakerhorn - a vast improvement over Leon Scotts' "phoneautograph" of 1855. The first  recording he makes is "Mary Had A Little Lamb''.

Alexander Graham Bell purchased Edison’s patent, which led to the formation of the  Columbia Phonograph Co. In 1887, Emile Berliner, founder of the Victor Talking Machine Co.,  was the first inventor to stop recording on cylinders and start recording on flat disks or  records. The machines, with their incessant appetite for new titles, slowly began to  challenge the sale of sheet music as a source of popular entertainment.

The prices of the phonographs and records began to drop in the 1890’s as the anticipated  market changed, and the spring motor was substituted for the earlier electric and treadle  versions. Once the selling price dropped below $40 a piece, the phonograph was well on its  way to becoming an instrument of mass popular culture.

General Sam T. Carnes sets up the first telephone system in Memphis. A few years later, he  will also demonstrate the first electric lights in Memphis, and bring in the city's first  automobile.

APRIL 1877

Another Frenchman, Charles Cros, a poet and inventor of photographic colour processes  proposed that Scott's method be improved by photoengraving the trace onto metal with the  possibility of retracing the pattern resulting in the replay of the original sound. In July  Thomas Alva Edison, the prolific American inventor, discovered a method of recording and  replaying sound having followed a somewhat different line of research from Scott or Cros.  He filed a provisional specification for a British patent 2909/1877.

DECEMBER 24, 1877 MONDAY

Edison applied for the US Patent 200 521 which covered talking machines and sound writers  to be known as Phonographs. The first phonographs used tin foil cylinders.
AUGUST 1878

A massive yellow fever epidemic devastated Memphis, when the first impact of the disease  was felt, 25,000 inhabitants fled the city in a two-week period. They left behind relief  workers, medical personnel, and a remaining population of 20,000 which consisted mostly of  poor Memphians: around 14,000 African-Americans and several thousand Irish. From the  middle of August to the middle of October, there were 17,6000 cases, 5,150 of which died;  Memphis' population is cut in half when thousands flee the city. Blacks, relatively immune to  the worst ravages of the disease, accounted for 12,000 cases, but only 946 or 7% died.

The bankrupt city eventually surrenders its charter. Though the newspapers advertised such  "cures" as Tabasco sauce, nothing helped, and a panic seized the city. In September 1878,  twenty-five thousand people fled in one two-week period. By the end of the month, there  were fewer than twenty thousand left the city. Of that, fourteen thousand were African- Americans.

The African-American population around Beale Street helped to manage the city, care for  the sick, and bury the dead. Two black militia groups, the Zouave Guard and the McCkellan  Guard, assisted in protecting residents from looters and total chaos.

The usual rumours of black men raping white women circulated, customary when white  Southerners of the time found themselves in a state of hysteria. The fact that many of the  blacks remained in the city to guard the homes and property of their white employers  garnered less attention.

The disease forever changed the cultural life of Memphis. Visitors today often wonder why  the city has no ethnic enclaves, none of the Little Italys or Greek Towns usually found in  cities the size and age of Memphis. The answer is simple. To escape the epidemics, ethnic  groups deserted the city en masse, including virtually the entire German population, which  took residence upriver in St. Louis. The recently arrived Irish, with no resistance to tropical  diseases and without the money to leave, died in the slums of the Pinch district.

Edison considered the use of compressed amplifiers to overcome the problem of lack of  replay volume. The Englishmen, Horace Short and C.A. Parsons (the steam turbine expert)  succeeded in perfecting the compressed air amplifiers known as Auxetophones but they  were eventually used for other purposes.

1879

Memphis forfeited its charter, and it became a taxing district of the state.
1880

Vigillio "Pee Wee" Maffei arrived in Memphis according to W.C. Handy, on a freight train from  New York, his point of arrival from Italy. Starting with just a dime, legend has it, Maffei was  able to win enough shooting craps to open a saloon at Hernando and Beale Street, later  moving to the 317-319 Beale location where W.C. Handy found him when he future Father of  the Blues arrived from Clarksdale in 1905.

Pee Wee's (or P. Wee's, as the sign outside read, allegedly the result of a sign painter's poor  planning) as a well-known musicians hangout. More than forty years later, Handy, in his  autobiography, still remembered the saloon's four-digit phone number, 2893. Pee Wee's was  an hangout for gamblers, as were most of the other Beale saloons, which stayed open  twenty-four hours a day, ranged from cooks and waiters to professional gamblers, jockeys  and race track men of the period. Glittering young devils in silk toppers and hookers drifted  in and out with insolent self-assurance. Chocolate dandies with red roses embroidered on  cream waistcoats loitered at their bar.
PEE WEE'S SALOON  (See: Historic Memphis)   - Ca. 1890. Memphis Sound Productions-original building demolished.  Located at 317 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee. The most famous of Beale Street's  saloon's was P. Wee's, named after Virgilio Maffei, an Italian immigrant who arrived in  Memphis during the mid-1870s. He started out as a bartender at Gallina's Exchange but  opened his own saloon in 1884, a few doors away from its final location at 317 Beale Street.

Maffei, only four-and-a-half-feet tall, was supposedly so strong that he beat boxer Jack  Johnson, and others, in arm wrestling.

During hot summer evenings, he swam from the foot  of Beale Street across the Mississippi River to the Arkansas side. Maffei liked to gamble and  played with some of the biggest gamesters east of the Mississippi River.

Local high rollers, like Mac Harris and Casino Henry, frequented P. Wee's. Dressed in  chesterfield coat, pin-striped trousers, patent leather shoes, a homburg hat, and with his  mustache twisted up at the ends, Harris looked like a stately gentleman. In contrast Casino  Henry appeared nervous, constantly chewed gum, and had a strange habit of walking down  the middle of Beale Street.

A cigar stand, with a painting of Othello and Desdemona hanging above it, stood just inside  the saloon's door. Other than the bar, there were billiards and pool tables and an area for  dice and card games in the rear. A policy (or numbers) game operated from the second floor.

Many of Beale's saloons and cafes had some form of gambling. To protect themselves from  periodic raids, the clubs had an early warning system. P. Wee's used a lookout man with a  buzzer hidden under his shirt, as well as a backup unit that played dominoes all day and  watched for suspicious characters. During one incident, an undercover cop was first sent in.  When the regular police arrived, the undercover man grabbed the lookout's hand to keep  him from pressing the buzzer. The police took the entire back room to jail but they were  only fined one dollar each.

Maffei decided to tale it easy and during the 1890s made Lorenzo and Angelo Pacini  partners. Around 1913 he returned to Italy. The Pacini brothers operated the saloon until  around 1920. Sam, Lorenzo's son, kept it in the family until his death in 1941.

In the early 1900s, P. Wee's was a musician's hangout with a backroom closet crammed with  instruments. At the time, the saloon had the city's only pay phone over which prospective  clients contacted band leaders, especially W.C. Handy. He acted as agent for a number of  different bands selected from the pool of musicians at P. Wee's.
 
In 1909, according to  legend, Handy wrote "Mister Crump", later named as "Memphis Blues", on the saloon's cigar  counter. Handy's band performed "Mister Crump" at Edward H. Crump's mayoralty campaign.  Out of friendship, Handy dedicated "St. Louis Blues" to the Pacini Brothers.

In later years P. Wee's became a pool hall and than a laundry. In 1956 a one-story building  replaced the original structure which, in turn, fell to the wrecking ball in the early 1970s. A  new building was constructed in the 1980s.
1880

THE HIGBEE SCHOOL FOR GIRLS (MEMPHIS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CENTER - ORIGINAL BUILDING DEMOLISHED)  (See: Historic Memphis)   - 1887. Located at 565 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, Jennie M.  Higbee arrived in Memphis from New Jersey shortly after the Civil War. She established a  small school and from there became principal of the city's high school.

In 1880 she  purchased the Robertson Topp Mansion on the corner of Beale Street and Lauderdale and  opened a finishing school named The Higbee School For Girls, for young girls whose families  could be counted among the upper crust of society.
 
A new building was constructed a few years later and the Topp Mansion was relegated to a  dormitory. The school operated until 1914. The building remained vacant for several years,  until 1920, when it became the offices of the Tribe of Ben Hur, a fraternal society. Its last  occupant, from 1924 until it was torn down in the 1970s, was the Labor Temple. At one  time, the facility contained the headquarters for over 50 different unions.
1880

BENSIECK BUILDING (ENTRANCE TO RUM BOOGIE CAFE)  (See: Historic Memphis)   - ca. 1921, is constructed. Located at  182-184 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, Frank Bensieck owned property on the street  which he purchased in 1880. He operated his bakery and steam ice cream manufacturing  business, originally named Berton's Confectionery, at this address from 1878 to 1902, when  he sold it to William C. Smith.

Like many small businessmen of the time, he lived on the  premises. The original building was a three-story elongated structure with ovens in the rear  for baking. The present building was built after Bensieck retired.
 
In 1927 the west side of the building (182 Beale) contained the Beale Street Music Shop  before the Blue Light Photography Studio replaced it in 1932. In 1941 Blue Light relocated  their facility next to Lansky Brothers. Howard's Drug Store occupied the east side of the  building (184 Beale), from 1921 until 1945.

Paul's Tailoring Shop, operated by Paul J. Vescova, opened around 1948 and remained there  throughout the 1960s. He eventually took over the entire building. With his motto, "Where  the Smart Crowd Follows", and advertising expert tailoring and the latest in drape styles,  Vescova attracted many entertainers, such as Dwight "Gatemouth" Moore. He also had a tiein  with the Palace Theater, sponsoring events and acting as a ticket outlet.
1881

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

1884

Emile Berliner, an American of German origin, recorded ''The Lord's Prayer'' on an  Edison cylinder machine. The original recording is preserved by the BBC in London.
1884

OAKEY'S SALOON (BEALE STREET BARBECUE)   (See: Historic Memphis)   - 1884, is constructed. Located at 205 Beale  Street, Memphis, Tennessee. This beautiful Victorian-style building was built by John Oakey  who had previously occupied the building just to the west of it. The windows are  interconnected by brick arches at their heads, on top of which is an attractive cornice that  resembles a miniature roof. Oakey's liquor business dated back to the late 1860s and thrived  at this location from 1885 until 1912. He distributed the finest in bourbon and rye whiskies,  as well as cigars and tabacco, and also operated a saloon on the premise. 
 
 
Other occupants  were the Ridolfi Pharmacy (1913-1915), the White Rose Cafe (1916-1922), and from the  early 1940s through the 1960s, Harry Leviton's Department Store.
1884

Journalist and social activist, Ida Well-Barnett, settled in Memphis, Tennessee, teaching  examination for the Memphis public schools. In Tennessee she began her lifelong public  crusade against injustice and inequality, successfully suing in 1884 the Chesapeake and Ohio  Railroad Company for attempting to force her to sit in the smoking car that had been  designated for blacks. The lower court decision in Ell's favor was subsequently overruled by  the Tennessee Supreme Court.
IDA WELL-BARNETT  (See: Historic Memphis)  - (1862-1931) Journalist and social activist. On July 16, 1862, Ida Bell  Wells-Barnett, a future journalist, club women, and militant antilynching crusader, was born  a slave in Holly Springs, Mississippi. The oldest daughter of slave parents James and  Elizabeth Bowling Wells, she received her public school education in Holly Springs and  attended Rust College, which was founded in 1866 as an industrial school for blacks in Holly  Springs.

A yellow fever epidemic took the lives of Well's parents, leaving her, at the age of  14, in charge of her younger brothers and sisters. In order to support herself and her  siblings, Wells began teaching at the nearby rural school, while attending Rust College.
 
In 1884 Wells moved her family to Memphis, Tennessee, to be near an aunt and to obtain a  better-playing teaching position. While in Tennessee, Wells became part owner and editor of  a local black newspaper, the Memphis Free Speech and Headlight. Her previous journalistic  experience included occasional articles, primarily on race relations in the South, under the  pen name "Iola", for religious publications and black newspapers. In 1891 Weels lost her  teaching job in Memphis, following the publication in the Free Speech of articles critical of  the school system's unequal allocation of resources to black schools. The next year a Wells  editorial denouncing lynching in general and the lynching of three Memphis blacks in  particular resulted in the destruction of the Free Speech building and threats on her life.

Although forced thereafter to live outside the South, Wells continued her campaign against  racial injustice, especially the lynchings of black's, as a columnist for the New York Age, as  an author, and as a prominent lecturer on racial injustice in the Unites States and abroad. In  1895 she published a pamphlet entitled A Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged  Causes of Lynchings in the United States, 1892-1893-1894, which later appeared in London  under the title United States Atrocities. In her crusade against lynching, the articulate Wells  delivered numerous lectures, aided in the formation of antilynching societies in England,  and met with President William McKinley in 1898, along with other blacks, to protest the  lynchings of blacks. Her fight against injustice also led to the denunciation of black exclusion  from the Chicago World's fair in 1893. She collaborated with Frederick Douglass, Ferdinant  L. Barnett (whom she later married), and I. Garland Penn on a publication entitled The  Reason Why The Colored American Is Not In The World's Columbian Exposition - The African- American's Contribution to Columbian Literature.

In 1895 Ida married Ferdinand Lee Barnett, Assistant State's Attorney for Cook County and  editor of the Chicago Conservator, the first black newspaper in Chicago. Wells then turned  her attention to local civic activities. She founded and served as an officer in numerous  women's groups, earning the tittle among some as the "Mother of Clubs". With money  provided by some of the organizations she was active in, as well as with her own personal  funds, Wells-Barnett travelled to Arkansas and Illinois to investigate race riots during World  War I and in the postwar years reported on them for various black newspapers. Up to the  time of her death in Chicago on March 25, 1931, Ida B. Wells-Barnett devoted her life to  fighting for full equality for blacks and women throughout the United States, but especially  in the South.
CIRCA 1884

CLUB HANDY / PANTAZE DRUG STORE NO. 2 (JOYCE COBB'S CLUB)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - 209-211 Beale Street.  With its windows recessed slightly from the facade to simulate the appearance of columns,  this building used to have a cornice at the tops. Ita window heads are cast-iron. From 1896  through the 1960s, it was a drug store, first of George H. Battier, then beginning in 1929,  the Pantaze Drug Store No. 2.  Abe Plough, who founded Plough Pharmaceuticals in 1908, became the proprietor of  Battier's Pharmacy around 1914. In 1920 he marketed the popular brand name St.  Joseph's Aspirin. Battier's and the Pantaze remained open 24 hours to accommodate the  community. They also acted as an emergency room for victims of Beale Street's violence.
 
Around the corner at 195 Hernando Street was the entrance to the second and third  floors. For years it had been used as a rooming house until the late 1930s, when it became  the Coloured Citizens Association. In the mid-1940s, Andrew "Sunbeam" Mitchell opened a  hotel on the third floor and used the second floor as a lounge.

Mitchell helped entertainers, like Little Richard and Roy Brown, who were stranded in  Memphis from lack of work. Musicians stayed in the hotel and were charged a nominal fee  for a bowl of chili, a feast fondly remembered by Beale Street regulars. The second floor  lounge began as a place for jam sessions where local and out-of-town musicians played.

At one time it was called the Domino Lounge and after W.C. Handy died, renamed the Club  Handy. Jazz and blues performers, such as Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Boy  Williamson, and Little Walter, among many others, performed there. Bill Harvey, the guru  of Memphis musicians, led the house band in the late 1940s. B.B. King eventually took  over the band. B.B. had played in Mitchell's Lounge beginning in the early 1950s.
1885

A. GREENER AND SONS (NOW HARD ROCK CAFE)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1885, dry goods is constructed. This  building is now demolished, but was located at 308-312 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.  The building, which stood on the northeast corner of Beale Street and Hernando, had a  varied history of occupancy. Grocers were the most frequent tenants from the turn of the  century up to 1923. In 1923, the blackowned Fraternal Savings Bank and Trust Company  moved here before merging with the Solvent Savings Bank. Greener's Department Store  served the community from 1928 until the early 1960s.
JANUARY 29, 1885 THURSDAY

Huddie Ledbetter was born January 15, 1885, on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport,  Louisiana. He was an only child who quickly became interested in music when he received  his first instrument (an accordion) from his uncle Terrell.

In 1903at the age of 15, Ledbetter  he began playing guitar at local parties and found his way into performing in dance halls in a  section of Shreveport, Louisiana called St. Paul’s Bottoms and known for its saloons, brothels  and dance halls. After traveling through Louisiana he settled in Dallas, Texas until 1908 when  he became ill and returned to Louisiana to stay with his parents for two years.

When recovered he went back to Dallas where he encountered for the first time the  instrument that would become the most integral part of his music, a 12 string guitar which  he named “Stella.” Ledbetter also reputed to have worked with Blind Lemon Jefferson in  this time, although some accounts suggest that he may have exaggerated their close  friendship. Later in life Ledbetter would record Lemon’s song “hot dogs” as a tribute to him.  He is one of America's greatest folk singer and composers, the man responsible for such  cherished songs as "Rock Island Line", "Goodnight Irene", "Cotton Fields", Take This Hammer",  "On A Monday", and "The Midnight Special".

Ledbetter was known to have a quick temper, a trait that got often him into trouble in the  venues he played. These were usually places where violence was common. In 1915 he was  jailed for assault and escaped to live for a short time under the alias of Walter Boyd. Two  years later he was jailed at Shaw State Prison for the murder of William Stafford. While in  prison, Ledbetter gained notoriety for his hard work and his musical abilities. He convinced  Texas Governor Pat Neff that he had seen the error of his ways by singing a ballad asking to  be pardoned. As one of Governor Neff’s last official acts in office in 1925, he pardoned  Ledbetter who soon returned to traveling and playing music. In 1930, however, Ledbetter  was convicted of attempted homicide in Louisiana and was sent to Angola State Prison.

It was at Angola Prison where Ledbetter was “discovered” by John Lomax, a folklorist who  was then traveling across the nation collecting recordings of prison music to be submitted to  the Library of Congress. Lomax recorded Ledbetter on two separate occasions and when the  blues artist was released in 1934 for good behavior he joined Lomax in his tour of prisons.  Ledbetter settled in New York City a year later and began recording. He struggled to produce  a “hit.” He was unsuccessful during his lifetime although six months after his death a folk  group called The Weavers adapted his song “Goodnight Irene” and turned it into a worldwide  hit.

A formidable and talented man, Huddie Ledbetter was instrumental in bringing the folk  tradition of Blues, which many thought to be on its way out, back into the public eye. Later  in his life he began showing symptoms of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (commonly called  “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”). He passed away on December 6, 1949, in Bellevue Hospital in New  York City. Huddie Ledbetter’s body was returned to his native Louisiana. He was buried in  the Shilo Baptist Church graveyard near where he was born.
1886

Edison was granted US patent 341 214 for a wax coated recording cylinder. This signified the  beginning of the end of the tin foil coated cylinder.

1887

Emile Berliner, the inventor of the microphone ten years earlier, files for a patent for the  gramophone, which plays discs rather than Edison's cylinders (Berliner a few years later  invents a matrix system whereby an unlimited number of copies can be mass-produced from  an original master).

Berliner developed a successful method of modulating the sound-carrying groove laterally in  the surface of a disc. (The groove on cylinders was modulated vertically.) He also invented a  method of mass producing copies of an original recorded disc.  Memphis tests the first artesian wells, finally providing a clean and reliable source of water.

1887

Memphis holds a celebration for Grover Cleveland, the first president to visit Memphis.

1888

The Kodak box camera is introduced.

Jesse Lippincott, a financier, took over the commercial exploitation of the Phonograph and  the Graphophone as dictating machines on a lease and service contract. The Graphophone  had been developed by Edison's rivals, Chichester Bell (the brother of Alexander Graham  Bell) and Charles Tainter at the Volta laboratory and in terms of ease of operation and  fidelity of sound reproduction it was a vast improvement on the phonograph. The use of  either machine as an entertainment medium was still seen as a novelty.
1889

The Oklahoma Landrush.

1890

MORRIS LIPPMAN BUILDING (NOW KING'S PALACE CAFE)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - before 1890-facade redone in  1919, was built before 1890. Located at 166 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee. Although a  stone indicates the construction of the building to be in 1919, the facade actually was  altered that year to celebrate the opening of Mirris Lippman's pawn shop.
 
Lippman bought  the building in 1908 and the one next door (162/164 Beale Street) in 1911. Lippman  operated his business until 1935 when it became part of Epstein's Loan Office.
1890

SAM SLAKY SHOE REPAIR (BLUES CITY CAFE)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - before 1890, was built, located on 140 Beale  Street, Memphis, Tennessee. This small size of this two- store building suggests that it may  have been a single residence. Yet in 1905 the first floor contained offices for the Hickok  Credit Company, a Justice of the Peace, two deputy sheriffs, and a bookkeeper. later, at  various times, it housed the Hoffman-Marks Jewelry Company, a clothing store, a restaurant,  and it was the original location of Capital Loans. Sam Salky's shoe repair store occupied the  first floor from the early 1930s until the late 1940s.
1890

COMMERCIAL LOAN OFFICE (SAM'S TOWN)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - before 1890, was built before 1890. Located at  168 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this building has an interesting facade highlighted by  arched window tops and showing a cast-iron storefront. In 1906 pawnbroker Nathan  Karnowsky purchased the building for his business. From 1923 until the early 1960s, it  became the Commercial Loan Office. During the first half of the century, several black  physicians and dentists had offices on the second floor.

1880s - 1890s

An independent and viable African-American community began to take shape in the Beale  Street area between Second Street and Wellington (now, Danny Thomas Boulevard). With the  emergence of a small black middle class, African-Americans became established in various  businesses which grew in number after the turn of the century.

Nevertheless, from the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century, many whites lived  and owned businesses in the neighbourhood. Jews owned pawnshops, clothing, and  department stores; Italians operated saloons, theaters, and grocery stores; Greeks ran  restaurants; Chinese managed laundries and restaurants; there were Irish, German, and  French merchants.

1889

Coin-in-the slot public access replay facilities, a primitive form of juke box, which could be  used in amusement arcades, became immensely popular in the US creating a demand for  entertainment recordings, mainly comic monologues.

1890

Mississippi's redrawn constitution includes a clause under which a prospective voter could be  required to read and interpret any part of the constitution in order to be eligible to vote.  This "literacy clause" becomes the model by which other Southern states disenfranchise  blacks.

Columbia Records enters the record business with recordings of John Phillip Sousa.

Edison's Phonograph and the Bell-Tainter Graphophone were in intense competition for the  popular market. The Phonograph was beginning to prove the more popular, and the New  York Phonograph Company opened the first purpose-built recording studios.
1890

THE MONARCH SALOON (MEMPHIS VISITORS INFORMATION CENTER)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1890, is constructed.  The saloon was located at 340 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee. With a facade marked by a  multicolored variegated brickwork, a beautiful carved stone window emplacement which  recalls the Old World, and a cast-iron store front, this building is one of the most attractive  on the street. The original parapet was removed in the 1950s and later replaced during the  facade's renovation.
 
Its beauty belied the fact that The Monarch ranked high on the list of  Beale's most notorious gambling joints and saloons. Its heyday was from around 1902  through the teens.

Mirrors, which totally encased the lobby, hung above black cushioned seats that were built  into the wall. The entire length of the beautiful mahogany bar had brass rail fittings. The  gambling room in back was reinforced by brick and barricaded by a steel door to protect it  from raids. Upstairs a dance hall and poker rooms drew all kinds of patrons. W.C. Handy  frequented the dance hall to listen to its piano thumpers, Bennie Frenchie and Sonny Butts.  The Monarch's owner, Jim Kinnane, also operated saloons in North Memphis. He was a bigtime  politician, boss of the first ward.

The Monarch, nicknamed the "Castle of Missing Men" because of its reputation for murders,  conveniently stood near the undertaking establishment of Levi McCoy. McCoy lay claim to  most of those killed in the saloon. The Monarch was home to many of Beale's tough  characters, like Bad Sam, Cousin Hog, and Long Charlie. It also earned some notoriety for a  famous duel in 1918 between Ben Griffin, a short but tough hood, and Johnny Margerum,  white underworld boss of the Monarch.

Griffin carried two guns, one in his belt and another tucked away in a shoulder holster. Even  the police stayed clear of him. One evening, after checking one of his pistols at the door,  Griffin went upstairs to gamble.
 
 
He returned downstairs and went into the kitchen where,  for some reason, he got into a fight with another patron. Margerum, just entering the  saloon, heard the commotion and rushed to the kitchen. He ordered Griffin to stop hitting  the man. Griffin shouted back, "I'm going to hit this man wherever I please", and pulled his  second gun firing two bullets into Margerum. As Margerum fell, he fired back. Both men died  within ten minutes. Such events became part of the folklore of Beale Street.
1890

BEALE AVENUE MARKET/HANDY SQUARE BUILDING (ALFRED'S) ELVIS PRESLEY'S MUSIC NOTE  (See: Historic Memphis)  -  Before 1890. Similar to the brass stars on the sidewalks in Hollywood, Memphis has lined its  famous street with brass musical notes dedicated to the stars who got their start on Beale  Street. Elvis Presley's musical note is located at 197 Beale Street, near the entrance of  Alfred's (formerly Kings Palace Cafe) and across the street from W.C. Handy Park.
 
Until he  died in 1993, Clarence "Pops" Davis stood outside Alfred's greeting patrons with a patter that  went something like "W.C. Handy, he's a personal friend of mine... Elvis, he's a personal  friend of mine... gimme a dollar". Cary Hardy and the Sun Studio Trio, a rock and roll covers  band led by the current owner of the Sun studio, play here regularly.

The present building is a combination of 197 and 199/201 Beale Street. The first address is   easy to spot with its white stucco exterior and its set of arched windows lining the front and   side of the first floor. The original occupant, Louis Vaccaro, operated his saloon and   restaurant, with chili and macaroni specialties, from the mid-1880s until the mid-1910s.

This building was the site of a major Beale Street disaster: the failure of the Solvent Savings   Bank and Trust Company. This black-owned bank moved to 197 from 386 Beale in 1925. The   bank failure dealt a severe blow to the Beale Street economy, affecting more than fifteen   thousand black depositors and over fifty black businesses. 
 
In 1929 the Beale Avenue Market, under various owners, occupied the ground floor for over   twenty-five years, until the Forty Minute Cleaning Company replaced it. Since the mid-  1920s, the second and third floors, referred to as the "Handy Square Building", contained   the offices of several black professionals, such as Dr. O.B. Braithwaite, a dentist, and A.A.   Latting, a lawyer.

Next door, at 199/201 Beale Street, various businesses were present until 1945, when the   original King's Palace cafe settled in as the building's final tenant.

1890

LIPPMAN'S/NATHAN NOVICK'S LOAN OFFICE (BLUES HALL/PART OF RUM BOOGIE CAFE)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Before 1890. Located at 174/176-178 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee. The addresses cover three separate buildings, although 176-178 Beale Street look like the same structure. Originally, 178 Beale Street was smaller in height and length from 174-176 Beale Street, but sometime after 1888 a new building was constructed to blend in with the other two. In the 1930s the store fronts were remodelled with a tile covering to enclose vent windows just above the entrances. Nathan's has the black tile.

The upper portion of the building are beautifully done. Note the circular vents, the curved brick overhangs at the window heads which are set in relief from the facade, and the decorative brick work at the cornice near the building's apex.

From around 1900 to 1916, the Lippman family ran a pawn shop at 174 Beale Street. Louis Lerner, the name imprinted on the entrance way tile, bought the business in 1917 and operated it as Lippman's Loan Office through the 1960s. He specialized in diamonds, watches, jewelry, and clothing. A variety of business occupied 176-178 Beale Street: grocers, book dealers, a liquor distributor, the Dixie Photography Studio, and from the mid-1940s through the 1960s, Nathan Loan Office.

Nathan that has been erroneously pointed out on Memphis tours for years as the place where Elvis Presley bought his first guitar. In reality Elvis bought his first guitar at the Tupelo Hardware Store in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1946. How this misconception got started is hard to say, but it hasn't hurt Nathan Novick's business.

1890

HAMMITT ASHFORD'S SALOON (BUILDING DEMOLISHED)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - before 1890, is constructed.  Located at 350 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this was the site of Hammitt Ashford's  Saloon, reputed to have been the fanciest wateringhole on Beale during the first decade of  the 1900s. On the first floor, rows of chairs lined one side of the room, facing a mahogany  bar which an the length of the opposite side. The room's center had several marble tables, a  perfect location to view the numerous paintings of women which covered the walls. In  another section were pool and billiard tables. The upstairs had a glittering carpeted lounge  with muslin drapes, white wallpaper, and imported chandeliers.
 
The saloon was the scene of one of Beale's most tragic occasions, the murder of five  gamblers by Wild Bill Latura in 1908. Latura, a white businessman who had a penchant for  gambling, had a trigger temper and vindictive personality. His killing spree concerned an old  grudge with Ashford. Brought to trial, Latura was never convicted for these as well as for  two other murders. In 1916 Sandy Lyons, a Memphis policeman, outgrew Latura and shot  him to death.

Ashford wore snazzy, expensive clothes and a three-carat diamond tiepin. He later left for  St. Louis, after having been acquitted for the murder of gambler Fatty Grimes. It may be  poetic license that the undertaking establishment of Barnett and Lewis replaced Ashford's  saloon in 1910. Other businesses followed, but the Wilson Drug Company occupied the  building from 1941 through the 1960s. It was a popular hangout for high school students, a  neighbourly place where one could relax and sip an ice cream soda or leave a message for a  friend.
1890
 
 
MIDWAY CAFE (BUILDING DEMOLISHED)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - before 1890 is constructed. Located at 357 Beale  Street, Memphis, Tennessee, Samuel Volpi operated his grocery store at this location from  the 1890s until 1907. Two years later Joseph Raffanti opened a saloon at this address which  he named the Midway Cafe in 1928. Although the type of business changed from a saloon to  a billiard parlor, a restaurant, and finally a liquor store, the Raffanti family remained at the  helm through the 1960s. Like most of the gambling houses on Beale, a restaurant filled the  front part of the building. 
 
This legendary cafe was well known for its blues pianists. Memphis Slim's first job took place  at the cafe in 1931. Booker T. Laury, Piano Red, Roosevelt Sykes, and Sunnyland Slim were a  few of the other pianists who played at the Midway.

1891

George Washington Johnson's "The Laughing Song" and "The Whistling Coon".
1891

GALLINA BUILDING (SILKY'S O'SULLIVAN'S PATION)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - 1891, constructed by architect J.C. Alsup,  located on 177-181 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, "Squire Charles Gallina opened a  saloon in a one-story building in the late 1860s.

After acquiring adjacent property, he  commissioned J.C. Alsup to build the Gallina Building in 1891. Better known as Gallina's  Exchange, (also known as "The Pride Of Beale Street) the building housed a saloon,  restaurant, and a twenty-room hotel. Performers from the Hopkins Grand Opera House and  the Bijou Theater, further away on South Main, used it as a residence. The Gallina family  occupied an apartment on the top floor. Several offices, as well as a gambling and a race  horse room, were located upstairs. Gallina owned several horses and his building buzzed  with the jabber of the sporting crowd. As an officer of the County Court and as a magistrate,  Gallina held court on the second floor over his saloon. He died in 1914.
 
Over the years other businesses occupied the first floor, including the American Pharmacy,  Morris Pinstein's Clothing Store, the Memphis Meat Company, and various dry goods and  hardware businesses. Dr. R.Q. Venson, a well-known black dentist, had his office on the  second floor for more than twenty-five years, beginning in the early 1940s. In the 1880s  Edgar S. Goens, a popular black barber, who also owned quite a bit of property, occupied a  building next to Gallina's saloon prior to the construction of the Gallina Building. He  continued his business in a new small one-story building next to Gallina'a Exchange until his  retirement in 1916.
 
Unfortunately, the facade of this building, supported by six indifferent rust-colored steel  girders, is all that now remains of a glorious past. Each of the hotel rooms had a stonemantled  fireplace; the saloon was lined with walnut panelling; and there were skylights over  the stairwells. The incredible facade with its exquisite brickwork, massive brick arches  framing the third story windows, and an orange terra-cotta cornice at the top on both sides  of the structure, demonstrate why the building was referred as to "The Pride Of Beale Street".
1891
 
 
THE RANDOLPH BUILDING (THE ELVIS PRESLEY STATUE)  (See: Historic Memphis)  – Original building demolished. Named  for lawyer William M. Randolph, the Randolph Office Building stood on this site, now  occupied by the Elvis Presley statue and the Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Company. The  finest and largest office building in the city during the 1890s, the Randolph Building had  seven stories, such as record store Home Of The Blues, 240 offices, and its own water supply  drawn from an artesian well dug 400 feet through the basement.

Constructed of brick and iron, the design was from the Florentine Renaissance. William  Randolph and his two sons had their law offices in the building. The Randolph Mansion, stood  a few blocks east at 546 Beale Street.

The Presley statue, dedicated on August 16, 1980, this nine-foot-high bronze statue of Elvis  Presley took sculptor Eric Parks three years to complete. The fringe on Elvis' bronze jacket  has been removed by fans, and the base of the statue is covered with devotional graffiti,  similar to what is found on the wall surrounding Graceland.
1892

The boll weevil crosses the Mexican border into Texas and eventually spreads to most  cotton-growing regions, including the Mississippi Delta.

Memphis spans the Mississippi River with the Frisco Bridge, the first railroad bridge south of  St. Louis and the third-longest in the world.

1893

First public showing of an Edison kinescope.

Memphis regains its city charter. Cossitt Library, the city's first, opens to the public.

John Persica opened the Persica Saloon on Hernando Street. Persica was "the most notorious  of the underworld overlords" of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In  addition to his Hernando club, Persica bought the city's old car barn after the electric  streetcar lines were consolidated and converted it into the garden Theater. He also  promoted boxing and controlled gambling south of Madison Street. On November 13, 1913, John Persica was killed in a auto accident and is buried in Calvary Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

While most of the saloons in the area were for blacks, the brothels, primarily employed  light-skinned black women, were mostly exclusive to white patrons. Sporting houses, which  lined Main Street south of Linden, could also be found along Third, Fourth, and Mulberry  Street. The biggest and fanciest were on Gayoso Street between Union Avenue and Beale  Street. At 121 Gayoso, Grace Stanley ran her infamous Stanley Club - that is until a dispute  with one of her "girls" ended with her murder at the point of a knife.

1894

Pathe Freres
1894

EPSTEIN'S LOAN OFFICE (ENTRANCE TO KING'S PALACE CAFE)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - 1894 was built. Located at  162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this stylish building features a cast-iron store  front, a stone arch over the middle second story window, a carved stone parapet, a classical  type of cornice, and a cast-iron cap at its apex. Originally, the building had bay windows set  off by the same type of carved stone as the parapet, as well as an overhang located just  below the second story window.

Prior to 1920 its businesses included dealers in furniture, dry goods, women's clothing, and  hardware. Around 1928 William Epstein opened his loan office which operated at this  location through the 1960s.

From the 1910s on, many noteworthy black physicians, dentists,  and lawyers, such as Drs. C.A. Terrell and L.G. Patterson, had their offices on the second  floor. The walk-up was also one of the locations of two of the most important black  businesses in Memphis. The Hooks Brothers Photography Studio and the Memphis World, a  weekly newspaper.
1895

By now recorded music as a medium of entertainment had become firmly established with  the public. The demand for recordings provided the incentive for research and investment  in the infant record business.

ROSENBAUM AND MENDEL FURNITURE (GIRLS INC. OF MEMPHIS)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - 1895, was built. Located at  146-152 Beale Street, originally a two-story building with the third floor added sometime  after 1907, it was the retail outlet of the Morris Rosenbaum and Ike Mendel Furniture  Company from 1896 to 1915. 

The store manufactured furniture in their annex on Second  Street, just around the corner of Beale Street. The Rosenbaum family came to Memphis from  Cincinnati in the late 1860s to open a stove and tinware business. In 1918 Rosenbaum left  the furniture business to become a partner in a saloon which, under the name Locker Club,  had the distinction of becoming Memphis' first speakeasy.

Subsequent businesses were usually furniture and clothing stores. The original stairway to  the upper floors stood just to the left of the building's center. Its facade is simple but has  appealing lines and ornamentation. A small cast-iron cap, once adorned the top of the  building. In 1974 about 35 feet was removed from the back portion of the building.

1896

Eldridge R. Johnson designed and manufactured a clockwork spring motor which helped  establish F. Seaman's National Gramophone Company of New York as a serious rival to the  Phonograph and the Gramophone Companies.

Plessy v. Ferguson: In upholding an 1890 Louisiana statute mandating separate but "Equal"  railroad cars for blacks, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the equal protection clause of the  Fourteenth Amendment (ratified in 1866) had guaranteed blacks political, but not social,  equality. Ironically, the railroad lines were among those calling for repeat of the Louisiana  state law. The court's decision made white compliance with subsequent "Jim Crow": laws  mandatory, not discretionary.
PLESSY V. FERGUSON - In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of  the "separate but Equal" principle in public transportation facilities for whites and blacks. In  doing so it affirmed the role of states in controlling social discrimination, and, many argue,  the decision actually promoted enforced segregation. The number of Jim Crow laws  increased rapidly during the following years.

The case originated in Louisiana, which had a statue requiring separate-but-equal  accommodations for whites and blacks on railroad cars.  In 1892 Homer Adolph Plessy  purchased a train ticket from New Orleans to Covington, Louisiana. Plessy, seven-eighths  white and on-eighth black, sat in a "white only" car and refused to move to a "colored"  section.

He was arrested for violating the "Jim Crow Car Act of 1890". The "Citizens  Committee to Test the Constitutionality of the Separate Car Law", a group of 18 blacks, had  instigated the incident, choosing Plessy as the example and making sure train officials knew  his racial status. Their attorney was Albion Winegar Tourgee, a carpetbagger during  Reconstruction and author of the Reconstruction novel A Fool's Errand.

Four years later, the Supreme Court heard the case and voted seven to one (Justice David  Brewer did not participate" against Plessy. In the majority opinion Justice Henry B. Brown  wrote: "We consider the underlying fallacy of the plaintiff's argument to consist in the  underlying assumption that the enforced separation of the two races stamps the colored race  with a badge of inferiority. If this be so, it is not by reason of anything found in the act, but  solely because the colored race chooses to put that construction on it".

Furthermore, he wrote, "The argument also assumes that social prejudices may be overcome  by legislation, and that equal rights cannot be secured to the negro except by an enforced  commingling of the two races. We cannot accept this proposition. If the two races are to  meet upon terms of social equality, it must be the result of natural affinities, a mutual  appreciation of each other's merits and a voluntary consent of individuals".

Ironically, the only southerner then serving on the Court, Justice John Marshall Harlan, cast  the sole vote against the final decision. In the minority opinion he asserted the equality of  all men with regard to the civil rights "as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land". He  stated, "our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among  citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law".

Not until the 1950s did Supreme Court decisions, most notably in Brown v. Board of  Education (1954), begin to dissolve the Court's sanction of the concept of separate but  equal. For more than a half century, the principle had dictated the social treatment of  blacks, with "equal" facilities providing the legal rationale for segregation. Finally, though,  what had been the minority opinion in Plessy became that of the majority, a belated  response to Justice Harlan's statement that "the thin disguise of 'equal' accommodations for  passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead any one, nor atone for the wrong this day  done".
JIM CROW - This term used to describe African-Americans probably originated in 19thcentury   minstrelsy. It has also been suggested that the term referred to a slave trader or an   escaped slave, but the most generally accepted explanation credits a white minstrel   entertainer, Thomas "daddy" Rice, with popularizing the term. He performed a song-anddance   routine called "Jump Jim Crow", beginning in 1828. With face blackened from burnt   cork and dressed in the rags of a beggar, Rice skipped on stage doing a shuffling dance,   comically singing "I jump his' so/An' every time I turn about I jump Jim Crow". He cited an   old Louisville slave belonging to a Mr. Crow as the inspiration for the act, having observed   him entertain other workers in a livery stable. 

By the late 1830s Rice had made "Jim Crow" a   part of his promotional name. He helped to put the blackface character into American   entertainment and introduced a term to the language.  The story of the term Jim Crow is apparently more complicated than this traditional   explanation of its origins. Jim Crow was probably first used outside of minstrelsy, to describe   segregated facilities in the North. Mitford M. Mathews in A Dictionary of Americanisms (1951)   cites a reference to a separate railroad car for blacks in Massachusetts in 1841, and Mathews   also notes an 1842 item from The Liberator referring to the "negro pew" and the "Jim Crow   Car". Leon Litwack in North of Slavery (1961) used the terms to describe segregated   facilities in the pre-Civil War North.

In the late 19th century the name Jim Crow took on a new meaning, symbolizing the   southern system of legal segregation that emerged after the Civil War. "Jim Crow Law" first   appeared in the Dictionary of American English in 1904, but laws requiring racial segregation   had appeared briefly in the South during Reconstruction. They had generally disappeared by   1868, although the persistent custom of segregation did not disappear. Tennessee passed a   Jim Crow statute in 1875, and increasingly in the following years blacks and whites were   segregated throughout the South on trains, streetcars, steamboats, and port facilities. In the   mid-1880s African-Americans were barred from white hotels, restaurants, barber and beauty   shops, and theaters. By 1885 most states in the South were legally mandating segregated   schools. The state constitutional reforms in Mississippi in 1890 and South Carolina in 1895   codified segregation laws, and other southern states soon followed. In 1896 the U.S.   Supreme Court upheld the Jim Crow "separate-but-qual" principle in Plessy v. Ferguson.

These Jim Crow segregation laws were, according to historian C. Vann Woodward, "the   public symbols and constant reminders" of the African-Americans inferior position in the   South. "That code lent the sanction of law to a racial ostracism that extended to churches   and schools, to housing and jobs, to eating and drinking", concluded Woodward. It separated   the races in sports and recreational activities, on all forms of public transportation, in  prisons, asylums, orphanages, hospitals, and even in funeral homes and cemeteries. The   terms Jim Crow came to stand for racial segregation and was physically embodied in   separate water fountains, eating places, bathrooms, Bibles in courtrooms, and pervasive   signs stating "Colored" and "White" that gave the term a concrete meaning for southerners.
1896

THE RIECHMAN-CROSBY CO. WAREHOUSE (BEALE STREET LANDING)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1896-1921 is built,  located southwest corner of Beale Street and Wagner Place, Memphis, Tennessee. This was  the location of the Pittsburch Coal Company. The warehouse, its facade now greatly altered,  was built for the Riechman-Crosby Company, at the time the largest mill and factory supply  outlet in the South. An overhead walkway across Wagner Place connected the warehouse to  the main offices on Front Street. The company moved in the 1950s. The Illinois Central  Railroad car shed once stood in the parking lot on the opposite side of Beale Street.

1897

Eldridge Johnson, founder of the famous "His Master Voice" Trade-Mark Gramophone 1898  (with Nipper) (See Other Record Labels).
PANAMA CAFE (THE RITZ-ORIGINAL BUILDING DEMOLISHED)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1897 is constructed. Located  at 351 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, the original three-story building was torn down in  the 1970s and replaced by the present structure. The older building contained a saloon and  gambling house which had tragic endings for three of its owners.

In 1902 Milton L. Clay changed his Italian grocery, operated by Dominico Volpi, into a saloon.  He also owned a barber shop next door at 349 Beale. Clay, a black man, graduated from Fisk  University and taught school in Mississippi before becoming a Memphis businessman. He  became vice-president of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company. 
 
Clay's saloon was a  favorite of the race horse and betting crowd. Before the state outlawed pari-mutuel betting  in 1906, Memphis had legalized horseracing, first at Montgomery Park and later at the North  Memphis Driving Park. In 1911 a vindictive customer, who had been beaten up by the police  in Clay's saloon, took it out on its owner by murdering him in front of Jackson's Drug store at  327 Beale Street.

In 1909 Clay went into the hay and grain business. He let Thomas R. Dockery, his barkeeper,  run the saloon (351 Beale) and Charles Givins, his manager, operate the barber shop (349  Beale). Dockery died under suspicious circumstances in an automobile accident in Mississippi  around 1914.

Amos "Mack" McCullough succeeded Dockery. At various times, McCullough ran several  billiard parlors, a grocery store, a restaurant, a cab company, and just before his death, the  Union Drug Store. In 1921 he changed the name of his restaurant at 351 Beale to the Panama  Cafe and put in a billiard parlor next door. His cab company operated out of the cafe.

McCullough advertised his place as "The Panama Soda Fountain Cafe", where you would find  good fellowship, and good food and drink. In actually his cafe and billiard parlor had, like  many businesses on Beale, a backroom for gambling and a hidden quantity of bootleg liquor.  Jimmy Turpin operated the games which had three shifts and ran all night. In 1929  McCullough was shot three times just as he opened the door to his house, apparently the  victim of a gangland slaying.

The Panama Cafe stayed in operation throughout the 1930s, until it was converted to a  liquor store around 1940 and afterward a legitimate restaurant, Selma's Luncheonette.

1898

Bob Cole's "A Trip To Coontown". Annexation of the Hawaiian Islands.
1898

BEALE STREET MARKET HOUSE AND COLD STORAGE PLANT (HANDY PARK)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Weathers and  Weathers, architects 1898, located north side of Beale between Third and Hernando,  Memphis, Tennessee. The markethouse, at the time one of two such facilities in the city,  replaced an older, outdate market place. It had a centrally located dome flanked by two  three-story wings. The first floor contained more than thirty meat, fish, and vegetable stalls,  plus such business as barber, shoemaker, hat, and tailor shops. The west side of the second  and third floors had large cold storage rooms for meat and fish. The east side had space for  more stalls.
 
The second floor administrative offices faced Beale and opened onto a large  balcony by means of four French doors. The diverse ethnic make-up of the markethouse  included a large number of black business.  In 1930 the markethouse was torn down to make way for Handy Park. It was formally  dedicated to the famous composer in 1931. Many blues musicians, such as Robert Johnson,  Furry Lewis, and B.B. King, as well as the ever-popular jug bands, played for hangouts in the  park. After W.C. Handy died in 1958, a statue of him was erected in 1960.

1899

Columbia Records opened its doors, and Scott Joplin recorded "The Maple Leaf Rag".

First black millionaire, Robert Church, continued to show his loyalty to the city of Memphis  that had made him rich. While white Memphis was still debating the creation of a segregated  park system for itself, Church built a park for black Memphis. Church Park and Auditorium on  Beale Street, east of Fourth Street opened a year before the Memphis city government  announced its park system plan.

Robert Church later built the Dixie Church Park amusement facility, the $50,000 auditorium,  seating 2,000 people, and six acres of landscaped grounds, described by W.C. Handy as "a  suntanned Coney Island". Dixie Park, with its rides and its bandstand, provided work for  brass bands such as Handy's and was a favorite spot for thousands of black Mid-Southerners.
1899

ROBERT CHURCH PARK  (See: Historic Memphis)  - 1899/1920s is constructed. Located at 391 Beale Street, Memphis,  Tennessee, the architect is possibly Robert Church, Sr. Robert Church, Sr., said to be the  first African-American millionaire in the South, built Church's Park and Auditorium in 1899  on six acres of land for the Memphis black community. Church made his money in real estate  and, in 1906, founded the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company. Beautiful landscaped  with walks and flower beds, peacocks roamed freely throughout the park. Outdoor  recreational facilities were available for children and, during the warmer months, fraternal  bands and W.C. Handy's Orchestra played from the open-air band stand.
 
 
The major attraction, the auditorium, could seat 2000 in its theater. It also contained a large  banquet hall underneath the stage. In 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt spoke in the  auditorium to an audience of 10,000 which overflowed into the park. Numerous conventions  and meetings took place, including those of the Lincoln Republican League and the NAACP.  Many national theatrical troups, vaudeville acts, and touring orchestras made appearances,  and public dances were also held.

Church's son, Robert Church, Jr., also became an important businessman and political figure.  He founded the Lincoln Republican League which strove to register black voters and also  organized the first branch of the NAACP in Tennessee in 1917. As a powerful republican  leader, Church was consulted by the national party on many occasions. In 1921 Church sold  the park to the city for $85,000. They razed the original auditorium and built a new one.  This also fell to the wrecking ball during the early 1970s. All that remains is a park  established in the 1980s.

1900

A significant number of black professionals, businessmen, and landowners were present,  such as physicians, dentists, lawyers, pharmacists, restaurant owners, tailors,  photographers, undertakers, teachers, barbers, and real estate brokers. African-Americans  owned newspapers, banks, hotels, life insurance companies, saloons, fraternal clubs and  societies, churches, entertainment agencies, and various mercantile establishments, such as  clothing stores, jewelry shops, and beauty salons in the Beale Street area. Beale Street was  the center for blacks social and civic activities, including church and political conventions,  school proms, club gatherings, the Cotton Makers Jubilee (the black version of a carnival  saluting the role of cotton in Memphis' economy), and the Civil Rights Movement.

In addition to Beale Street, other major black residential and business enclaves existed in  South and North Memphis, Orange Mound, Binghampton, and in Hollywood, among others.  Beale Street was the hub of social, civic, and business activity for blacks not only in Memphis  but in the entire Mid-South.
CIVIL RIGHT MOVEMENT  (See: Historic Memphis)  - After the Civil War many black leaders worked for equal status  between blacks and whites. The most prominent spokesman for this aspiration in the early  20th century was W.E.B. Du Bois. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored  People was founded in 1909, and a year later the National Urban League was organized.  Nonetheless, the nation made little progress in the field of civil rights until the end of World  War II.

The emergence of New Deal social programs and the egalitarian rhetoric of World war II  produced a change in American thought and helped to undermine the intellectual  justification for racial segregation in the South.

In turn, this development produced a  gradual but significant shift in the role of the federal government. President Harry S. Truman  identified his administration with the movement for equal rights. In 1948 Truman issued an  executive order eliminating segregation in the armed forces. He also called for a Fair  Employment Practices Commission and a ban on poll taxes. Although Congress rejected  Truman's legislative program, he established civil rights as a national issue. Moreover, the  federal courts began to adopt a broader reading of the equal protection clause of the  Fourteenth Amendment. During the late 1940s several Supreme Court decisions outlawed  segregation in interstate transportation and higher education. This trend culminated with  the historic 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which proscribed compulsory  segregation in public schools as a violation of the equal protection clause.

Important new development also took place at the state level and in the private sector.  Several northern states passed laws against racial discrimination. In 1946 Jackie Robinson  became the first black to play major league baseball. Four years later diplomat Ralph Bunche  became the first black to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

The NAACP led the legal battle against segregation, working for civil rights legislation and  instituting litigation to compel desegregation of public schools in the South. Despite the  Brown ruling and pressure from the NAACP, only a limited amount of racial integration  occurred in southern school between 1954 and 1964. Most southern states rallied to the  banner of "massive resistance" and sought to obstruct implementation of racial  desegregation. President Dwight D. Eisenhower did not envision an active role for the  federal government in promoting school desegregation. Nonetheless, he did send federal  troops to Little Rock in 1957 when state authorities attempted to block implementation of a  court-ordered desegregation plan.
 
Other organizations also struggled for equal rights. Foremost among these was the Southern  Christian Leadership Conference, headed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Late in 1955 blacks  in Montgomery, Alabama, under King's guidance, began nonviolent protest by instituting a  successful boycott of the city's segregated bus system.

During the early 1960s the civil rights movement underwent several important changes.  After a period of hesitation, President John F. Kennedy placed the executive branch of the  federal government squarely behind desegregation efforts. In 1963 Kennedy endorsed a  broad civil rights proposal to outlaw segregation in public accommodations. At the same  time, many blacks grew impatient with the slow progress in achieving desegregation. Blacks  increasingly resorted to direct forms of protest. There were sit-ins at segregated lunch  counters and Freedom Rides that challenged segregation in transportation facilities.


The civil rights movement may have reached its climax in August of 1963 when more than  200,000 persons took part in the March on Washington. King, who had emerged as the  leading spokesman for the civil rights movement, delivered an impassioned plea for racial  equality. President Lyndon B. Johnson responded to this initiative by calling upon Congress  to enact sweeping civil rights legislation. The resulting Civil Rights Act of 1964 required  equal access to public accommodations and outlawed discrimination in employment. The  Voting Rights Act of 1965 suspended literacy tests in several states and strengthened federal  protection of the right to vote. The Twenty-fourth Amendment, ratified in 1964, barred poll  tax requirements for participation in federal elections. Subsequently the Supreme Court  declared unconstitutional the poll tax in state elections. Thus, by the mid-1960s the civil  rights movement had attained most of its original objectives, which concerned conditions in  the South.

The late 1960s saw a maked shift in the goals of civil rights leaders. The large-scale  migration of blacks to northern cities, which had begun by World War I, produced recurrent  ethnic conflict in urban neighbourhoods. Accordingly, the movement increasingly focused  upon racial discrimination in the North. In particular, black leaders, challenged residential  segregation, poor schooling, high unemployment among members of racial minorities, and  alleged police brutality. Given the heavy concentration of impoverished blacks in the innercity  areas, resolution of these problems proved extremely difficult. Indeed, civil rights gains  hardly affected the living conditions of many northern blacks. A wave of urban riots across  the North highlighted racial tensions and also served to alienate white opinion.
 
In addition, by promoting new remedies for discrimination, civil rights activists moved well  beyond the national consensus in favor of equality. The busing of pupils from one  neighbourhood to another in an effort to integrate schools, although endorsed by the  Supreme Court in 1971, threatened traditional neighbourhood schools and was opposed by  the vast majority of whites. Congress debated numerous proposals to restrict his practice. In  1974 the Supreme Court ruled against busing across school districts lines to archieve  integration between suburban areas and the inner city. Affirmative action policies in  employment and university admissions were widely perceived as favouritism to members of  minority groups. In 1978 the Supreme Court outlawed the use of quotas to aid racial  minorities in the university admissions process.

As a consequence of these trends during the 1970s the civil rights movement became  increasingly fragmented and isolated from the opinions of a majority of whites. Civil rights  supporters did win an extension of the Voting Rights Act in 1982.
1900

Memphis establishes a park commission and develops plans for Overton and Riverside Parks.  The commission later buys the Montgomery Park racetrack as a permanent home for an  agricultural exposition - now the Mid-South Fair.

As Memphis entered the twentieth century it had survived wars and epidemics and gone  from a small river town to a bustling port city. The draining of the Delta in the final twenty  years of the nineteenth century created a huge lumbering industry; and when the land was  stripped bare, the even bigger business of massive cotton plantations was born.

Memphis became a wealthy capital of cotton and hardwood trading. But one thing hadn't  changed - the city's untamed frontier spirit. Gambling, drinking, prostitution, drugs; all  contributed to the wild times that filled every hour in a Memphis day, and demanded  intoxicating, even earthshaking musical accompaniment.

E.R. Johnson first used the His Masters Voice trade mark.
1900

WATSON BUILDING (WEARABLE ART/GESTINE'S GALLERY)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1900 was built. Located at 154- 156 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee. In 1943 a plain brick wall with the inscription,  "Watson 1943", replaced the original neoclassical cornice at the top of the building. Perhaps  the original portion had deteriorated beyond repair, but it is more probably that the new  owners, dentists Isaac A. Watson and William H. Young, were in the mood for remodelling  their recent acquisition. Dr. Watson had been a highly respected professional on Beale Street  since the mid-1920s. Along with Young, he occupied the second floor until the late 1960s.  Over the years, the first floor of both 154 and 156 Beale Street contained clothing, pawn,  shoe repair, restaurant, and photography business, and the Tyler Barber School.
1900

MORRIS PINSTEIN (THIS IS IT)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1900, an women's furnishing was constructed. Located at  167-169 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, although the facade of this building pales in  comparison to Schwab's, it still has great appeal in the arches covering the windows. Max  Rossett ran a dry goods store at this address from around 1900 to 1914. The Memphis  Tailoring Company occupied 167 Beale Street from 1916 until the mid-1920s.

But the longest  resident was Morris Pinstein who operated his women's shop and then dry goods store from  1929 to the end of the 1960s. Pinstein liked the location. Before moving in, he ran a  business in the Gallina Building for eighteen years. The second floor had several professional  offices, notably Dr. A.N. Kittrelle's medical clinic.
1901

Booker T. Washington's "Up From Slavery".

Oil is discovered at Spindletop, near Beaumont,  Texas.

Berliner and Johnson joined interests in the Victor Talking Machine Co. The original etched  plate method of reproduction was being replaced by recording on a thick wax blank. Bitter  litigation between rival companies alleging patent infringement almost destroyed the entire  business.

1902

The Dinwiddle Coloured Quartet record for Victor.

When the Memphis population topped one hundred thousand people, the Commercial Appeal  estimated that 80 percent of the city's black population, as well as "a considerable number  of whites" used cocaine. Even allowing for a touch of hysteria on the paper's part, cocaine  use was certainly epidemic. Legally sold in five- and ten-cent boxes in drugstores and  groceries, cocaine played an important role in the Memphis' nightlife, where, as Handy  wrote in "Beale Street Blues", business never closes till somebody gets killed.

Like the other Beale attractions, cocaine became a popular theme in the blues. The Memphis  Jug band recorded its "Cocaine Habit" in 1930, a song that immortalized one Beale Street  purveyor, Lehman's Drug Store: "I Went to Mr. Lehman's in a lope//sign on the window says  'No more dope'".

Memphis jazz pioneer William C. "Buster" Bailey is born in Memphis. Bailey took up clarinet  at thirteen, around the time he heard W.C. Handy's band play at the Clay Street School  behind his house. Like many young musicians, Bailey learned the new popular tunes by  buying magazines such as Etude, which provided arrangements of waltzes, mazurkas,  ragtime songs, and light classic. Bailey became fascinated with the new sound coming from  New Orleans, and in late 1917 the young clarinet virtuoso travelled down to the Crescent  City on a vacation that changed his life. Bailey remains the unsung hero of Memphis jazz. In  many ways his career, which survived changing tastes and styles and lasted until his death in  1967. A well-schooled musician with superb technique and superior reading skills, Bailey  could also play the blues, improvise with the best of them, and swing like crazy.

Caruso had made his first of many records, and records by Dame Nellie Melba were released.  The popularity of the cylinder had begun to decline.

1903

The first 12 inch diameter records were released on the Monarch label. HMV Italiana  released Verdi's Ernani on 40 single sided discs.

Edwin S. Porter's "The Great Train Robbery" made for Thomas Edison.

The auto industry begins; the Writht Brothers' first flight.

W.E.B. DuBois' wrote "The Souls Of Black Folk".

A man from Florence, Alabama had come to a similar realisation. He was W.C. Handy, the  black musician who composed and popularised the first copyrighted blues music. Handy put  Memphis on the map as far as the outside music world was concerned when he came with his  "Memphis Blues" in 1912.

Mississippi string bands much like the Mississippi Sheiks is credited by W.C. Handy with  inspiring his conversion to "our native music", turning him into "an American composer".  Handy and his conventional, well-schooled dance band were in the Delta town of Cleveland,  Mississippi, playing a program of light classic and popular tunes, when their white audience  asked if Handy would mind if "a local colored band played a few dances". Handy and  company happily took a break while a trio of mandolin, guitar, and "a worn-out bass... struck  up one of those over-and-over strains that seem to have no very clear beginning and  certainly no ending at all".
MARCH 1903

W.C. Handy sees a "ragged loose-jointed black" playing the guitar in a Tutwiler, Mississippi  railroad station. The unknown guitarist used a knife as a slide to play the guitar. Handy  remarked "The event was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly,  goin' where the southern cross the dog''.
 
BEALE AVENUE SALES STORE (STRANGE CARGO)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1903, was constructed over the Bayou  Gayoso which, resembled a watery serpent slithering across Beale Street and throughout the  district.

Located at 170-172 Beale Street, Memphis Tennessee, before the construction of a  sanitary sewer system in 1880, the city used the Bayou as its principal drainage channel: the  equivalent of an open cesspool. many had associated it with the yellow fever epidemics of
the 1870s.

Originally, a centrally located stairway to the second floor separated 170 and 172 Beale  Street; and the display windows stood out from each store front, flanking a recessed door.  The parapet at the upper portion of the building simulates a shallow stone awning.

The building's first occupants were Benjamin Moyer and Gustave Hecht, who operated a  phonograph parlor at 170 Beale Street; and the Bluff City Commission, a stocks, bonds, and  securities firm at 172 Beale Street. This later address contained mostly pawnshops, such as  that of Louis Brod. The Rosenblum family ran a tailor/clothing business at 170 Beale Street  from around 1909 to 1932. In fact, since 1910 most of the businesses at this street number  were clothiers. In 1944 a men's clothing business, the Beale Avenue Sales Store, opened at  170 Beale Street and eventually took over the entire building.
1904

Fleming invented the diode thermionic valve and, later, Lee de Forest the triode. Electrical  recording had become a possibility.

1905

The first U.S. movie theater opens in Pittsburgh.

1906

The Victor Company's Victrola model gramophone first appeared. Victrola was to become a  generic term.

The first of many recorded versions of Bert Williams' "Nobody".

The Memphis Zoo opens in Overton Park.

The daylight hours saw Beale Street growing into a thriving center of black commerce,  boasting dentist offices, dry goods stores, and, most notably, Church's Solvent Saving Bank  and Trust, opened. Black millionaire, Robert Reed Church lived nearby in an integrated  neighbourhood at 384 South Lauderdale. His next-door neighbour was Memphis' white  postmaster, Robert B. Armour; across the street lived one of the city's leading black music  teachers, Mrs. Julia Britton Hooks, whose two sons went on to run Beale Street's foremost  photographic studio, Hooks Brothers. Located at 162-164 Beale Street, for many years, it  was at Hooks Brothers that any self-respecting entertainer passing through Memphis had  promotional portraits taken - including the famous, recently rediscovered photo of Robert  Johnson in his razor-sharp pin-stripped suit and fedora.

As the new century dawned, Robert Church and the growing black professional class were  cementing their holdings, creating their own version of high society based to some degree  on the same color-caste system employed by New Orleans' light-skinned Creoles. Church and  his friends would hire Handy's well-schooled band for their dances aboard the Charles Organ  steamboat or at their exclusive Primrose Club and Toxoway Country Club. Meanwhile, the  less-privilege rural immigrants were enjoying the considerably earthier pleasure of Beale  Street.
JULIA ANN BRITTON HOOKS  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Freeborn, Berea College educated, she was one of the most  outstanding persons in civil rights efforts in Memphis. An accomplished musician, she offered  private lessons after moving to Memphis near the turn of the century and at one time  coached Handy on orchestration. Soon after Mayor Edward Hull Crump was elected in 1909,  she had marched into his office and demanded that a juvenile court be established for  blacks. Crump agreed, and she and her husband became the first officers of the court.

Julia Hooks later took her young son, Robert, to the Cossitt Library, trying to force the  opening of the city's only library to blacks. Turned back, she raised such as fuss that the  police were called to remove her from the building.  (Nearly a half-century later, in 1959,  her great-granddaughter, Carol Hooks, would be among the college students whose sit-ins  finally succeeded in the opening the Memphis libraries to black citizens. Among the  attorneys fighting the students' court battles was her grandson, Miss Hook's uncle, Benjamin  Hooks, later to become a member of the Federal Communications Commission and the  executive director of the NAACP).

Although Julia Hooks failed with the library, she succeeded in attending a major cultural  event at a white theater. Negroes were not permitted to see performances except from the  topmost balcony, but Julia Hooks persuaded a white friend to buy her a box seat. She seated  herself among the whites and, although the management tried to eject her, stood her ground  and finally was permitted to stay.

JUNE 26, 1906 TUESDAY

The Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, black branch is organized.  Around a year later, an injunction obtained by their white counterparts banned the group  from the entire state of Tennessee. The injunction was lifted in 1937, mainly due to the  efforts of Robert Church, Jr.
1907

F.A. Barrasso, owner of the Palace Theater on Beale Street, Memphis, came up with the  notion of organizing his fellow theater owners around the South into a chain specializing in  black performers. The idea was based on what northern theaters had done with white  vaudeville on the famed Keith, Albee, and Orpheum circuits. Barrasso's chain would feature  black minstrel shows like Mahara's, Silas Green's, and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, as well as  bands like Handy's.

The idea finally got of the ground in 1909, when Barasso's brother Anselmo began the  Theater Owner's Booking Association. The TOBA, with its hard working conditions, poor  wages, and filthy, overcrowded dressing rooms, was said by some performers on the circuit  to stand for Tough On Black Asses. Though the circuit was something of a plantation system  for black performers, many TOBA acts were able to step up to the better-paying white  vaudeville circuits. And the TOBA theaters at least offered steady work. The white circuits of  the time employed a quota system, allowing only one black act per show, several limiting  opportunities for African- American performers. For the theater owners the benefits were  even greater, giving them a better-organized, more dependable pool of talent.

TOBA - F.A. Barrasso founded the Theater Owner's Booking Association in 1909. A circuit for  black performers, TOBA eventually included more than forty theaters, among them the  Howard in Washington, the Apollo in New York, and the Regal in Chicago. The initials were  sometimes said to stand for "Tough on Black Asses" because of the low wages, poor working  conditions, and substandard dressing rooms, but TOBA offered work for black artists when  there otherwise might have been none.

1908

Edison continued to persevere with the cylinder machine but the disc was proving ever  stronger competition.

Saloon keeper "Wild Bill" Latura, walked into Hammitt Ashford's saloon and, annoyed at the  sound of the colliding billiard balls, killed six patrons. Latura was white, his victims black, so  naturally Latura was acquitted of the murders. The Commercial Appeal protested the  verdict, although with regrettable logic: "Those white men who kill Negroes", it reasoned,  "usually end up by killing white men". Latura never even went to court when he killed  another black Memphian in 1912, but in 1915, angered over a white reporter's reference to  him as "Wild Bill", he threatened the newsman and the Memphis policemen who were with  him. Finally Wild Bill had gone too far. As he turned to leave, the police fired, killing him  with five shots. Pool players on Beale breathed easier.
1908

ELK'S CLUB (HOTEL MEN'S IMPROVEMENT CLUB)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - building demolished. 1908. Located at 401  Beale Street, the Improvement Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, black  branch, was organised in Memphis on June 26, 1906. Around a year later, an injunction  obtained by their white counterparts banned the group from the entire State of Tennessee.  The injunction was lifted in 1937, mainly due to the efforts of Robert Church, Jr. In 1939  the Elks moved into 403 Beale Street and later changed to number 401.
 
The Elks were one of several black fraternal orders in the city. Some of the others included:  The Masons, Knights of Pythias, The Knights of Tabor, the Odd Fellows, the Hotel Men's  Improvement Club (for waiters), and the Chauffer's Club. All of these organizations were  civically and socially responsible. For example, the Elks donated great advertised meeting  rooms, dining, and dancing. Orchestras were frequently employed for proms and other social  gatherings. During the 1940s, the Elks sponsored talent contests which included gospel  groups, jug bands, dancers, and singers. Professional entertainers, such as B.B. King, Dwight  "Gatemouth" Moore, and Rufus Thomas, also performed there. Robert Henry, the owner of  Henry's Record Shop and Shine Parlor, took Elvis Presley to the Hotel Improvement Club.  Robert Henry claims that Elvis Presley saw Charlie Burse sing and shake on stage and  adopted this affectation in his own act. Robert Henry told Margaret McKee and Fred  Chisenhall that Elvis Presley "had a way of singing the blues that was distinctive". While  Henry didn't believe that Elvis Presley had the "Negro feel", nevertheless, Henry remarked  that blacks "were crazy about Elvis".
1908

MUTUAL FURNITURE CO. (SILKY'S O'SULLIVAN)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1908, was constructed. Located at 183  Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, originally, a one-story building. The new two-story  structure, built around 1908, had a warehouse behind it, long since removed. The main  building contained, at various times, the W.R. Roberts Hardware Company (1909-1913), the  Mutual Furniture Company (1915-1928), the Pantaza Drug Store Wholesale House (1929- 1946), and the Golden Rule 5 cents and 10 cents to $1 Store (1947-1959). 
 
The name "Mutual  Furniture" can still be seen just below the attic vents. To the left and right of the single  entrance were large display windows capped by five large vent windows.

1909

W.C. Handy settles in Memphis, Tennessee. Handy is lured not only by the rich heritage of  Memphis blues, but finds the social atmosphere an integrated one. To Handy and other  blacks, Memphis is a symbol of escape from the grinding rural poverty enslaving Southern  blacks. Soon Handy's "St. Louis Blues" becomes a national hit. Through his interpretation of  the blues, W.C. Handy, a trained band musician, helps to popularize this musical form,  incorporating folk blues into his ragtime songs.

E.H. Crump is elected mayor on a reform ticket; in and out of office, he will control Memphis  politics for more than 40 years.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded.
EDWARD HULL CRUMP  (See: Historic Memphis)  - (1874-1954) Born and raised in Holly Springs, Mississippi, Edward  Hull Crump moved to Memphis as a young man. His business efforts prospered, especially his  insurance firm, and Crump eventually built a sizable personal fortune.  Politically active  almost from his arrival in Memphis, Crump was elected mayor in 1909, 1911, and 1915, but  his refusal to enforce Tennessee's prohibition law prompted the state to initiate legal  proceedings, which resulted in his resignation in 1916. Despite the setback, Crump  continued to build a political machine that, by the mid-1920s, utterly dominated the large  Shelby County vote.

In 1932 the Crump-backed candidate for governor won election, and for the next 16 years  the Memphis boss and his organization influenced the outcome of most major statewide  races. Finally, in 1948, insurgents led by Estes Kefauver and Gordon Browning defeated the  Crump choices for senator and governor in the Democratic primary. His power across  Tennessee substantially weakened, Crump still controlled Memphis politics until his death in  1954. Edward Hull Crump is buried at Elmwood Cemetery at 824 South Dudley in Memphis,  Tennessee.

A self-described progressive, Crump stressed efficient government and improved public  services, policies that generally kept him in good stead with respectable Memphis business  leaders, as did his bitter opposition to unions. At the same time, however, the Crump  machine was closely linked to the Bluff City's seamy vice trade, a prime source of money and  votes for organization candidates. The Crump machine also included the local black  community, tied to the boss by his special blend of patronage and coercion. Consequently,  Memphis was one of the few places in the South that tolerated black voting during the  segregation era. W.C. Handy celebrated Crump in his "Memphis Blues" (1912), a catchy tune  that the mayor then used to gain black and white votes. "Mister Crump don't 'low no easy  riders here", it said. Crump delighted in conducting well-publicized charity drives to benefit  various causes, but he dealt harshly with potential opponents. City bureaucrats and  policemen harassed his critics, while curious reporters and persistent labour organizers  occasionally encountered strong-arm tactics.

Although many Crump policies and practices were generally typical of machine politics in  other parts of the country, Crump himself struck the pose of the paternalistic southern  gentleman. Dapper and flamboyant, he was an unusually visible political boss who often  castigated his enemies in splashy newspaper advertisements. A uniquely skilful politician,  Crump wielded more power outside his own city than any other urban boss in the South.
1910

The National Urban League is founded and organized.
 
1910

National Association For The Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) is founded by W.E.B.  DuBois and seven whites in response to the lynching of two black men in Springfield, Illinois.
 
W.E.B. DUBOIS - (1868-1963) Historian, sociologist, editor, and novelist. William Edward  Burghardt Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868 in Great Barrington, Mass. A New  Englander in though and conduct, as he put it, he entered the South in 1885, after a  promising high school career, to attend Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. He found the  South deeply humiliating. "No one but a Negro", he wrote, "going into the South without  previous experience of color caste can have any conception of its barbarism".

Nevertheless, Fisk itself was challenging, even exhilarating, and summer teaching in rural  counties sealed his attachment to the black masses and his determination to champion their  cause. Graduating in 1888, he trained further at Harvard University (Ph. D. 1895) and the  University of Berlin. His doctoral dissertation on the suppression of the slave trade was  published in 1896. He held positions briefly with the University of Pennsylvania and  Wilberforce in Ohio before returning to the South in 1897 to teach sociology, economics, and  history at Atlanta University.

His third book, The Souls Of Black Folk (1903), was a collection of hauntingly beautiful  essays on every important aspect of black culture in the South; perhaps its most famous  insight concerned the "Double-Consciousness" of the black American. "One ever feels his  twoness - and American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two  warrings ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn  asunder". With this book he secured preeminence among all African-American intellectuals  and became the leader of those opposed to the powerful and conservative Booker T.  Washington of Tuskegee. His yearly (1897-1914) Atlanta University Studies of black social  conditions and a biography of John Brown (1909) added to his reputation.

Increasingly controversial, he moved to New York in 1910 to found and edit The Crisis, the  monthly magazine of the fledgling NAACP. For 24 years he sustained an assault on all forms  of racial injustice, especially in the South. In 1934 he published Black Reconstruction In  America, a grand Marxist-framed reevaluation of the much-maligned role of blacks in the  Civil War and its aftermath. That year he returned to Atlanta University after grave  disagreements with the NAACP leadership over strategies during the Depression; Du Bois  favored a program of voluntary self-segregation stressing economics that many people found  similar to the old program of Booker T. Washington. At Atlanta University he found little  support for his projected scheme to organize the study of sociology among black colleges  and other institutions in the South. In 1944 he rejoined the NAACP in New York, but soon
found himself again at odds with the leadership, this time over his growing interest in radical  socialism. He left the NAACP finally in 1948. By this time his attitude toward the South had  changed somewhat. Influenced no doubt by the aims of the leftist Southern Negro Youth  Congress, he declared in 1948 that "the future of American Negroes is in the South... Here is  the magnificent climate; here is the fruitful earth under the beauty of the southern sun; and  here... is the need of the thinker, the worker, and the dreamer". His Socialist activities  culminated in his arrest and trial in 1951 as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal; the  presiding judge heard the evidence, then directed his acquittal.

Unpopular and even shunned in some quarters, he turned to fiction to express his deepest  feelings. In a trilogy set mainly in the South, The Black Flame (The Ordeal of Mansart), 1957;  Mansart Builds a School, 1959; Worlds of Colore, 1961, he told the story of a black  southerner, born at the end of Reconstruction, who rises slowly and patiently to the  leadership of a small southern school, witnessing in his long lifetime the important events of  modern American and world history. In October 1961 Du Bois was admitted to membership in  the Communist party of the United States; that month he left his country to live in Ghana at  the invitation of Kwame Nkrumah. In February 1963 he renounced his American citizenship  and became a Ghanaian. He had made little progress on the task for which Nkrumah had  summoned him, the editing of an "Encyclopedia Africana", when he died of natural causes on  August 27, 1963.
BOOKER T. WASHINTON - (April 5, 1856 - November 14, 1915) Black Educator. Booker  Taliaferro Washington was the foremost black educator of the late 19th and early 20th  centuries. He also had a major influence on southern race relations and was the dominant  figure in black public affairs from 1895 until his death in 1915. 

Born a slave on a small farm  in the Virginia backcountry, he moved with his family after emancipation to work in the salt  furnaces and coal mines of West Virginia. After a secondary education at Hampton Institute,  he taught an upgraded school and experimented briefly with the study of law and the  ministry, but a teaching position at Hampton decided his future career. In 1881 he founded  Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute on the Hampton model in the Black Belt of Alabama.

Though Washington offered little that was innovative in industrial education, which both  northern philanthropic foundations and southern leaders were already promoting, he  became its chief black exemplar and spokesman. In his advocacy of Tuskegee Institute and  its educational method, Washington revealed the political adroitness and accommodationist  philosophy that were to characterize his career in the wider arena of race leadership. He  convinced southern white employers and governors that Tuskegee offered an education that  would keep blacks "down on the farm" and in the trades. To prospective northern donors and  particularly the new self-made millionaires such as Rockefeller and Carnegie he promised  the inculcation of the Protestant work ethic. To blacks living within the limited horizons of  the post-Reconstruction South, Washington held out industrial education as the means of  escape from the web of sharecropping and debt and the achievement of attainable, petitbourgeois  goals of self-employment, landownership, and small business. Washington  cultivated local white approval and secured a small state appropriation, but it was northern  donations that made Tuskegee Institute by 1900 the best-supported black educational  institution in the country.

The Atlanta Compromise Address, delivered before the Cotton States Exposition in 1895,  enlarged Washington's influence into the arena of race relations and black leadership.  Washington offered black acquiescence in disfranchisement and social segregation if whites  would encourage black progress in economic and educational opportunity. Hailed as a sage  by whites of both sections, Washington further consolidated his influence by his widely read  autobiography Up From Slavery (1901), the founding of the National Negro Business League  in 1900, his celebrated dinner at the White House in 1901, and control of patronage politics  as chief black advisor to President Theadore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Washington kept his white following by conservative policies and moderate utterances, but  he faced growing black and white liberal opposition in the Niagara Movement (1905-1909)  and the NAACP (1909), groups demanding civil rights and encouraging protest in response to  white aggressions such as lynchings, disfranchisement, and segregation laws. Washington  successfully fended off these critics, often by underhanded means. At the same time,  however, he tried to translate his own personal success into black advancement through  secret sponsorship of civil rights suits, serving on the boards of Fisk and Howard universities,  and directing philanthropic aid to these and other black colleges. His speaking tours and  private persuasion tried to equalize public educational opportunities and to reduce racial  violence. These efforts were generally unsuccessful, and the year of Washington's death  marked the beginning of the Great Migration from the rural South to the urban North.  Washington's racial philosophy, pragmatically adjusted to the limiting conditions of his own  era, did not survive the change.

Despite his travels and widespread work, Washington remained as principal of Tuskegee.  Washington's health was deteriorating rapidly; he collapsed in New York City and was  brought home to Tuskegee, where he died on November 14, 1915, at the age of 59. He was  buried on the campus of Tuskegee University near the University Chapel.
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL  (See: Historic Memphis)  – Also known as (BTW) is located at 715 South   Lauderdale, Memphis, Tennessee, is a public secondary school and could this be the most   musical high school in America. Graduates include Phineas Newborn, Calvin Newborn,   Johnny "Ace" Alexander, David Porter, Andrew Love of the Memphis Horns, Maurice White   (founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire), and Booker T. Jones and Al Jackson Jr. of Booker T & the   MG's.

Part of the Memphis City Schools, it serves grades 9-12. The school gained national attention   when U.S. President Barack Obama delivered the school's 2011 commencement address as a   reward for winning the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge.
 
The school was originally founded as the Clay Street School in 1873 and was among the first   public high schools for African Americans in Memphis. It was renamed Kortrecht High School   in 1891. In 1926 a new building was constructed and the school was renamed in honor of   American educator and civil rights leader Booker T. Washington. Further expansions were   completed in the years since, including the Blair T. Hunt Gymnasium, dedicated in 1950. The   school entered and won the 2011 Race to the Top Commencement Challenge, a competition   that "invites public high schools across the country to demonstrate how their school best   prepares (students) for college and a career''. Among the required application materials   were student essays and videos that demonstrated the school's innovation in education. The  accomplishments of the school included increasing graduation rates from 55% in 2007 to 82%   in 2010 through the use of same-gender freshman classrooms and increased teacher   effectiveness. BTW also suffered from and overcame high teen pregnancy and HIV/AIDS   rates. The school beat out more than 450 other applicant schools, and as a reward for this   achievement, President Barack Obama delivered the school's 2011 commencement speech.
1912

African-American George Washington Lee first visited Memphis on a weekend holiday, riding   into the city on the Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railway. Lee, who went on to become one of   Memphis' leading black writers and political powers, was impressed by the city, which by   then boasted two fifteen-story skyscrapers. When he returned in 1912 to settle in Memphis,   the skyline was dominated by the Exchange Building at Second and Madison, nineteen stories  tall, while across the street stood the eighteen-story Central Bank and Trust Company.

Leroy "Lasses" White's "Nigger Blues", Hart Wand and Lloyd Garrett's "Dallas Blues", and  W.C. Handy's "Memphis Blues" all are published within a few months of one another. But in a  sense, the first published "blues" was Nat D. Ayer and Seymour Brown's "Oh, You Beautiful  Doll", a pop hit of 1911 whose opening verse had made knowing use of twelve-bar from. As  Handy was laying the seeds of the jazz and blues legend in Memphis, a young pianist named  Bob Miller was gaining his first jobs on Mississippi River steamboats. Working on the  "Idlewild" and taking in the sounds and sights of river city life - a fusion of danceband jazz,  folk and hillbilly tunes - Bob Miller was inspired to develop a successful pop-country  songwriting career. He had his songs published in Memphis as early as 1923.

James Reese Europe, the music director for Vernon and Irene Castle, leads his Clef Club  Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

The Titanic sinks.

The Mississippi River floods vast areas of Memphis and eastern Arkansas.

First black millionaire, Robert Reed Church died in Memphis, Tennessee.
1912

After his fathers' death, Robert R. Church Jr. becomes the major political and business  leader in black Memphis and the foremost black adviser to national politicians.

The first students enrolls at West Tennessee State Normal School (predecessor to the  University of Memphis).

Woody Gythrie, who was born in 1912, was the original working-class singer songwriter. He  wrote thousands of songs, many of which stand as some of the most important created in  America during the thirties and forties.

MARCH 1912

The first appearance of the word ''blues'' in a piece of music: "The Dallas Blues" by Hart  Wand. The story goes that a black porter overheard Hart playing his violin and the porter  remarked "That give me the blues to go back to Dallas''.

1913

W.C. Handy's music company published a song called "Jogo Blues", which had been written,  or at least performed by a local piano player. The piece was not a commercial success, but a  year later Handy added two more strains to it and published it as "St. Louis Blues". It was this  composition that brought the blues its first large audience. "St. Louis Blues" was significant  not only because it was a major success, but because, as Handy published it, the first strain,  the "Jogo Blues" melody, used the classic blues pattern, both in text and musical form.

JANUARY 13, 1913 MONDAY

Orbie Lee Orbison, Roy Orbison's father, is born in Olustee, Oklahoma. His twin brother Orby  dies at birth.

1913

CHISCA HOTEL  (See: Historic Memphis)  – Built in 1913 and located at 272 South Main Street, Memphis, across Beale Street, Sam Phillips delivered demos to key Memphis disc jockey’s: including Dewey Phillips at WHBQ radio. In 1954, the Chisca Hotel was home to radio station WHBQ and disc jockey Dewey Phillips' program "Red Hot And Blue". Phillips often played new releases from friend and business associate Sam Phillips' record label, Sun Records. On July 7, 1954, Dewey Phillips played SUN 209 over the airways, making him one of the first disc jockey’s to spin a professionally recorded Elvis Presley toward stardom. He was so impressed with Elvis Presley's sound that he played "That's All Right" and the flip side, "Blue Moon Of Kentucky", repeatedly throughout his show.

 

The response to Elvis Presley was overwhelmingly positive. Dewey Phillips wanted Elvis Presley to come in that night for his first radio interview. Sam Phillips called the Presley's at their Alabama Street apartment, but Elvis Presley was no where to be found.

Vernon Presley hunted him down, finding him hiding at the movie theater, Suzore II at 279 North Main Street, because he was too afraid to listen to himself on WHBQ radio. That night Elvis Presley went to the Chisca Hotel where he was interviewed by Dewey Phillips. During the interview Phillips asked Elvis Presley which high school he attended.

The racial climate at the time was so tense, and Elvis' sound so different from that of other white artists, that his racial background was unclear. Elvis Presley's response of "Humes High School, sir", affirmed to listeners that he was white.

Today, the stately Chisca Hotel still stands at the southwest corner of Main Street and Linden Avenue, and used as the headquarters of a church with the name "Church Of God In Christ", and is not open to the public.

On October 2012, the property appears to be on the verge of being saved. The private group has closed on the real estate contract purchasing the Hotel Chiska. It is expected renovation activity may begin during the summer of 2013.

On August 7, 2012, the Memphis City Council voted to conditionally provide $3-million toward the restoration of Hotel Chisca. An investment group reportedly now will proceed with the purchase. Thew group still must provide/obtain private funding for the purchase and millions in restoration costs.

1914

W.C. Handy's "St. Louis Blues" published. W.C. Handy wrote and conducted the song on the   rooftop from the Falls Building at 22 North Front Street in Memphis.

Borrowing an idea from the meatpacking industry, Henry Ford introduces the assembly line   to speed production and lowers the selling price of the Model-T (introduced six years   earlier).

A.S.C.A.P. (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) founded by copyright   attorney Nathan Burkan.

JULY 25, 1914 SATURDAY

Nadine Schultz, Roy Orbison's mother, is born in Wise County, Texas.


1915

Scott Joplin's opera "Treemonisha" is staged in New York.

D.W. Griffith's "The Birth Of A Nation" based on Thomas Dixon's novel "The Klansman" (also   the source for a long-running play), revolutionizes motion pictures and triggers both NAACP   boycotts and the revitalization of the Ku Klux Klan (this time a national, rather than an   exclusively Southern, organization, as antagonistic toward Jewish and Catholic immigrants as   to blacks).

Bert Williams joins the Ziegfeld follies.

The Chicago Automatic Machine and Tool Company invents the jukebox that plays records   (as opposed to the cylinder recordings type of player that had been around since 1889).

The Chicago Automatic Machine & Tool Company invents the jukebox.
JUNE 9, 1915 WEDNESDAY

Les Paul was born. Lester William Polsfuss, known as Les Paul, was an American jazz and  country guitarist, songwriter and inventor. He was a pioneer in the development of the solidbody  electric guitar which made the sound of rock and roll possible. He is credited with  many recording innovations. 

Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early  experiments with overdubbing (also known as sound on sound), delay effects such as tape  delay, phasing effects and multi track recording were among the first to attract widespread  attention.

His innovative talents extended into his playing style, including licks, trills, chording  sequences, fretting techniques and timing, which set him apart from his contemporaries and  inspired many guitarists of the present day. He recorded with his wife Mary Ford in the  1950s, and they sold millions of records.

Among his many honors, Paul is one of a handful of artists with a permanent, stand-alone  exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is prominently named by the music museum on  its website as an "architect" and a "key inductee" along with Sam Phillips and Alan Freed.

On August 12, 2009, Paul died of complications from pneumonia at White Plains Hospital in  White Plains, New York. His family and friends were by his side.
1916

BROOKS MEMORIAL ART GALLERY  (See: Historic Memphis)  - (Now Memphis Brooks Museum of Art) is an art museum in  Memphis, Tennessee. The Brooks Museum, which was founded in 1916, is the oldest and  largest art museum in the state of Tennessee. The museum is a privately funded nonprofit  institution located in Overton Park in Midtown Memphis.

The original Beaux-Arts building, a registered U.S. National Landmark designed by James  Gamble Rogers in 1913, was donated by Bessie Vance Brooks in memory of her husband,  Samuel Hamilton Brooks.
 
The cylindrical extension, opened in 1955, was designed by  Memphis architect Everett Woods. The Brooks’ facilities also include the Brooks Museum  Store, the Brushmark Restaurant, the Holly Court Garden, and a grand terrace that overlooks  the greens and trees of Overton Park. In 1989, the building was expanded and reoriented by  Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. The expansion, which doubled the square footage of the  existing building, included a new public entrance as well as a three-story gallery space  where the old and new buildings join.

The facility consists of 29 galleries, art classrooms, a print study room with over 4,500 works  of art on paper, a research library with over 5,000 volumes, and an auditorium. The  collection has over seven thousand works of art, including paintings, sculptures, drawings,  prints, photographs, and examples of the decorative arts. Of particular note are the Samuel  H. Kress Collection of Renaissance and Baroque paintings, the Hugo N. Dixon Collection of  Impressionist paintings, the Levy Collection of American prints, the Goodman Book  Collection, and the Goodheart Collection of Carl Gutherz paintings, drawings, and archival  material.
SEPTEMBER 6, 1916 WEDNESDAY

Clarence Saunders opens his first Piggly Wiggly store on 79 Jefferson Avenue in Memphis, the  world's first self-service grocery; within a few years there are 2,600 stores nationwide. After  Saunders loses his fortune, the city converts his mansion on Central Avenue into the  Memphis Pink Palace Museum, a museum that is the site of the city's only 1-MAX giant-screen  movie theater, and Planetarium. Though not a musician, Saunders symbolized that same  Memphis maverick spirit seen in the careers of W.C. Handy and Pace and later in Sam  Phillips' Sun Records, Jim Steward and Estelle Axton's Stax label, Kemmons Wilson's Holiday  Inns, Fred Smith's Federal Express, and Isaac Tigret's Hard Rock Cafes and House of Blues  clubs.

In 1923, Saunders lost control of Piggly Wiggly in the mercurial stock market of the day. He  continued in the grocery business with the less artfully named "Clarence Saunders Sole  Owner of My Name" stores, a grocery chain that folded in 1933. Saunders died on December  14, 1953. His legacy continues today in Piggly Wigglys all over the South, as well as in his  Memphis estate.
PIGGLY WIGGLY (CAPITAL LOANS) (BLUES CITY CAFE)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Possibly 1890s, located at 138 Beale  Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this building may have been built during the 1890s but was  significantly altered, perhaps around 1925. In the early 1890s, the first of several  proprietors operated saloons at this location until the late 1910s. One of them, Michael  Dicicco, also owned a grocery store and became a partner in the National Sales and  Exchange Company which dealt in real estate, merchandise, and even stocks.

In 1927 the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain moved in, followed by the Boro Sandwich Shop in  1934. The Boro family had owned the property as early as 1854. By 1940 the store became a  pawn shop, with Capital Loans being the final proprietor in the early 1950s.
1917

The first jazz record was issued in the U.S. when Nick LaRocca’s Original Dixieland Jazz  Band released "The Dixieland Jazz Band One-Step''.

The Bolshevik Revolution.

The United States enters World War I.

The Chicago Defender announces its "Great Northern Drive", urging blacks to flee the South -  an exodus that is already under way.

Birdseye begins to experiment with frozen food, a process not perfected until 1949.

A winter storms paralyses the Memphis region; the Mississippi River freezes over when  temperatures drop far below zero.

Harahan Bridge, the second railroad span over the Mississippi in Memphis, opens roadways  for automobile traffic are added later.

The first jazz releases on cylinder helped to delay the final demise of this format. Leopold  Stokowski, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, began recording for the Victor Company at the  Camden, New Jersey studios.

MARCH 26, 1917 MONDAY

Rufus Thomas is born and was always quick to make sure that you knew he was a city man  first and foremost. In one of his earliest in-depth interviews he told Peter Guralnick, "I was  born in Mississippi just below Collierville, about five miles from the Tennessee line in a little  place called Cayce: its not on anybody's map. That was March 26 1917, (though his social  security records say March 27), but I grew up in Memphis. I been here since I was a year old.  I don't know anything about country life, to tell you the truth''.

Rufus Jr. was the youngest child of Rufus and Rachel Thomas, coming up behind his sisters  Elizabeth, Willie, Eva, and Dorothy and his brother Morris. He did admit that he mould  sometimes go with his mother to visit relatives in the country and that he even picket a  little cotton there as a teenager. ''But that was not a life I wanted to know'', he told forcely  some seventy years later. "No, I was always a city boy, there was always something going, on  there for me to take an interest in. My father worked in several different production plants  around Memphis and my mother worked in domestic, but they both had other interests. My  father was musical, where I got that side from, and my mother was a church woman''. He  told Peter Guralnick his mother had, "what we call mother wit, that deep seated intelligence  that you don't get out of books. That was how I came up''.

Taking his parents' music and wit as inspiration, Rufus soon emerged as someone to  remember from the crowd. His father played harmonica and did a little country dancing, and  it was the latter that appealed to Rufus. He made his performing debut on stage at the Grand  Theater on Beale Street in an elementary school play - hopping on stage like a frog. By the  age of ten, he was struck by the tap-dancing ability of a schoolmate, Edward Martin, and he  soon started copying and then surpassing his friend. He told researcher Rob Bowman: "I don't  know where the drive came from. All I know is that I wanted to be a tap dancer. So I  continued to work, at it, mixing what I had seen with some steps of my own. During those  days there was no such thing as dancing schools for blacks''.

In the ninth grade, Rufus moved to Booker T. Washington High School, and he told about his  meeting with his mentor, Nat D. Williams: "He was a professor, history teacher, at High  School there, and I was involved with him in one thing or another since the first of the  1930s. After he was my teacher in school, he was my teacher on the stage and later on he  was my teacher in radio. He was the first black disc jockey in the mid-South and the emcee  at the amateur shows on Beale Street in the Palace Theater. Nat Williams was an unusual  man, and a good mentor for the young Rufus. Williams had been to University in Nashville at  Tennessee A&I and had worked in New York before he returned to Memphis to teach at  Booker T. Washington. There he became involved with Maurice Hulbert in producing a high  school show known as the BTW Ballet - it had started out in the 1920s as a highbrow  performance put on to raise money for the newly-formed black high school, and did literally  put on ballet performances.

Within a few years the Ballet had broadened its range, with song and tap dance and comedy,  and Williams decided he could accommodate Rufus's homegrown dancing talent. Rufus told  John Floyd that this ''was when things really began happening for me. I had learned the  craft, and the first rehearsal at school Nat D. said to me, What's your name, you want to be  in the Ballet?' and I said 'yeah'. He said let me see your smile, so I had a funny little grin on  my face. and he said, 'you got it. I was put into the musical vaudeville shows, which was a  minstrel show''. Rufus later reflected with disc jockey and writer, Louis Cantor, on the  difference in his black version of the vaudeville minstrel shows, where he appeared  complete with burnt cork on the face and painted lips. ''With folks would put on white put  on red lips to protest. or at least I like to think it was to protest'', he rationalized.

Nevertheless Rufus remained proud of the Ballets. which by his day had moved from the  school premises into the Palace Theater and then to the Ellis Auditorium downtown. He  joked ''the old Ballet was sophisticated and pretty. We had no sophistication and we were  ugly but we had some kinda show''.

Rufus was soon voted the most talented youngster in his school. He told John Floyd: ''I used  to wear the big pants and the big shoes, and the big tie that would hang almost to the floor. I  was hot stuff I was so sharp I could stick up in concrete''. On account of being such a  'character' Nat Williams chose Rufus to help him with comedy routines. ''He chose me out of  a bunch of kids to work with him. Nat was the straight man and I was the comic''.

1917

DAISY THEATER (BEALE STREET BLUES MUSEUM)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - 1917, Sam Zerilla, an Italian immigrant and  a clarinetist with John Philip Sousa's band, built the Pastime Theater, the first movie house  for blacks in Memphis. Sam also built the Daisy Theater, located at 329-331 Beale Street,  which showed mostly films. In 1929 it premiered the short, St. Louis Blues, which starred  the great blues singer Bessie Smith.

Smith, dressed in fancy furs, drove up in a limousine with W.C. Handy. In a scene more  reminiscent of Hollywood, they stepped from their car onto a red carpet which took them  past an enthusiastic crowd into the theater. The facade is Moorish in character with a ribbed  interior some which stretches upward toward a one-half circle of lights. Originally, each side  of the building contained small stores, one a candy shop and the other a shoe shine parlor.  The interior still has the original balcony and wall embellishments. Patrons entered the  theater on either side of the stage which faced the rear.

The Beale Street Blues Museum, this museum does a reasonable, if detached, job of telling  the street's music history. There are plenty of obscure photos, vintage posters, and personal  belongings, along with displays on Ethel waters, Victoria Spivey, and other often-overlooked  female blues singers.

1918-19

Influenza epidemic kills 500,000 in United States, over 21 million people  worldwide.

1919

The underside of the migration; bloody race riots in a number of Northern cities, including  Chicago.

Commercial air travel begins.

Brunswick was founded and acquired Vocalion in 1924. In 1927 Vocalion started a 5000  Country series and Brunswick a 100 Country series. After being acquired by Warner Brothers  created the Melotone label in 1930 and was bought out by ARC. Both the Brunswick and  Vocalion labels ended in February 1933.

Electrical recording was in the experimental stage.

Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra produced the first million seller with Japanese Sandman  coupled with Whispering and began a major new popular music craze that boosted the  record industry throughout the decade.

Garrard Engineering, a subsidiary of the British Crown jewellers, commenced manufacture of  precision clockwork gramophone motors.
1919

LERNER BUILDING (THE BAND BOX: NO. 144 IS VACANT)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - ca. 1900, located at 142-144 Beale  Street is constructed. The date is actually the year the owner removed the third floor. The   building is named for Louis Lerner who purchased the property in 1919. Lerner also owned  174 Beale Street. At different times the building housed various commercial businesses,  including Joseph Safferstone's clothing store and Cohen's Loan Office.

A hotel, named Hotel Clark for most its existence, operated out of the second floor from  1925 until the 1960s. From the early 1930s until after World War II, it was a popular  stopover for visiting jazz musicians, such as Count Basie. Bands rehearsed in one of the  rooms which also hosted frequent after-hours jam sessions.
1919

PALACE THEATER  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Building demolished. Located at 324 Beale Street, on this site stood the  Palace Theater, the entertainment showcase for blacks in the mid-South. Built by Anselmo  Barrasso with Lorenzo and Angelo Pacini, the Palace was the only Memphis theater which  became a member of the Theater Owners and Bookers Association (T.O.B.A.), a circuit of  theaters which catered to black audiences. The theaters were located in an area roughly  bounded by New York, Dallas, Chicago, and Pittsburgh.

In the 1920s, touring shows, such as Bessie Smith's "Steamboat Days" and Ma Rainey's  "Paramount Flappers", crisscrossed the country on the T.O.B.A. circuit.


Along with  vaudeville skits, these shows included blues singers, even opera singers, dancers,  acrobats, jugglers, comics, chorus girls, and an orchestra.

The Palace also showed films and had talent contests. Amateur night originated in the  twenties but its heyday was from the 1930s through the 1950s. It took place on Tuesdays  (later, on Wednesdays), and may have included anything from singers to tire-blowing  competitions. In the mid-1930s, Nat D. Williams, a teacher and historian, and Rufus  Thomas, a young Memphis entertainer, hosted amateur night. Williams, the master of  ceremonies, acted as the straight man to Thomas' tomfoolery. In the early 1940s, Rufus  Thomas took over Williams' role, while Robert "Bones" Couch became the clown. Couch  dressed himself in baggy pants, big enough to fit three men, a funny tie and hat, and a  long coat which nearly reached the floor on his small four-foot eleven-inch frame.

Winners were selected by the volume of audience approval and received either cash,  groceries, or a combination of groceries and cash prizes. Later, anyone who appeared on  stage received one dollar. Limp performances were suffocated by an outpouring of boos,  catcalls, and the stomping of feet. In the 1930s, Angelo Pacini, in his role as the "Lord High  Executioner", added the finishing tough by shooting the act with his pearl-handled  revolver loaded with blanks. "Bones" had a different method.

To escort the act off, he may  have swung onto the stage by means of a rope, screaming like Tarzan, or come out with a  long hook, or beating on a parade drum. Some of the show's winners became big stars, like  B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Al Hibbler, Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, Isaac Hayes, Rufus  Thomas, and the white Elvis Presley.

A Midnight Ramble took place on Thursday nights for white audiences. Sometimes the  attraction was a name jazz orchestra, such as Duke Ellington or Count Basie. At other  times, touring road shows, like The Brown Skin Models, managed by Irwin C. Miller was a  vaudeville show consisting of thirty-five entertainers, put on entertainment strictly for  adults which featured off-colour jokes and scantily-clad chorus girls. The organization's  home base was New York City, although several chorus girls and musicians were from  Memphis.
1920

LOEW'S STATE THEATER  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Memphis movie theater opened in 1925, and located at 152 South  Main Street, where, in 1950, Elvis Presley worked as an usher at $12.75 a week, at the  theater on two separate occasions, beginning in November 1950. A sophomore in high school  at the time, Elvis would arrive home after 5:00 to 10:00 on school nights. After a few  months, his mother asked him to quit because his grades were slipping. When school let out  the following summer, Elvis was hired again.  On December 4, 1956, on the day of the Million Dollar Quartet at Sun Records, the movie  "Love Me Tender" was being shown at Loew's State Theater.
 
On October 17, 1957 Elvis Presley allowed his third MGM movie, "Jailhouse Rock", to  premiere in that same theater. Arthur Groom, still the manager, had a good sense of humour  about this incredible change of fortune. Three weeks before the premier, Arthur posed with  Elvis and an usher's uniform - presumably the same uniform that Elvis Presley had worn -  and told his story for the newspapers. Elvis was welcome to return to his job anytime,  Groom said. With a grin Elvis replied, "Sir, I don't believe I'm ready to go back to my old job  yet". Even Mrs. Groom could not resist teasing her husband. "Well, all I can say, Arthur  Groom, is that you'll work a long while before we own a car as tremendous as that one Elvis  has out there", she chided.

Built in 1920 for founder and manager Arthur Groom, no expense was spared in its  construction, and it was designed as an opulent retreat from everyday life. One could enter  the ornate lobby - decorated with grand columns, gold plating, and chandeliers - and  experience a grandeur normally reserved for the upper class. In the 1930s, the theater  became one of the first air-conditioned buildings in Memphis. The late comedian Freddie  Prize was himself an usher at New York City's Loew's State Theater (it no longer exists).  Other celebrities who have been employed as ushers: Frances Farmer, Carol Burnett (who  was fired), Sylvester Stallone (who was fired), Linda Evans, and Johnny Carson.
 
 
This neglected part of downtown is now being transformed  into the Peabody Place office and shopping development. The Loew’s State Theatre closed in  October 1970, and it was demolished in 1971/1972.
1920

Mamie Smith records "Crazy Blues", the first of the Race Records. Race Records, was the  term used by recording companies at the time for recordings of black artists with the target  audience of black Americans.

Women get the vote.

Westinghouse initiates commercial radio broadcast.

During the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan boasted 4 million members, most of them in the South,  though the Midwest remained a racist hotbed. In Richmond, Indiana, the Gennett record  label kept itself afloat in the twenties alternating recordings by some of the day's best black  jazz and blues musicians with sessions by local Klansmen.

1920s

Radio and the record industry were the commercial forces that began the country music  “revolution” in the 1920s. One of the first radio stations to feature the emerging music was  WSB in Atlanta, which began broadcasting March 16, 1922. Much of the programming on  early country stations centered on live performances. There were no DJs and Country Top  40 back then.

Chicago’s WLS Barn Dance (later called the National Barn Dance) began in 1924.

The Grand Ole Opry, a Nashville offshoot, started broadcasting in 1925. Country musicians  would travel to play at dances, fairs and fiddle contests and promote their performances on  local radio shows that were popping up all over the South.

Radio dominated commercial Country Music during the depression, most people didn’t have  money for records but they could listen to the radio. Radio remained and still remains a vital  influence in Country music. When TV became popular in the early 1950s the radio era (1922- 1950) was essentially over.

1921

Eubie Blake and Noble Sissie's "Shuffle Along".

1922

International Harvester manufactures the first row tractor.

Owned by the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana, the company began in 1916 and in  1922 began issuing some Country related records. The company also issued records on two  of their discount labels: Champion and Superior. The company issued records on the Sears  labels: Challenge, Conqueror, Silvertone, and Supertone.

Established in 1901, Victor was the wealthy and successful label. Country Music began in  1922 and following Dalhart’s smash hit “Wreck Of The Old 97” backed by “Prisoner’s Song”  hired Ralph Peer and signed important artists like Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family.

Mons Remy of Belgium and Messieurs Dolon, Renaux and Debrabant, of France, together  applied for a French patent covering constant linear speed recording.

In England Noel Pemberton Billing independently developed a similar system, UK Patent  195,673/204,728.

Pemberton Billing is also famous for founding the Supermarine Aircraft Company which made  the Schneider Trophy Winners and the Spitfire of World War II.

The words "rock" and "roll", which were black slang for sexual intercourse, appear on record  for the first time, Trixie Smith's "My Baby Rocks Me With One Steady Roll".
JANUARY 5, 1923 FRIDAY

Sam Cornelius Phillips born in Florence, Alabama, on January 5, 1923, the youngest of eight  children from a tenant farming family.

1923

Bessie Smith recorded "Down Hearted Blues" and Ma Rainey recorded "Bo-Weavil Blues".

The Commercial Appeal's radio station WMC was broadcasting Bessie Smith live from the  Beale Palage Midnight Ramble in Memphis, Tennessee.

James P. Johnson's "Running Wild" initiates the Charleston craze.

1923

The record business was becoming seriously depressed by the growing popularity of radio.

Portable recording systems were used on location in the early 1920s to wax records  featuring artists that probably would not travel to New York. The first Country recording  done on location was the 1923 Fiddlin’ John Carson session in Atlanta by Brockman and Peer  for Okeh. The famous 1927 Bristol Sessions were held in Bristol, Tennessee.

Tony Russell: “Between the summer of 1923 and the summer of 1927, the five major record  companies, Victor, Columbia, OKeh, Brunswick and Gennett, conducted forty-four recording  trips, visiting thirteen cities in eleven states: from Atlanta, New Orleans and Dallas to St  Louis, Salt Lake City and Buffalo. These forty-four trips produced a total of 2,067 recordings.  Some were of country music, or, as it was often called at that period, ‘old-time music’; some  were of African-American or, as it was then labeled by the record companies, ‘race’ music,  predominantly blues, gospel and jazz; some were of jazz and other kinds of dance music by  white players; and some of standard popular songs. Certain locations offered regional  specialties: part of the reason why Gennett Records went to St Paul, Minnesota, in May 1927  was to record the fiddle and accordion music of Norwegian Americans in and around the  Twin Cities.

Of those 2,067 recordings, approximately 40 per cent are of old-time music. It is by some  degree the largest category. African-American blues, gospel and jazz account for 25 per  cent, and the remainder is a motley of popular songs, dance music by white bands, non- Anglophone vernacular music and a small percentage of unidentified masters. That last  category may be deduced from numerical gaps in the record companies’ master lists, where  recordings were presumably made but damaged, lost or found to be technically inadequate;  at any rate, they were never issued. Some of those unrecoverable recordings must also have  been by performers of old-time music, so the final proportion of old-time music, in the total  of location recordings, must approach 50 per cent.”

Fiddlin' John Carson recorded, "The Little Old Cabin In The Lane", arguably the first white  rural (or "hillbilly") record for Okeh Records.

Bob Miller moves from Memphis to New York, Miller became known for tunes like "Eleven  Cent Cotton" and "Forty Cent Meat" and the wartime hillbilly favourite recorded by Elton  Britt and others, "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere". All this, of course,  told the world nothing about the real blues and hillbilly music of the mid-South. This would  only come to light, gradually, during the late 1920s when the large, northern recording  companies recognised a possible market for down to earth rural blues and folk music.

George Hay, columnist with the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper when the company  branched out into radio and opened WMC as Memphis' first radio station. Hay was drafted in  as one of the first announcers on the station. He would leave for Chicago the following year.  Had he not, it is just conceivable that the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville might eventually have  been spawned in Memphis rather than Nashville.

Commercial Appeal newspaper won a Pulitzer Price for its campaign against the Ku Klux  Klan, the Commercial Appeal was fighting a losing battle.

Owned by the General Phonograph Company, Okeh began recording Country Music in 1923  with Fiddlin’ John Carson. Okeh and A & R director Ralph Peer were instrumental in  initiating the Country Music craze in the early 1920s.

SEPTEMBER 17, 1923 MONDAY

Hiram King "Hank" Williams is born in Olive, Alabama. Hank Williams will become country  music's greatest icon and most (second) imitated performer.

1924

Papa Charlie Jackson recorded "Papas Lawdy, Lawdy Blues".

George Gershwin writes "Rhapsody In Blue".

Columbia Country recordings were issued primarily on their 15000-D series started in 1924  directed by Frank Walker who recorded Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett. In November 1926  Columbia merged with Okeh. Columbia had several smaller labels that issued Country  recordings: Harmony,Velvet Tone, Clarion and Diva.

Owned by the Wisconsin Chari Company in 1917, Paramount began its Country 33000 series  in 1924. They also issued Country Music on the Broadway series.

The Vocalion company starts a series called "Special Records for Southern States" that will  issue "hillbilly" records.
1924

FRED L. SCHWANTZ/SIGMUND FEDER (B.B. KING'S CLUB)  (See: Historic Memphis)  - 1924, crockery and clothing store  built, located at 139-145 Beale Street to an alteration in the street. As a result the building  which housed F.L. Schwantz and Company )grocers and dealers in cigars and tabacco) and S.  Fedres Brothers (clothing) were torn down. Both business had been at their original location  since 1896. However, they continued their enterprises in the new building.

Schwantz went  out business in 1935, being replaced by the Dixie Liquor Store, while the Feder Brothers  continued at the same location until the early 1950s.

After construction of the new building, black physicians, dentists, lawyers, and insurance  and real estate agents, among others, had offices on the second floor. Beginning in 1944, the  second floor was referred to as the "Colored Business Exchange Building".
1925

LORRAINE MOTEL (NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM  (See: Historic Memphis)  – In Memphis, Tennessee, USA, is a  privately owned complex of museums and historic buildings built around the former Lorraine  Motel at 450 Mulberry Street, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4,  1968.

The complex is owned by the nonprofit Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation. It is   located on the south edge of Downtown Memphis, Tennessee in what is now called the South   Main Arts District and is about six blocks east of the Mississippi River.

Major components of the complex on 4.14 acres include a museum which traces the history  of the Civil Rights Movement from the 17th century to the present, the Lorraine Motel and  hotel buildings as well as the Young and Morrow Building at 422 Main Street on the west side  of Mulberry up a small hill across the street from the motel which was the site where James  Earl Ray initially confessed (and later recanted) to shooting King from a second story  bathroom window as well as the Canipe’s Amusement Store at 418 Main Street next door to  the rooming house where the alleged murder weapon with Ray's fingerprints was found.  Included on the grounds is the brushy lot that stood between the rooming house and the  motel where a differing theory says the fatal shot came from a different weapon at ground  level in a conspiracy involving Loyd Jowers who operated Jim's Grill which opened onto the  lot.

Wide view shot of the Lorraine Hotel and the boarding house from where James Earl Ray was  alleged to have fired the fatal shots. Police say the shots were fired from the second floor  bathroom window (to the left of the pole). The first hotel on the site was the 16 room  Windsor Hotel built on the northern side of the complex around 1925 which was renamed  the Marquette Hotel. Walter Bailey purchased it in 1945 and renamed it for his wife Loree  and the song ''Sweet Lorraine''. During segregation it was an upscale accommodation that  catered to a black clientele. He added a second floor and then drive up access for more  rooms on the south side of the complex converting the name from Lorraine Hotel to Lorraine  Motel. Its guests included musicians going to Stax Records including Ray Charles, Lionel  Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and Wilson
Pickett.

Following the assassination of King, Bailey left Room 306 outside of which King was  assassinated and the adjoining room 307 unoccupied as a memorial to King. Bailey's wife  Loree, who suffered a stroke hours after the assassination, died five days later. He  converted the other motel rooms to single room occupancy.

Bailey worked with Chuck Scruggs, program director of WDIA and attorney D'Army Bailey, to  raise funds to "Save the Lorraine" in the newly formed Martin Luther King Memorial  Foundation and bought the motel on the Shelby County Courthouse steps for $144,000  following foreclosure in December 1982. It changed its name to Lorraine Civil Rights Museum  Foundation in 1984. The Lorraine closed as a motel on March 2, 1988 when sheriff's deputies  forcibly evicted the last holdout tenant, Jacqueline Smith, in preparation for an $8.8 million  overhaul.

Bailey died in July 1988. Smithsonian Institution curator Benjamin Lawless created a design  for saving historical aspects. The Nashville, Tennessee firm McKissack and McKissack, which  claims to be the oldest minority owned architect firm in the United States, was tapped to  design a modern museum on grounds of the motel that were not directly related to the  assassination.

The museum was dedicated on July 4, 1991 and officially opened to the public on  September 28, 1991. In 1999 the Foundation acquired the Young and Morrow Building and its  associated vacant lot on a hill on the west side of Mulberry. A tunnel was built under the lot  connecting it with the motel. The Foundation became the custodian of the police and  evidence files associated with the assassination including the rifle and fatal bullet which are  on display in a 12,800 sq. foot exhibit in the building which opened September 28, 2002.
The Lorraine Motel had not only guests, but residents as well. The last resident of the motel,  Jacqueline Smith, had resided there since 1973 as part of her work for the motel as a  housekeeper. When faced with eviction for the museum project, Smith barricaded herself in  her room and had to be forcibly evicted.

The neighborhood surrounding the Lorraine Motel was a lower-income, predominantly black  area. At the time, the area had run-down homes that rented for $175 a month. The homes  were demolished and later replaced with more expensive apartments and condominiums, as  part of the rejuvenation of the downtown area.
 
 
Smith stated that the Lorraine "should be  put to better uses, such as housing, job training, free college, clinic, or other services for  the poor...the area surrounding the Lorraine should be rejuvenated and made decent and  kept affordable, not gentrified with expensive condominiums that price the people out of  their community." She has also stated that Dr. King would not have wanted $9 million spent  on a building for him, and would not have wanted Lorraine Motel residents to be evicted.

Smith has maintained a vigil across the street from the Lorraine Motel for up to 21 hours per  day for over 20 years, regardless of weather. She still holds vigil outside the Lorraine,  although not as consistently as she has in the past.
1925

The first electrical recordings were issued by Victor and Colombia in the US.

In March, Alfred Cortot electrically recorded works by Chopin and Schubert in Victor's  Camden Studios.

The first commercial electrical recording prompted all other major companies to follow suit.  In June Jack Hylton and his Orchestra used the technique to record Feelin Kind O Blue at the  HMV Studios at Hayes, Middlesex. HMV also released the first electrically recorded  symphony.

Calvin Dixon becomes the first black preacher to record a sermon; he is quickly followed by  Blind Joe Taggart (the first of the "guitar evangelists") and the Reverends J.M. Gates, J.C.  Burnett, and A.W. Nix, among others.

Before 1925, recordings were made by the so-called "acoustic" method. The performers  played or sang into large horns and the vibrations were transmitted to a stylus, which cut on  to a master disc. The new electric systems featured microphones instead of the acoustic  horn. In 1924 Western Electric first offered to license its new electrical equipment to Victor.  Eldridge Johnson at first refused Western Electric, only to find his hand forced after  Columbia adopted the process. By late February 1925 Western Electric’s equipment was in  use in Victor's Camden, New Jersey, studio.

The term "hillbilly" is first used in commercial country music.

FEBRUARY 26, 1925 THURSDAY

On this day, Victor and Western Electric engineers oversaw the first electrical recording  session that would produce usable masters for Victor. For the occasion, eight performers  were summoned to Camden—vocalists Billy Murray, Henry Burr, Albert Campbell, John H.  Meyer, and Frank Croxton; comedian Monroe Silver; saxophonist Rudy Wiedoeft; and pianist  Frank Banta. The group recorded a “Miniature Concert” on two 12" masters, the contents  were noted on the Victor Recording Book sheet.

According to Paul Oliver, 750 sermons are recorded over the next 12 years.

Publication of the anthology "The New Negro", a touchstone of the Harlem Renaissance,  edited by Alain Locke; contributors include Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, and  Zora Neal Hurston. Includes essays on jazz and spirituals, though none on blues.

Development of the 35-millimeter camera makes it possible to shoot "candid" photographs in  natural light, without flashbulbs.

Just as recording companies realised during the 1920s that there was a market for real blues  and hillbilly music rather than the popularised versions first heard on cylinder and records,  so the fledging radio industry soon turned to folk artists to sell certain products over the air.  Country musicians, and bluesmen, were particularly in demand for shows sponsored by  agricultural product companies and the like. In the early days of radio, the 1920s, airtime  was much more limited to country musicians than became the case later on, particularly  during the 1940s and early 1950s. Back in the 1920s, hillbilly music was likely to be heard  mainly in a barn-dance format pioneered by stations such as WLS in Chicago and WSM in  Nashville. Ironically, the founder of WSM's hugely influential Grand Ole Opry programs, which  started in Nashville on November 28, 1925, George D. Hay, had gained his first radio  experience in Memphis.

The second radio station, WHBQ, appears in Memphis, in March 1925. This is followed by  WGBC (1925) and WNBR (1927), the latter owned by another newspaper, the Memphis Press- Scimitar. These stations combined to become WMPS in 1937 and develop into the largest  station in town when taken over in 1947 by Plough Incorporated. The top news and  information radio station is WREC which moved to Memphis in 1929 from earlier locations in  Coldwater, Mississippi and Whitehaven, Tennessee. Other stations followed these into a  regional market which, by the 1940s, is the eleventh largest in the USA. The other stations  include KWEM in West Memphis and WHHM.

Tom Lee becomes a national hero when he rescues some 30 passengers from the Mississippi  River after the steamboat M.E. Norman overturns near Memphis.

Southwestern (now Rhodes College) moves to Memphis from Clarksville, Tennessee.

WGBC - Actually, WGBC (which stood for the World's Greatest Bible Class), owned by the First  Baptist Church of Memphis, signed on the air for the first time in November 1924. The  church operated a 10-watt transmitter from its location at Linden and Lauderdale,  broadcasting a weekly men's Bible class each Sunday. It was silent the remainder of the  week. Eventually the church's license was bought out by WNBR and operated as WGBCWNBR,  then just as WNBR prior to being purchased by the Memphis Press-Scimitar in 1937.

Many thanks for Skip Howard, church archivist for the historic First Baptist Church of Memphis, for  correct information of WGBC.
NOVEMBER 28, 1925 SATURDAY

The Barn Dance Format Launches - The show that will become the Grand Ole Opry radio  "barn dance" program begins its run on WSM radio out of Nashville, Tennessee. It will grow to  be the most popular and important program of its kind and launch the careers of many of  country music's biggest stars.

1926

Texas Blind Lemon Jefferson recorded "That Black Snake Moon" in Chicago. The success of  these recordings revolutionized Race Records, which had previously relied on female band  vocalists with established reputations.

Jelly Roll Morton's "Dead Man Blues" and "Black Bottom Stomp" were recorded.

Duke Ellington's first recording of his "East St. Louis Toodle-Ooo".

Carl Van Vechten's "Nigger Heaven"; Vanity Fair publishes Van Vechten's essay on "Negro  Blues Singers".

Year of birth of Dewey Phillips, who grows up in the small town of Adamsville, West  Tennessee.

Jimmie Lunceford, a gym teacher from the Manasas High School in North Memphis, formed a  school band the Chickasaw Syncopaters went in 1927 professional, and within a few years,  with Jimmy Crawford on drums and Memphian Moses Allen on bass, the Lunceford big band  was earning a reputation as the most danceable black swing band. Memphis remained  Lunceford's adopted home, and when he died in 1947 he was buried there. Lunceford  definitely had the 'Memphis thing', that combination of versatility and showmanship that he  shared with W.C. Handy, Buster Bailey, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Otis Redding, and the other  Memphis music stars.

1927

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein "Il's Show Boat".

The Great Mississippi River Flood.

Al Jolson wears blackface for "The Jazz Singer", the first "talkie".

Charles Lindbergh crosses the Atlantic.

The man who first discovered local Memphis music was Victor's Ralph Peer(*) who brought  portable recording equipment to the city between February 24 and March 1, 1927. Using the  McCall Building downtown as a studio, he recorded 34 tunes, mostly blues, and comes back  during the three succeeding years building up a strong roster of blues which include Will  "Son Brimmer" Shade's Memphis Jug Band, Cannon's Jug Stompers and Tommy Johnson. On  the first trip in 1927 Peer recorded 26 titles by black blues or gospel artists, 4 by a jazz  band, and 4 by a white gospel septet. There is no white country music as such. It was a  historic occasion; those Victor sessions by the Memphis Jug Band were the first commercial  recordings ever made in the state of Tennessee.

Jim Jackson, a Hernando, Mississippi, native became the first solo Memphis blues star with  his Vocalion recording "Jim Jackson's Kansas City Blues". It can be heard in the banjo-esque,  open-tuned guitar of Furry Lewis.

The Sears, Roebuck mail-order company was closely allied with radio Station WLS in Chicago.  They issued records recorded by other companies. Their first Country label was Challenge in  1927 followed by Conqueror, Silvertone and Supertone.

FEBRUARY 3, 1927 THURSDAY

Future country, rockabilly, and Sun Records artist, Luke Jefferson McDaniel is born in Laurel,  Mississippi to Jesse and Viola McDaniel.
1927

THE ORPHEUM THEATER  (See: Historic Memphis)  - Rapp and Rapp, Chicago, Architects. 203 South Main Street on the  corner of Beale. At one time the site of the C.B. Bryan Wood and Coal Yard. It was replaced,  in 1889, by the Hopkins Grand Opera House. The Chickasaw Guards, a nationally recognized  military unit of the Tennessee National Guard, used the opera house as their headquarters.  The Orpheum Vaudeville Theater Circuit purchased the building in 1908. The theater,  destroyed by fire in 1923, was replaced by the present structure in 1928, the spectacular  structure found its niche for decades as the Malco Theater, the most popular movie house in  town.
 
Today, the new Orpheum showed films and booked nationally-known vaudeville acts  and top-match orchestras. After years of neglect, the Memphis Development Foundation  restored the theater to its original condition. It opened in 1984.

In 1997, the Orpheum Theater celebrating its 70th anniversary, the Orpheum's 1998-1999  Broadway show schedule includes Camelot, Chicago, Peter Pan, Rent, Miss Saigon, and  Jekyll and Hyde. The Orpheum is also home to Ballet Memphis, Opera Memphis, and  frequent performances by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Other hosted events include  the Annual Orpheum Auction Gala, the Summer Movie Series, the Annual Art and Antique  Action, and other special events and concerts.
JULY 1927

First Country Stars Recorded at Bristol - During the first week of August, Ralph Peer makes  the recordings of the now famous "Bristol Sessions" in Bristol, Tennessee, introducing fans to  the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, the two most influential acts in the early history of  country music.

NOVEMBER 1927

The Opry begins its official run at WSM's Saturday night "barn dance" program officially  becomes the Grand Ole Opry.
 
DECEMBER 3, 1927 SATURDAY

Texas born Blind Willie Johnson records in Dallas, Texas. These and all of his subsequent  recordings blurred the lines between blues and gospel music.

RALPH SYLVESTER PEER - (1892-1960) Music publisher and talent scout. Although Peer was  born in Kansas City, Mo. on May 22, 1892, and although he never expressed a great fondness  for southern folk music, Ralph Sylvester Peer became the single most important  entrepreneur for country and blues recordings. He discovered, or was instrumental in the  careers of, dozens of southern artists, both black and white, including Louis Armstrong, the  Memphis Jug Band, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Mamie Smith, the Georgia Yellow
Hammers, Fiddlin' John Garson, Ernest Stoneman, Grayson and Whitter (with their initial  recording of the murder balled "Tom Dooley"), the Reverend J.M. Gates (one of the first  black preachers to record extensively), the Reverent Andrew Jenkins (a prolific 'event song'  composer of items like "The Death Of Floyd Collins"), and Gene Autry (who began as an  imitator of Jimmie Rodgers). He initiated the practice of bringing recording crews into the  South to document black and white folk music; he created the idea of having "blues" and  "hillbilly" numerical series on commercial phonograph records; he was one of the first to  publish and copyright country and blues songs; and he became in the 1930s and 1940s an  innovative and trent-setting publisher of international reputation.

Peer's father was a Columbia Record Company phonograph dealer in Independence, Mo., and  by the time he was 20, Ralph Peer was working full time in the retail record business. By  1920 he was in New York working for the Okeh Record Company (actually the General  Phonograph Corporation), then one of the smaller of the record companies and one looking  for ways to get an edge on their bigger competitors. They found one when, on August 10,  1920, Peer recorded black Cincinnati vaudeville performer Mamie Smith singing "Crazy  Blues", a composition by a Georgia native named Perry Bradford. The record sold 7,500  copies a week after its release and became the first in a long line of commercial recordings  of blues by black artists. Three years later, in June 1923, Peer stumbled into a similar  discovery for white folk music; on a field trip to Atlanta he recorded a millhand and radio  personality named Fiddlin' John Carson. Peer thought Carson's singing was "puperfect awful"  but agreed to release his rendition of "The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane", an 1871 pop  song by Will Hays. It duplicated the success of "Crazy Blues", and soon Peer had initiated an  "old-time music" record series on Okeh to parallel its blues series.

From 1923 to 1932 Peer made dozens of trips into southern cities such as Dallas, El Paso,  Nashville, Memphis, Atlanta, New Orleans, Charlotte, Bristol, and others seeking out and  recording on the spot hundreds of blues, gospel, jazz, country, Cajun, and Tex-Mex  performers. On one such trip, to the Virginia-Tennessee border town of Bristol in August  1927, he discovered two acts that were to become cornerstones for commercial country  music - the Carter Family and "blue yodeler" Jimmie Rodgers.

Dominating all of this, though, was Peer's unusual interest in both black and white music,  and his perception of ways in which the two could mutually influence each other. He  theorized that both genres were just emerging from their vernacular regional base into the  national limelight. He encouraged acts like the Allen Brothers, the Carolina Tar Heels, and  Jimmie Rodgers to incorporate blues into their music, and felt that this was one of the  reasons that Rodgers enjoyed a wider national appeal than did the Carters.

In 1925 Ralph Peer left the Okeh Company and went to work for the Victor Company, trading  his huge Okeh salary for more modest gains but an additional incentive; the right to control  the copyrights on the new song materials recorded by his artists. Peer began to look for  artists who could create original material that he could copyright for them and place in his  newly formed Southern Music Publishing Company (1928); such artists would get payment  not only for records but for song performance rights as well. The increased emphasis on new  material encouraged many blues and part-time country singers to become professionals and  prompted the music as a whole to become more commercialized. And throughout the 1930s  and 1940s he continued to build a publishing empire (which exists today as one of the  country's largest, the Peer-Southern organization) and to excel even at casual hobbies, such  as horticulture, for which he received a gold medal for his important work. Though in later  years he expressed disdain for the country and blues artists he developed ("I've tried so hard  to forget them", he told a reporter), and though some of his artists felt that he had exploited  them, Peer laid the foundation for the commercialization of American vernacular music and  thrust the rich southern folk music tradition into the mainstream of American popular music.

PEER'S LATER YEARS

After securing sole control of his copyrights, Peer exited Victor to concentrate on the  international music market, establishing Southern Music offices in London, Paris, Rome,  Madrid, Mexico City, and Havana. While the outbreak of World War II threatened to curtail  Peer's global ambitions, at home he dealt with the American Society of Composers, Authors,  and Publishers' 1941 decision to pull its copyrights from radio in a royalties dispute.  Southern negotiated with ASCAP's rival Broadcast Music Inc. to license the adapted Latin  American songs Peer had collected for years, giving traditional standards like "Perfidia,"  "Brazil," and "Besame Mucho" new life on U.S. radio, and though ASCAP's radio boycott lasted  only a few weeks, the opening was enough to establish BMI as a true contender to the  publishing throne.

Following the war, Peer changed course again, signing contemporary classical composers like  Charles Ives, Jean Sibelius, and Virgil Thomson, and Southern Music's catalog only grew in  value with the advent of rock & roll, as acts including Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the  Platters, and the Rolling Stones made its old songs new all over again. But by this time Peer  devoted much of his time and energy to horticulture, becoming director of the American  Horticultural Society in 1959. He died in Los Angeles on January 19, 1960.
1927

THE TALKING MACHINE COMES TO MEMPHIS - There is an old adage that Nashville is the capital of Tennessee and Memphis  is the capital of Mississippi. Geographically isolated from most of the state, Memphis has always looked south toward the Delta,  rather than east toward Nashville, for the commerce that sustained it. As in life, so in music. By the mid-1920s record companies  had started to bring portable recording equipment into the South, usually setting up shop in a hotel, staying for a few days, then  moving on.

When Ralph Peer, representing the Victor Talking Machine Company, set up makeshift studios in Tennessee in 1927, he  captured entirely different musical traditions at the two extremes of the state.

In the far northwest corner, the city of Bristol yielded Appalachian folk ballads grounded in the Anglo-Celtic traditions. In Memphis,  Peer recorded mostly jug band music, jazz, and blues, music with African-American roots. Using a room in the McCall Building as a  temporary studio, Peer recorded thirty-four tunes between February 24 and March 1 of that year. He returned during the three  succeeding years to build up a strong roster of bluesmen and jug bands, laying the groundwork for the city's first recording boom,  which, in common with similar groundswells in most other regional centers, simply evaporated during the Great Depression.

Some of Sam Phillips' earliest recordings, which featured jug band veteran Charlie Burse and other artists who had recorded before  the war, such as Jack Kelly and Sleepy John Estes, harked back to the traditions Peer had drawn upon. Otherwise, the scene had  changed completely by the time Phillips picked up the threads.
1928

The Radio Corporation of America (RCA) bought the Victor Talking Machine Company.

Leroy Carr's "How Long - How Long Blues", Tampa Red and Georgia Tom's "It's Tight Like  That", and Clarence Pine Top" Smith's "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" were recorded. Louis  Armstrong's "West End Blues" and "Weather Bird" recorded. The Southern drought described  in Son House's "Dry Spell Blues".

The curtain goes up at the Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, built downtown on the site of the  Grand Opera House. The building becomes the Malco movie theatre in 1940, and re-opens as  a performing-arts center - again called The Orpheum - in 1984.

White blues and ragtime duo Austin and Lee Allen were mistakenly placed in Columbia  Records "race" section, the Franklin, Tennessee, natives sued their record company for  $250,000. Yet it was hardly a random error; musically the Allen Brothers records fit the  "race" section far more than some of the countrified material put out by such black string  bands as the Mississippi Sheiks.

Mississippi John Hurt made the trip to Memphis from Avalon, just north of Greenwood. He  came to record for Okeh, on the suggestion of his friends Shell Smith and Willie Narmour.

Texas Alexander recorded "Texas Easy Street Blues", a typical holler-style blues.


Continued: History Of Memphis 2
 

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