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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 Church
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 Palace 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 Palace 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 Park
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 Street Blues Museum)
Lerner Building
Palace Theater
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


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


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, Thesenpapiers 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.


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


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


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.


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.


JOHN OVERTON > The Mayors of 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 Interstate40 which otherwise spans the North American continent.


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 clientèle. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 > 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 flat boatmen 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 - fueled 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 blowin 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 the1990s 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 lunch box, 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 1984Memphis population was 648,00.

MISSISSIPPI RIVER > 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 in1803, 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 mid-western 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 Commissioning 1879, enlisted some of those soldiers in the efforts to control flooding and maintain navigation. Supplemented by flood ways 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 19721,683,8 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.


English performer Charles Matthews travelled through America collecting African-American dialects, stories, songs, and mala-props 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.


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.


Marcus B. Winchester, son of Memphis' co-founder, 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.


The first yellow fever epidemic here causes 150 deaths.


The first Memphis whorehouse opened his doors, but years before that prostitutes were already freelancing up and down the muddy streets. Whiskey 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 whiskey 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 musician 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 1828from 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 black face and "Jump Jim Crow".


Nat Turner's slave rebellion.


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 120years 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 infashionable drawing rooms where its delicate catgut strings were primly plucked by the lily-white fingers of cultured young ladies.


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.


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.


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 the1840s, 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 we reestablished in the western part of Beale near Main Street.

BEALE STREET, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE > Beale Street < - 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 the1880s 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 ears 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 blues men, 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 rough and-tumble hustlers moved in and out of the Hole In The Wall, Midway, and Panama, thereof 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.


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 > Memphis Business Buildings < 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. In1847 the paper began daily publication, except on Mondays, and published weekly and tri weekly 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 slave sand 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, Dilland 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, arrival 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 > Historic and Beautiful Memphis Homes < - (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 join edit 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 June1862, 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 troop store 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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


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


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

Frenchman Leon Scott invented the phone autograph 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.


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.


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


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.


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


Emancipation Proclamation.


ABRAHAM SCHWAB DRY GOOD STORE > A. Schwab Dry Good Store < - 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 early1950s. 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 are markable 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.


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 260,000people, 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 shape note 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.


THE WILLIAM M. RANDOLPH MANSION (ORIGINAL BUILDING DEMOLISHED) > Historic Memphis Buildings < A super example 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.


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.


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 saloonkeeper 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.


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 Egyptian, 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.


FIRST BAPTIST BEALE STREET CHURCH (HISTORICAL FIRST BAPTIST BEALE CHURCH) > Memphis Historic Churches < - 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 1867construction 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.


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.


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 April6, 1868, at Hernando and Beale Street, the group's hierarchy was found to unclude an assassination committee targeting prominent Re constructionists.


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 in1868.


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


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.


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".


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


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.


W.C. Handy was born in Florence, Alabama.

W.C. HANDY > W.C. Handy and His Memphis Blues < - (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 blackmen 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 Playboy 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 28years 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 Herman 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 it sway 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 the1930s, 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. In1947, 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 > W.C. Handy and His Memphis Blues < - 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.


Custer's last stand of Little Big Horn.


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 speaker horn - a vast improvement over Leon Scotts' "phone autograph" 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 it sway 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.


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.


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 Italy's 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 Auxeto phones but they were eventually used for other purposes.


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


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, jockey sand 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 >  Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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 back room 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. Anew building was constructed in the 1980s.


THE HIGBEE SCHOOL FOR GIRLS (MEMPHIS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CENTER - ORIGINAL BUILDING DEMOLISHED) > Memphis Higbee School > - 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 adormitory. 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 onetime, the facility contained the headquarters for over 50 different unions.


BENSIECK BUILDING (ENTRANCE TO RUM BOOGIE CAFE) > Historic Memphis < - ca. 1921, is constructed. Located at182-184 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 therewith the Palace Theater, sponsoring events and acting as a ticket outlet.


The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.


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.


OAKEY'S SALOON (BEALE STREET BARBECUE) > 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.


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 byte Tennessee Supreme Court.

IDA WELL-BARNETT > Ida Well and Peoples Grocery < - (1862-1931) Journalist and social activist. On July 16, 1862, Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, a future journalist, club women, and militant anti lynching 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 of14, 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 Weeks 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. In1895 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 anti lynching 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, FerdinantL. 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) > The Historic Memphis Clubs < - 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. It a window heads are cast-iron. From 1896through 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.


A. GREENER AND SONS (NOW HARD ROCK CAFE) > The Historic Memphis Clubs < - 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 black owned 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.


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, brothel sand 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.


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.


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.


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


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.


The Oklahoma Landrush.


MORRIS LIPPMAN BUILDING (NOW KING'S PALACE CAFE) > Historic Memphis < - before 1890-facade redone in1919, was built before 1890. Located at 166 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee. Although as tone 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.


SAM SLAKY SHOE REPAIR (BLUES CITY CAFE) > 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.


COMMERCIAL LOAN OFFICE (SAM'S TOWN) > Historic Memphis < - before 1890, was built before 1890. Located at168 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.


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.


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


THE MONARCH SALOON (MEMPHIS VISITORS INFORMATION CENTER) > The Monarch Saloon < - 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 1902through 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 big time 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.


BEALE AVENUE MARKET/HANDY SQUARE BUILDING (ALFRED'S) ELVIS PRESLEY'S MUSIC NOTE > Historic Memphis Buildings < -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.


LIPPMAN'S/NATHAN NOVICK'S LOAN OFFICE (BLUES HALL/PART OF RUM BOOGIE CAFE) > Historic Memphis Buildings < - 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 the1930s the store fronts were remodeled 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.


HAMMITT ASHFORD'S SALOON (BUILDING DEMOLISHED) > Historic Memphis Buildings < - 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 watering hole 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 tie pin. 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, an eighbourly place where one could relax and sip an ice cream soda or leave a message for a friend.


MIDWAY CAFE (BUILDING DEMOLISHED) > 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.


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


GALLINA BUILDING (SILKY'S O'SULLIVAN'S PATION) > Historic Memphis Buildings < - 1891, constructed by architect J.C. Al-sup, 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. Al-sup 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 racehorse 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 1880sEdgar 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 stone mantled 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".


THE RANDOLPH BUILDING (THE ELVIS PRESLEY STATUE) > Historic Memphis Buildings < – 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.


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.


First public showing of an Edison kine scope.

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.


Pathe Freres


EPSTEIN'S LOAN OFFICE (ENTRANCE TO KING'S PALACE CAFE) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 1894 was built. Located at162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this stylish building features a cast-iron storefront, 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.


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) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 1895, was built. Located at146-152 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 tithe 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.


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 19thcenturyminstrelsy. 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-and dance 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" apart 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 by1868, 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 1895codified 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.


THE RIECHMAN-CROSBY CO. WAREHOUSE (BEALE STREET LANDING) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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.


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) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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 horse racing, 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 at327 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 back room for gambling and a hidden quantity of bootleg liquor. Jimmy Turpin operated the games which had three shifts and ran all night. In 1929McCullough 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.


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


BEALE STREET MARKET HOUSE AND COLD STORAGE PLANT (HANDY PARK) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - Weathers and Weathers, architects 1898, located north side of Beale between Third and Hernando,Memphis, Tennessee. The market house, 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 secondhand 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 market house included a large number of black business. In 1930 the market house 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.


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.


ROBERT CHURCH PARK > Historic Memphis Parks < - 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 1899on 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 convention sand meetings took place, including those of the Lincoln Republican League and the NAACP. Many national theatrical troupes, 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.


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 - After the Civil War many black leaders worked for equal status between blacks and whites. The most prominent spokesman for this aspiration in the early20th 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 abroad 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 than200,000 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 inner
-city 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 byte vast majority of whites. Congress debated numerous proposals to restrict his practice. In1974 the Supreme Court ruled against busing across school districts lines to intergenerational between suburban areas and the inner city. Affirmative action policies in employment and university admissions were widely perceived as favoritism 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.


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.


WATSON BUILDING (WEARABLE ART/GESTINE'S GALLERY) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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.


MORRIS PINSTEIN (THIS IS IT) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - ca. 1900, an women's furnishing was constructed. Located at167-169 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 from1929 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.


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.


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 in1967. 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.


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 Wright 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) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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 at170 Beale Street and eventually took over the entire building.


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


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


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 Bankand 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 - 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.


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.


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.


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.


ELK'S CLUB (HOTEL MEN'S IMPROVEMENT CLUB) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - building demolished. 1908. Located at 401 Beale Street, the Improvement Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, black branch, was organized 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 1939the 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 Chauffeur'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".


MUTUAL FURNITURE CO. (SILKY'S O'SULLIVAN) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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 Panza 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.


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 > E.H. Crump of 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, bu this 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 in1954. 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 skillful politician,Crump wielded more power outside his own city than any other urban boss in the South.


The National Urban League is founded and organized.


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 20thcenturies. 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 back country, 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, petit bourgeoisgoals 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 Leaguein 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 owner a, 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 > Historic Memphis Schools < – 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/AIDSrates. 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.


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 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 dance band 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.


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''.


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.


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


CHISCA HOTEL > Historic Memphis Hotels < -  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.


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.


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


Scott Joplin's opera "Remonstration" 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.


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 solid body 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 the1950s, 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 onits 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.


BROOKS MEMORIAL ART GALLERY > Historic Memphis Museums < - (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 Beau-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.


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 Bluesclubs.

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 December14, 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) > Piggly Wiggly < - 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 in1934. 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.


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.


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 any body'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 the1930s. After he was my teacher in school, he was my teacher on the stage and later on hews 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 bein 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''.


DAISY THEATER (BEALE STREET BLUES MUSEUM) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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.


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


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 5000Country 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.


LERNER BUILDING (THE BAND BOX: NO. 144 IS VACANT) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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 owned174 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 from1925 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.


PALACE THEATER > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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 along 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 along 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.


LOEW'S STATE THEATER > Historic Memphis Movie Theaters < - 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.


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.


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 Top40 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.


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


International Harvester manufactures the first row tractor.

Owned by the Starr Piano Company in Richmond, Indiana, the company began in 1916 and in1922 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 in1922 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 Patent195,673/204,728.

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".


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


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

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

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


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 Peerfor 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 1927was 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 percent, 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 1923with Fiddlin’ John Carson. Okeh and A & R director Ralph Peer were instrumental in initiating the Country Music craze in the early 1920s.


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


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 1924directed by Frank Walker who recorded Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett. In November 1926Columbia 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.


FRED L. SCHWANTZ/SIGMUND FEDER (B.B. KING'S CLUB) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 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 wen tout 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".


LORRAINE MOTEL (NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM > Historic Memphis Hotels < – 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 clientèle. 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

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 $144,000following 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.


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 performer splayed or sang into large horns and the vibrations were transmitted to a stylus, which cut onto 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.


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.


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.


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 dance able 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.


Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein "It'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 in1927 followed by Conqueror, Silvertone and Supertone.


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


THE ORPHEUM THEATER > Historic Memphis Theaters < 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 1998-1999Broadway 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.


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


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. By1920 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 7,500copies 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 mill hand 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 August1927, 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 1930sand 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.


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.

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.


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.

Historic-Memphis Website with special thanks to Gene Gill

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Booker T. Washington White
John Avery Lomax
Bible Belt
Overton Park Shell
Goodman Building (Crawdad's)
Parchman Penitentiary, Parchman, Mississippi
One Munite Dairy Lunch (Willie Mitchell's Blues Club)
New Daisy Theater
Lansky Brothers
Tri-State Bank (Charles E. Carpenter Law Offices)
Antonio Maceo Walker
Poplar Tunes Record Shop
Pape's Men's Shop (Police Station)
Walter ''Furry'' Lewis
WDIA Radio
Nathaniel Dowd Williams
Buck Turner
The Vogue Shop (B.B. King's Gift Shop)
Simon Cohen and Sons (Memphis Music Records)
Home Of The Blues Record Shop

JANUARY 8, 1928

Luther Perkins was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of a Baptist preacher. He grew up in Como, Mississippi, and taught himself to play rhythm guitar. His creative simple, sparsely embellished, rhythmic use of Fender Esquire and Jazzmaster guitars is credited for creating Johnny Cash's ''boom-chicka-boom'' style. Perkins started his career in 1953 as a mechanic at Automobile Sales Company in Memphis. He specialized in electrical systems and radio repairs. Roy Cash, Sr., older brother of Johnny Cash, was service manager at the dealership.

At the time, the younger Cash was stationed in Germany with the US Air Force. At Automobile Sales, Perkins met co-workers Marshall Grant and A.W. ''Red'' Kernodle. Grant, Kernodle and Perkins began bringing their guitars to work, and would play together when repair business was slow.

When Johnny Cash moved to Memphis after returning from Germany in 1954, Roy Cash introduced him to Grant, Kernodle and Perkins. The four began to get together in the evenings at Perkins' or Grant's home and play songs. It was during this time that they decided to form a band, with Grant acquiring a string bass, Kernodle a six-string steel guitar, and Perkins buying a somewhat-abused Fender Esquire electric guitar from the O.K. Houck Piano Co. in Memphis. The guitar had been modified by a previous owner, and the volume and tone controls were dysfunctional.

Since he could not control the volume of the single-pickup instrument, Perkins began the practice of muting the three bass strings (E, A and D) with the heel of his right hand, much in the style of Merle Travis, and scratching a rhythm pattern (as heard on Sun Records recordings prior to 1958). This pattern developed into a more defined, varying 1/8-8/5/8-8 picking (with random syncopation) on later Sun recordings and for the rest of Perkins’ career.

In late 1954, when Cash got an audition with producer Sam Phillips at Sun Records, he brought Perkins, Grant and Kernodle along to back him instrumentally. The experience made Kernodle nervous, and he ended up leaving before the session was over, with Perkins and Grant providing the instrumentation.

Perkins, as a member of the Tennessee Two (later, the Tennessee Three, with the addition of drummer W.S. "Fluke" Holland), toured with Cash and appeared on most of his recordings. He was well known for his laconic, focused demeanor on stage. He was often the target of jokes by Cash, who would make comments such as "Luther's been dead for years, but he just doesn't know it".

Perkins was married twice. He and his first wife, Bertie, separated while they were living in southern California in 1959. Perkins had three daughters from this marriage: Linda, Vicki and Claudia. He later married Margie Higgins; they had one daughter, Kathy. Margie Perkins Beaver still appears at Johnny Cash reunion events.

His hobbies were knitting, fishing and guitar. Examples of his knitting are on display at the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

He was a close friend of singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson. At the time of his death, he was planning to open his own music publishing company and give Kristofferson his first break.

Perkins’ younger brother, Thomas, was a successful rock ‘n’ roll singer in the 1950s and 1960s, under the name of Thomas Wayne.

In his autobiography, Johnny Cash wrote that Perkins was mildly addicted to amphetamines. They started taking drugs together in the late 1950s. Perkin's nickname was "L.M", the initials of his first and second name "Luther Monroe". Singer-guitarist Carl Perkins, who was also a member of Cash's touring show, was not related to Luther Perkins.

During the early morning of August 3, 1968, Perkins returned from fishing on Old Hickory Lake to his newly-constructed home on Riverwood Drive in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He apparently went to sleep in the living room while holding a lit cigarette. His daughter awoke around 6:00 am to find the living room in flames and Perkins collapsed near the door. An emergency crew rushed Perkins to Vanderbilt University Hospital, where he was kept in intensive care until finally succumbing on Monday, August 5, 1968.

His grave is near the graves of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash at Hendersonville Memorial Park in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Luther Perkins was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Perkins and Marshall Grant, as The Tennessee Two, were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame.

In 1980, Perkins' daughters from his first marriage filed suit against Johnny Cash for embezzling funds that were to have provided retirement income for Perkins. This lawsuit was filed coincidentally with actions taken by the other founding Tennessee Three member, Marshall Grant, against Cash for wrongfully firing Grant and embezzlement of Grant's retirement funds. Both lawsuits were eventually settled out-of-court. (See Johnny Cash sessions).


Georgia born Tampa Red records "It's Tight Like That". This song is considered a predecessor to urban blues and spurned numerous imitators of the song and the style.

JUNE 14, 1929

Mississippi born Charlie Patton records 14 songs for Paramount Records in Richmond, Indiana. Charlie Patton would influence countless blues guitarists and musicians, including Son House and Robert Johnson.


The American Record Corporation (ARC) started with the merger of three NY companies: Cameo, Pathe, and Plaza. The different labels issued from this group include: Banner (1921), Domino (1924), Jewel (1926), Oriole (1923), Romeo and Perfect. They also shared with Emerson and Grey Gull (Broadway, paramount and Puritan).

The 78 rpm record is introduced.

Charlie Patton's "Pony Blues" and "High Water Everywhere - Parts I and II" were recorded.

The stock market crashes, plunging the country into the Great Depression.

Bessie Smith appears on Broadway in "Pansy".

Victor's Ralph Peer and representatives from Okeh and Vocalion Records made repeated trips to Memphis in the years before the Depression. In general, they recorded black music although country styles were increasingly represented. Few of the artists would see their careers resurrected after the Depression but one of the survivors would be Reece Fleming. He recorded for Victor, ARC and Decca as part of a duet with Respers Townsend. In the post war years he would re-appear at Sun Records in the company of Malcolm Yelvington.

Memphis Municipal Airport opens on Winchester Avenue.

Thomas A. Parker was born Andreas ("Dries") Cornelis van Kuijk in Breda, Holland, entering the U.S.A. illegally this year and then enlisting in the U.S. Army. Parker was stationed in Hawaii for roughly two years before mustering out and briefly joining the Johnny J. Jones and Royal American carnivals, then marrying and settling down in Tampa, where the carnival people wintered and where he drifted into show business.


Blind Lemon Jefferson dies in Chicago. Both his music and his success had a tremendous impact blues musicians across the Southern United States.


Nation of Islam founded in Detroit.


The Memphis Jug Band had recorded more than sixty songs for Victor. The group's success made Memphis the jug band capital, spawning such groups as Gus Gannon's Jug Stompers, Jed Davenport's Beale Street Jug Band, Memphis Minnie's Jug Band, and even the Memphis Jug Band offshoot group, the Memphis Sheiks, which featured the MJB's Will Shade, Charlie Burse, Jab Jones and occasional MJB mandolinist Vol Stevens.

Great Memphis blues men Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White, a slide guitarist whose guttural vocals and intense, driving slide guitar, recorded first in a recording session in Memphis that produced "The Panama Limited", a song that showcased White's trademark slide-guitar train imitation. The depression and the end of Memphis field recordings delayed his next record until 1937.

American Record Corporation was bought by Consolidated Film Industries (CFI) who also purchased from Warner Brothers the Brunswick, Vocalion and Melotone labels in 1931. The Brunswick division of ARC purchased Columbia and Okeh in 1934. This division was purchased by Columbia Broadcasting System in 1938 and became Columbia Recording Corporation.


Eli Oberstein founded the Crown label in New York City. Victor, who employed Oberstein, manufactured the records. The Varsity and Gem labels were partnered with Crown.


The left rallies behind "the Scottsboro Boys", nine young black men indicted for raping two white women aboard a freight train passing through Scottsboro, Alabama. Memphis salutes King Cotton with the first Cotton Carnival celebration. Even in the depths of the depression, the Memphis blues thrived on Beale Street. Peter "Memphis Slim" Chatman recalled in an interview in Arnold Shaw's book about the early independent rhythm and blues labels, Honkers and Shouters, that the Midway Cafe on Fourth Street and Beale Street was the most jumping club on the street when he began playing there in 1931, "The Midway Sold Whiskey".

Adolph Rickenbacker invents the electric guitar. Known as the Frying Pan, it was a lap-steel guitar with an electromagnetic pickup, created by Adolph Rickenbacker and George Beauchamp, in which a current passed through a coil of wire wrapped around a magnet. This created a field that amplified the strings' vibrations.

The Gramophone Co. (HMV) and the Columbia Graphophone Co. combined to form Electrical and Musical Industries (EMI). Alan Dower Blumlein (EMI) was granted a patent for a stereo recording technique that provided the basis for present day techniques.

Edison died aged 84.


Lieutenant George Lee (American Legion) and W.C. Handy ride down Beale Street in Lee's black LaSalle at the head of a two-mile procession of fraternal orders, marching clubs, vocal societies, and uniformed bands. The Knights of Pythias, the Negro Masons, the Tribes of Canaan, the chauffeurs and berbers clubs march to the "Beale Street Blues" before a crowd of ten thousand people.

SEPTEMBER 14, 1931

Future Sun artist Tommy Blake born as Thomas Lavan Givens in Dallas, Texas. He never knew his father, and couldn't do right in his mother's eyes. Samantha said that he was jailed for statury rape in his teens, although this is unconfirmed.

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON WHITE - (November 12, 1909 - February 26, 1977), better known as Bukka White, was an American Delta blues guitarist and singer. "Bukka" was not a nickname, but a phonetic misspelling of White's given name Booker, by his second (1937) record label (Vocalion).

Born between Aberdeen and Houston in Mississippi, White was the second cousin of B.B. King. White himself is remembered as a player of National steel guitars. He also played, but was less adept at, the piano.

White started his career playing the fiddle at square dances. He claims to have met Charlie Patton early on, although some doubt has been cast upon this. Regardless, Patton was a large influence on White.

White typically played slide guitar, in an open tuning. He was one of the few, along with Skip James, to use a cross note tuning in E minor, which he may have learned, as James did, from Henry Stuckey.

He first recorded for the Victor Records label in 1930. His recordings for Victor, like those of many other bluesmen, fluctuated between country blues and gospel numbers. Victor published his photograph in 1930. His gospel songs were done in the style of Blind Willie Johnson, with a female singer accentuating the last phrase of each line.

Nine years later, while serving time for assault, he recorded for folklorist John Lomax. The few songs he recorded around this time became his most well-known: "Shake 'Em On Down," and "Po' Boy''. Bob Dylan covered his song "Fixin' To Die Blues", which aided a "rediscovery" of White in 1963 by guitarist John Fahey and ED Denson, which propelled him onto the folk revival scene of the 1960s. White had recorded the song simply because his other songs had not particularly impressed the Victor record producer. It was a studio composition of which White had thought little until it re-emerged thirty years later.

White was at one time managed by the experienced blues manager, Arne Brogger. Fahey and Denson found White easily enough: Fahey wrote a letter to "Bukka White (Old Blues Singer), c/o General Delivery, Aberdeen, Mississippi''. Fahey had assumed, given White's song, "Aberdeen, Mississippi", that White still lived there, or nearby. The postcard was forwarded to Memphis, Tennessee, where White worked in a tank factory. Fahey and Denson soon travelled to meet White, and White and Fahey remained friends through the remainder of White's life. He recorded a new album for Denson and Fahey's Takoma Records, whilst Denson became his manager. White was, later in life, also friends with fellow musician, Furry Lewis. The two recorded, mostly in Lewis' Memphis apartment, an album together, Furry Lewis, Bukka White & Friends: Party! At Home.

One of his most famous songs, "Parchman Farm Blues", about the Mississippi State Penitentiary (also known as Parchman Farm) in Sunflower County, Mississippi, was released on Harry Smith's fourth volume of the Anthology of American Folk Music, Volume 4. The song was covered by The Traits, aka Roy Head and the Traits with Johnny Winter in the late 1960s. His 1937 version of the oft-recorded song, "Shake 'Em On Down'', is considered definitive, and became a hit while White was serving time in Parchman.

White died in February 26, 1977 from cancer, at the age of 67, in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1990 he was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame (along with Blind Blake and Lonnie Johnson). On November 21, 2011, The Recording Academy announced that "Fixin' To Die Blues" was to be added to its 2012 list of Grammy Hall of Fame Award recipients.


The Cash family moved to this site as one of 600 families chosen to relocate as part of the Dyess colony. Johnny Cash's formative years were spent here-picking cotton in the fields with his family, singing hymns with his mother, surviving the 1937 flood, and mourning the death of his older brother. Cash began playing guitar and writing songs early in his life and in high school performed on a local radio station. Many of the themes in Cash's music can be traced back to his life in Dyess, including "Five Feet And Rising" inspired by the 1937 flood. After Cash left to join the Air Force, he returned to Dyess only once, in 1969 while filming a documentary.

The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home has been occupied by the owner for the past thirty years. Though alterations to the exterior and interior have been extensive, the level of integrity is sufficient for its association with such a notable figure. While the house continues to be occupied, there is little risk of damage from the elements. However, regular maintenance and insensitive alterations have resulted in the loss of some of the historic fabric. The property owner has offered the property for sale, but at prohibitive cost. Like the Dyess Colony Administration Building, great opportunity exists for restoring the house to its historical context and capitalizing on its heritage tourism draw to contribute to the economic development of northeast Arkansas.

FEBRUARY 26, 1932

Johnny Cash is born in the remote rural settlement of Kingsland, Arkansas to Ray Cash and Carry Cloveree there are Southern Baptist cotton farmers. His birthplace is almost directly across the Mississippi from Lake County, Tennessee, where Carl Perkins is born six weeks later. (See Johnny Cash sessions).


Although Carl Perkins is closely associated with his current hometown, Jackson, Tennessee, he was born in the far northwest corner of the state close to the banks of the Mississippi. His birth certificate gives his parents names as Fonie ''Buck'' Perkins and Louise Brandly. Their second, child is born on this day, was christened Carl Lee Perkins. The mis-spelling of the family name suggests that the literacy of the government employees was barely a notch higher then those arrivals in, and exits from, the world they were cataloging. It was the height of the Depression and Buck Perkins was a sharecropper without a market. The family lived in a three room shack and then in a one room storehouse.

AUGUST 23, 1932

Future Sun recording artist Jack Earls is born in Woodbury, Tennessee, a rural community about 50 miles southeast of Nashville. It was, and still is to some extent, Uncle Macon (1870-1952) territory. In fact, the famous Dixie Dewdrop, banjo picker, singer, veteran of vaudeville and arguably the first country music star of the WSM Barn Dance (later known as Grand Ole Opry) was a neighbor of the Earls household and a welcome visitor during Jack's early childhood.


Virginia Hensley, who will later be called Patsy Cline, is born in Winchester, Virginia. She will become the most influential female country artist of all time.


Charlie Rich is born in Forrest City, Arkansas and d espite his affinity for the blues, it could be sheer fantasy to claim that Charlie Rich grew up dirt poor in the rural South, scuffling for next meal or a warm bed to sleep in. Such tales of rural poverty may not be far removed from the lives of Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley, but they bear little similarity to Rich's background.

His family soon moved to Crawfordsville and then Colt, and it was on a farm near Colt that Charlie Rich grew up. He will be the first to tell you that his family never had to scrape: ''I've never lived in poverty except when I was very young during the Depression, and most country folks were poor then. From the age of seven things were all right''.

Rich's early interest in music was nurtured by contact with C.J. Allen, a black tenant farmer on the Rich family's land. Unlike many bluesmen in the area, Allen made his music on the piano, rather than a guitar. It may be hard to overestimate the importance of this music on Charlie's development. Guitars were also present during Rich's formative years - both on the radio and in the music played by his family. The Rich family was very religious, and singing the Lord's praises was an important part of their lives.

Charlie Rich's wife Margaret Ann recalls later, ''Charlie played some guitar when he was younger. It was actually his first instrument. He used to listen to his mother and father sing. They did music in their church, harmonizing with two other people, backet by a guitar. That music had a deep emotional effect on Charlie. He used to listen to it and then go into his room and cry. He and his sister did some singing with the guitar when Charlie was in high school as well''.


Louisiana born Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Leadbelly, is recorded by John and Alan Lomax at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Leadbelly, not exclusively a blues artist, introduced the blues to a wider audience. He was the first folk blues artist to present his music in concert to white audiences outside the South.

The first New Deal legislation, including Federal Emergency Relief Association and Public Works Administration.

Blacks, traditionally Republican voters, switch parties by the hundreds of thousands before the end of the decade.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is formed to create a network of dams to control floods, prevent soil erosion, and provide affordable electricity in the rural South. Prohibition is repealed.

Wurlitzer begins to manufacture coin-operated jukeboxes.

Fred Rose, who will later revolutionize the country music business, briefly works for WSM as a songwriter.

During the pre-War era, a few Memphis country artists who were missed by the field trips nevertheless appear on records. One is Ramblin "Red" Lowery who arrives in Memphis in 1933 from Kentucky. Able to perform well in the then-popular style of Jimmie Rodgers, Lowery recorded several titles for Vocalion in New York in January 1934, including "Ramblin' Red's Memphis Yodel", numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4. Apart from the few recording sessions mentioned above, the main reflection of commercial country music in Memphis in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s comes via the local radio stations.

Police and government agents storms a house in south Memphis and capture gangster Machine Gun Kelly, the most wanted man in America.


Victor launched its discount Bluebird label (B-5000 “Old Familiar Tunes” Country Series). The initial price was 25 cents but rose to 35 cents in a year. Bluebird promptly tried to corner the market of popular stars from the 1920s and recorded many of the stars before the Depression. Eli Oberstein, was one of the A & R men that directed the Bluebird label sessions.

JOHN AVERY LOMAX - (1867-1948) Folksong collector, born in Goodman, Mississippi, on September 23, 1867, John Avery Lomax was one of five sons of James Avery Lomax, a farmer, and Susan Frances (Cooper) Lomax, both natives of Georgia. Although they always worked their own land, Lomax described his family as belonging to the "upper crust of the po' white trash".

In 1869 they moved to a farm on the Bosque River near Meridian, Texas. From his country childhood Lomax acquired a love for and appreciation of the rural folklore he later captured on record. He absorbed the popular hymns he heard at the Methodist camp meetings his family attended.

In 1895, at 28, he entered the University of Texas, where he took courses with feverish enthusiasm and received his B.A. degree in two years. From 1897 to 1903, Lomax served the university simultaneously as registrar, secretary to the president, and steward of men's dormitories, for $75 a month. Subsequently, he became instructor and then associate professor of English at Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College (1903-1910). Meanwhile, he doggedly pursued graduate studies despite financial constraints. He received the M.A. in literature in 1906 from the University of Texas and an M.A. in English from Havard the following year.

Since childhood, Lomax had been writing down the cowboys songs he heard. His English professors at Texas had scorned such frontier literature as unworthy, but at Harvard, Barrett Wendell and George Lyman Kittredge strongly encouraged Lomax to continue his collecting. After his return to Texas, Lomax secured three successive fellowship that enabled him to travel through the cattle country with a notebook and a primitive recording machine. Around campfires and in saloon back rooms he persuaded cowboys to sing their songs. Among his findings were the well-known "Git Along Little Dogies" and "Home On The Range", the latter sung to him in San Antonio by a black saloonkeeper who had been a trail cook. The result was Lomax's first published collection, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910), which he dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt, a firm supporter of his efforts. The book is a landmark in the study of American folklore.

Later in 1932, with a contract from the Macmillan Company for a book of American folksongs and with support from the Library of Congress and the American Council of Learned Societies, he set out on the first of a series of collecting trips that were to occupy the rest of his life.

He concentrated on recording songs of the southern black - blues, spirituals, and work chants. Often accompanied by his son, Alan, he visited remote rural black communities, lumbercamps, and penitentiaries, where blacks were isolated and where singing softened the pain of prison life.

The quality and number of the songs he recorded for the Library of Congress Archive of American Folk Song - more than 10,000 in all - reflect Lomax's unusual skill as a fieldworker. In the Arkansas Penitentiary he came upon two important songs, "Rock Island Line" and "John Henry", the rhythmic ballad of a "steel drivin' man".

Lomax's two collections, American Ballads and Folk Songs (1934) and Our Singing Country (1941), opened an entirely new area of American folk music to the public and were largely responsible for the folksong movement that developed in New York City and spread throughout the country. One of Lomax's discoveries was an influential figure in that movement: Huddie Ledbetter, nicknamed "Leadbelly" because of his deep bass voice. Lomax and his son found Leadbelly in a Louisiana penitentiary in 1933, arranged for his freedom, brought him to Greenwich Village in New York, and published Negro Folk Songs as Sung by Lead Belly (1936).

John Avery Lomax died on January 26, 1948 at the age of 80 of a cerebral haemorrhage while visiting in Greenville, Mississippi, and was buried in Austin, Texas.

FEBRYARY 1, 1933

Orbie Lee Orbison, (died in 1985) marries Roy Orbison's mother Nadine Schultz (died in 1992).

MAY 6, 1933

Jimmie Rodgers dies of tuberculosis in New York City.

JULY 1, 1933

Eddie James Bond is born in Methodist Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee, and grew up in an essentially non-musical family, which still provided some encouragement to the young member of the family who, at the age of eight, had put together enough nickels and dimes to buy his first guitar. His initial interest had been aroused by listening to Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb who, at the time, the early 1940s, were widely heard on the radio and record: his early experience of performing developed through his teenage years as he gigged around the beer joints of Memphis, Tennessee.

OCTOBER 5, 1933

Billy Riley is born in Pocohontas, Arkansas and was a product of Irish and Cherokee ancestry. When he was a growing up as a kid, he lived on a plantation with mostly back people on it. Every Saturday and every Sunday he could usually find a little group of dudes under the trees and playing the blues. A white guy, Tommy Hamblin, who came from a family of string musicians, learned Billy how to play the blues. By that time Billy had already mastered the harmonica, an instrument that his father had taught him.


Formation of Southern Tenant Farmers Union in Arkansas, a historically overlooked alliance between blacks and poor whites that can be seen as a forerunner to the civil right movement of the 1960s.

Vance Library opens in Memphis the city's first public library for blacks.

Memphians vote to join the Tennessee Valley Authority system; TVA power becomes available in 1938.

"Rock And Roll" song sung by the Boswell Sisters in the 1934 movie "Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round".

"Rock And Roll" (Brunswick 7302) was the first song to be given that title.

Black writer, George Washington Lee, published his important history of the street and the role it played in black life, Beale Street: Where The Blues Began. In one of its most famous passages, he described Beale as "owned largely by the Jews, policed by the whites and enjoyed by the Negroes". But he forgot the Italians, who ran many of the street's most popular saloons, and later, its theaters.

BASF manufactured 50,000 metres of magnetic recording tape for use by AEG for large scale experiments.

Bob Wills and his Playboys become Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, the most famous of the era's western swing bands.


In 1934, Rufus Thomas's entertainment career was interrupted when he went to Nashville to attend college at Tennessee State, probably at the urging of Nat Williams. It didn't work out because Rufus was soon homesick. He told: ''I didn't stay there because from the start I was troubled. I'd never been that far away from Memphis, and I went back home in 1935. Then I started working all around the city as a tap dancer and I would do some scat singing and comic songs like Louis Armstrong or Fats Waller. I would do everything there was to do really, whatever came under the name of entertainment''.

APRIL 1934

Charlie Patton dies near Holly Ridge, Mississippi. He is considered by some to be the most influential blues musician on his contemporaries. Directly influencing Son House, Robert Johnson, Howlin' Wolf, Bukka White, Big Joe Williams, Furry Lewis and Tommy Johnson, to name a few.


When the Tennessee Valley Authority opened, President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Tupelo. There was a great deal of celebrating. The TVA brought electricity to East Tupelo, and residents were the only ones in the city to have electrical lines built in their neighbourhood.

NOVEMBER 4, 1934

The first country band, The Swift Jewel Cowboys first broadcast on Memphis radio station WMC; a couple of years later they could be found on the city's other major outlet, WREC radio. But even the Swift Jewel Cowboys seem to have caught that versatile "Memphis thing". Despite their cowboy garb, the band soon had as much swing as western in their sound, with the addition of jazzman Farris "Lefty" Ingram on clarinet, sax, and fiddle, and David "Pee Wee" Wamble on cornet.

Wamble, who was part of the band by 1938, had played in regional dance and jazz bands, working such nightspots as the Wishbone Club in Memphis. The band proved important to two well-known Memphis-bred musicians, harmonica player Jimmy Riddle, later gained fame performing on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville with Roy Acuff, and saxophone player Bill Justis, who was the group's mascot. Justis would later become one of Memphis' more successful home-grown musicians as an Artist and Repertoire man with Sun Records and also made a huge hit under his own name with the instrumental "Raunchy". In 1958, Justis left Memphis for Nashville, where he had a successful career recording and scouting talent for Monument Records.

Though the Swift Jewel Cowboys continued their careers until 1942, the 1939 sides were to be the last commercial country recordings made in Memphis until Sam Phillips opened his Memphis Recording Service in 1950.


Memphis transforms unstable bluffs and a riverfront dumping ground into Riverside Drive, called "the most expensive highway in the world" when it opens.

AEG-Telefunken gave the first public demonstration of the Magnetophon tape recorder at the Berlin Funkausteilung.


It was in 1935 that Rufus Thomas first appeared in the Amateur Night shows at the Palace Theater on Beale Street with Nat Williams, developing the comedy routines they had started as part of the school Ballets. Rufus also worked there with Johnny Dowdie as a dance team that had also started in the Ballets. "We were dancing up and down steps, doing wings and all that fancy stuff, but it was mostly flash'', Rufus told Louis Cantor. The following year Rufus and Johnny joined a touring show known as the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, traveling from May to October all through Mississippi, Arkansas, and parts of Louisiana. The Rabbit Foot Company was a long running minstrel and variety troupe that toured as a tent show between the 1900s and the 1940s. It was originally owned and managed by Pat Chappelle, a black performer, when the company had a brass band and traveled in its own private railroad car. The company was purchased by white carnival owner, F.S. Wolcott, (later celebrated in a song by the Band) who was in control when Rufus and Johnny were with the company. Rufus remembered: "The show would open with the band. Then there was the chorus line, and the comic would come right behind that. Then maybe a singer the chorus line, the tap dancers and the comic''.


Elvis Presley is born in the Bible Belt, small hilltop community at 310 Old Saltillo Road, East Tupelo, Mississippi (Now 306 Elvis Presley Drive), on January 8 at about 4:30 a.m. Elvis' weight 5 pounds, the same as that of singer Hank Williams Sr. Not only is it a bitterly cold night, but the northeastern corner of Mississippi is covered with a sheet of freezing sleet. He would live here, and in Tupelo proper, until late September 1948. Vernon Presley built this home in 1934 with the help of Vester, his brother, and J.D. his father.

Vernon Presley borrowed $180 from local landowner Orville Bean for supplies to construct the small wood frame house. The house belongs to the shotgun style, so-called because, in theory, a bullet shot through the front door would exit through the back door and not hit a thing. The house, just 450 feet square, was raised off the ground by river rocks to keep it above water level during the spring floods. At one time, a barn and an outhouse, built by Vernon Presley, stood in back of the house. Chickens and a cow ran around in the yard that Gladys Presley swept clean daily.

Tupelo was the first town to benefit from the Tennessee Valley Authority's rural electrification program, and East Tupelo was wired for electricity in 1934. However, the Presley's, like most of the people in their part of town, could not afford electricity, and therefore lived by oil lamps. Most people in East Tupelo, including the Presley's and the Smiths, were sharecroppers. Sharecroppers worked fields for white plantation owners (in the Presley's case, for Orville Bean) and received a share of the crops' profits, a successor to the slavery system.

Though the Presley's were very poor, and Vernon Presley had a difficult time holding a job, he did have skill as a carpenter. The home he built for his wife and pending family was solid. In the front half of this two room house, Jesse Garon and Elvis Aron are born on the chilly morning of January 8, 1935. The birth of Elvis is shrouded in mystery. It is questionable exactly who witness the birth, and the accounts are so varied we will probably never know. Gladys, Vernon, and Doctor William Robert Hunt are certainly there, and it likely that Minnie Mae, the midwife, Edna Robinson, and possibly some friends also attend. Additionally, there are two distinctly different stories regarding the birth order of the twins.

One has it that Jesse Garon arrives first, around 4:00 in the morning. Much to everyone's dismay, Jesse Garon was stillborn. About half an hour later, at 4:35, Elvis Aron arrives, alive and healthy. The birth certificate filled out by Dr. William Robert Hunt verifies this version of the story. However, Elvis' paternal uncle, Vester Presley, claims that Elvis Presley is born first, alive and healthy, Jesse Garon coming half an hour later. Annie Presley, a close friend and relative of Gladys, supports this version of the story, noting that Dr. William Robert Hunt was relatively inexperienced, and did not realize Gladys was pregnant with twins. She claims he did not prepare Gladys, or himself, to deliver another baby.

Whatever the birth order, the shadow of death present at Elvis' birth and the loss felt by both Gladys and Elvis are never forgotten. Throughout his life, Elvis Presley remains psychically in tune with Jesse Garon. We can only imagine how deeply Elvis sensed this loss.

George Gershwin's folk opera "Porgy And Bess" is staged in New York.

BIBLE BELT - Bible Belt is a term coined by H. L. Mencken in the 1920s to describe areas of the nation dominated by belief in the literal authenticity of the Bible and accompanying puritanical mores. He did not give the term a specific location, but he did associate it with rural areas of Midwest, and, especially, the "Baptist back-waters of the South". He used the term as one of derision, referring, for example, to "the Bible and Hookworm Belt" and calling Jackson, Mississippi, "the heart of the Bible and Lynching Belt".

The term has been used by scholars as well. In mapping the geographical range of the Churches of Christ, Edwin Gaustad commented that the denomination's influence represented "perhaps more a Bible Belt than any other region can offer".

A 1952 survey by John L. Thomas in Religion and the American People (1963) concluded that, based on the prevalence of Bible reading, the Bible Belt was primarily in the West South Central, East South Central, and South Atlantic census areas. Cultural geographer James R. Shortridge analyzed 1971 denominational membership figures and mapped a Bible Belt region of "conservative churches" extending in influence from the Atlantic Seaboard through Texas and eastern New Mexico, its northern boundary was the upper state lines of Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, and Oklahoma, extending into southern Illinois. "Jackson, Mississippi, could perhaps be called the "buckle" of the Bible Belt, but Oklahoma City is definitely marginal, and Kansas is not in it", he wrote. Stephen W. Tweedie's study, "Viewing the Bible Belt", analyzed the viewership of evangelical, fundamentalist religious television programming, and concluded that "the Baptist South certainly is a major part of this Bible belt, but areas of strength also include parts of the Methodist domination Midwest as well as portions of the predominantly Lutheran Dakotas". These modern studies seem, then, to confirm Mencken's use of the term, although now it is used proudly by those in the Bible belt to describe their commitments.

Bible Belt is a particularly useful term to describe the importance of the Scriptures in the South. When Hazel Motes in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood left his hometown of Eastrod, Tennessee, he took with him only a black Bible and a pair of glasses belonging to his mother. At his little country school, he "had learned to read and write but that it was wiser not to: the Bible was the only book he read". He was perhaps typical of many southern true believers. On the early frontier and in rural areas throughout southern history, the Bible has been a main source of reading material and intellectual stimulation. Preachers took it as their only text for preaching. Politicians used a campaign language spiced with references to biblical stories and quotes to illustrate their political points, and two favorite southern pastimes - storytelling and conversation - were often filled with biblical references. Writers such as O'Connor and Faulkner used biblical symbols and motifs, artists painted biblical heroes and heroines in their works, and quilters even stitched the stories as themes for their works. Historian Kenneth T. Bailey noted of the South in 1900 that "few Southerners doubted the literal authenticity of the Scriptures or the ever-presence of God in many affairs", and sociologist John Shelton Reed's studies of southern attitudes in contemporary times suggest the Bible Belt is still literally that.

SEPTEMBER 29, 1935

Jerry Lee Lewis born in Ferriday, Louisiana, Jerry Lee displayed musical talent from a young age. After his parents mortgaged their farm to buy him a Stark upright piano, he developed his style by watching the boogie-woogie playing of his older cousin Carl McVoy, and listening to the sounds of the black artists who performed at a local juke joint named Haney’s Big House, owned by his uncle Lee Calhoun.

When Jerry Lee’s mother enrolled him in the Texas based Southwest Bible Institute, so that he could dedicate his talents to the Lord, the flamboyantly dexterous yet uncontrollable kid was immediately expelled for ripping his way through a boogie-woogie rendition of ‘My God Is Real’, and thereafter he plied his trade in clubs around Ferriday, as well as in Natchez, Mississippi, and Nashville, Tennessee.


John and Alan Lomax's "Negro Folk Songs as performed by Leadbelly". The pianist Teddy Wilson integrates Benny Goodman's trio. Count Basie's "Jones-Smith Incorporated" session with Lester Young.

Billboard puts out its first record sales chart in 1936.

BASF engineers, using a Magnetophon, recorded Mozart's Symphony No.39 with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. The first tape recording of a full symphony orchestra, it still exists and is of surprisingly good quality.

FEBRUARY 8, 1936

Future Sun recording artist, Tracy Pendarvis is born in Cross City, Florida. Technically, Florida is part of the South but it had few original musical traditions upon which Tracy could draw. Tracy's mother owned every record that yodellin' Jimmie Rodgers made and the clear channel allotted to WSM brought the Grand Ole Opry. Tracy and a guitarist, Johnny Gibson, started their careers playing in square dance bands for 3 dollar a night.

APRIL 15, 1936

Frank Frost is born on a small cotton farm in Auvergne, Arkansas, was one of the foremost American delta blues harmonica players of his generation. He is the second of seven children of T.R. and Dorthula Frost. Frank Otis Frost learned to play piano at church as a young boy. Frank, in the search to find his place in the world, left home to get a glimpse of the 'big world' around him and try to get ideas as to what it took to get into the music business. His love for music was natural and automatic and his ability with the guitar, piano and harp was seemingly born in him.


Mississippi born Robert Johnson's records his first record "Cross Roads Blues" in San Antonio, Texas.


OVERTON PARK SHELL > Memphis Historic Overton Park < - Overton Park is one of the first of several large parks in Memphis designed by landscape architect George Kessler that featured a picturesque landscape design, largely derived from the design traditions of New York City's Central Park. The planning began in 1901 and the design was completed in early 1902, and initial development of the drives, open areas, lakes, and pavilions were completed by August. Today the park includes the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Memphis Zoo, a 9-hole golf course, and the Memphis College of Art.

In 1933 and 1934 Ralph Dunbar produced two summer seasons of light opera and theater on a dirt stage at the foot of a natural bowl shaped slope in the Park and then advocated the construction of a permanent amphitheater on the site. In 1936 the Overton Park Orchestra Shell is constructed for $11,935 by the Work Progress Administration (WPA) and the City of Memphis. The facility has enough wooden benches for 4,000 people and is dominated by the reinforced concrete orchestra shell patterned after the acoustical designs of similar shells in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis. Dedication ceremonies on September 13 are attended by 6,000 as the newly formed Memphis Symphony Orchestra performs. The dedication program calls the Shell "A pledge to the future of music in Memphis".

Shortly after recording their first record and Elvis signed a contract with Scotty as his manager, Elvis appeared as a special guest with the Starlite Wranglers on July 17th at their gig at the Bon Air club on Summer Avenue, a bar on the outer rim of the city limits in eastern Memphis. When they performed the two songs they had recorded, all of the Wranglers had to leave the stage except Scotty and Bill since they were the only ones on the recording. Their performance was not received well and did not sit well with the rest of the band since the crowd was a hard drinking traditional Country and Western crowd and they didn't care for Elvis' look or music.

After that night the they knew the Starlite Wranglers were finished as a group and Scotty and Bill gave their full attention to Elvis and the Blue Moon Boys. Sam Phillips then asked WMPS Memphis disc jockey Bob Neal to book Elvis on his Country Music Jamboree at the Overton Shell that featured Slim Whitman and Billy Walker as the headliners. It would be their first professional public performance as a band. The ad in the Memphis Press Scimitar misspelled Elvis's name "Ellis".

Advertised as a Hillbilly Hoedown, appearing in addition to Slim Whitman and Billy Walker were "Sugarfoot Collins, "Sonny" Harvelle, Tinker Fry and "Curly Harris. The show began at 8:00 on the night of July, 30, 1954, and they started with "That's All Right” Elvis was so nervous he stood up on the balls of his feet and shook his leg in time with the music, a move he sometimes used in the studio. To his shock and horror the young girls in the audience went crazy, yelling and applauding. Scotty said, "We didn't know what was going on when all those people started screaming and hollering." Next they did "Blue Moon of Kentucky" and when Elvis got offstage he asked why people were yelling at him. Someone told him it was because he was shaking his leg, which with the baggy pleated pants created a wild gyrating effect in time with the music. Later in the show they returned and did the same two numbers along with "I'll Never Let You Go (Little Darlin)", a new song they had been working

The following year they returned to the Shell for the second and last time for Bob Neal's eighth annual Country Music Jamboree. The show also included Webb Pierce, Sonny James, Johnny Cash, Wanda Jackson and some 22 other country music and comedy performers. They drew a crowd of over 4000.

Memphis Press Scimitar on August 6, 1955 reported that the Shell was jammed with an overflow audience for the show and that several hundred were turned away.

Local amateur photographer Robert Dye who photographed Elvis at the Shell on August 5, 1955, recalled one performer loaning him his guitar after Elvis couldn't find his in time to go on and was pretty agitated after Elvis returned it with two strings broken.

Homes on the west and east side of Overton Park were leveled in the 1960s to make way for the construction of Interstate 40, but instead of going through, the interstate abruptly stopped before reaching the area after numerous lawsuits succeeded in halting construction. The shell would eventually host several large name rock acts that included the Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead and Neil Diamond.

In 1974 the fence was removed and the Shell resumed a schedule of free performances, thus ending the controversy over rock concerts.

In 1982 at the request of the National Council of Christians and Jews, the Shell was renamed the Raoul Wallenberg Shell after Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat responsible for saving thousands of Jews from Nazi death camps. In 1985, the stage of the Shell remained dark for the first season since its construction. Many Memphians thought the dormant and somewhat dilapidated amphitheater was doomed to be displaced by a parking lot.

Late in 1985, volunteers began repairs to the facility at no cost to the city. A petition drive was begun, weekly meetings were held and the "Save Our Shell" committee was born. Save Our Shell Inc. provided entertainment there through 2003 with 54 performances for 63,000 people in 2002 and 63 performances for 75,000 people in 2003.

Years later a Christian and Jewish themed mural was painted on one of the rear outside side walls at the shell that depicted Elvis and subjects from the lyrics of one of the gospel songs he recorded, "Peace In The Valley". One or more organizations apparently protested about the religious aspects of the mural and most of it was painted over.

In October of 2004 the city once again closed the 68 year old shell citing code violations and liability concerns. An engineering study found that the shell needed about $550,000.00 worth of repairs and improvements. It said this historic venue has decayed to the point that it is now a liability for the city.

In January of 2007 it was announced that the city had partnered with the Mortimer Levitt Foundation and a group of Memphians to revive the Shell. The Foundation, created in 1963 to support the arts across the U.S., has a history of helping restore amphitheaters, such as the Gold Shell in Memorial Park in the city of Pasadena, CA. That venue, built in 1930 and restored with a $250,000 grant from the foundation is now called the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts.

In February The Memphis Business journal reported that renovations will cost approximately $1 million and construction is scheduled to begin in June with the first performances in Spring 2008. The Memphis City Council approved capital funding of $500,000 to be matched by the Mortimer Levitt Foundation and the Friends for the Levitt Pavilion Memphis. The Friends will raise an additional $1.75 million to operate the Shell for the first five years and intend to produce 50 free concerts there a year. Askew Nixon Ferguson Architects will design the renovation and is looking to make it environmentally friendly and sustainable, according to a release. "The renovations include replacing the two wings on each side of the stage and replacing the old benches with lawn seating and a few new benches for the elderly and handicapped," Lee Askew said.

APRIL 23, 1936

Roy Kelton Orbison was born at 3:30 pm, in Vernon, Texas. Nadine, his mother, was a nurse. Orbie Lee, his father, a worker. Roy was their second child. For his sixth birthday, Roy asked for a harmonica, but fortunately his daddy gave him a guitar. Orbie Lee is generally credited with teaching Roy to play guitar. However, he also learned from Charlie Orbison, Orbie Lee's brother, and Kenneth Schultz, brother of Nadine's. Together with Clois Russell, Orbie Lee's neighbor and workmate, they would often play and sing. The first song Roy ever played was the classic "You Are My Sunshine". He learned very quickly, so that way he could stay up late with the grown-ups and sing. (See Roy Orbison sessions).

NOVEMBER 16, 1936

Future Sun recording artist Jimmy Harrell was born in a Hillsboro community outside Forest, Mississippi.


Bukka White recorded "Shake 'Em On Down" in Memphis and became a sizable hit, but a shooting landed him in Mississippi's notorious Parchman prison farm.

Count Basie' releases "One O'Clock Jump", a cross of swing and rhythm and blues.

For a time in 1937, Rufus Thomas was back in Nashville, working with Johnny Dowdie at Kyles night club. Apart from the dance duo, Rufus also earned money by waiting tables for white diners. ''I was what you'd call a singing waiter", he said, also describing both the potential and the problems in this role: "During that time the white fellow was quite boastful, if he was out with his woman... but he'd pay well, At the end of the night. I had the money, and that what I was working for so you ask yourself who's the fool?".

SEPTEMBER 25, 1937

Having finished her Beale Street performance for the Broadway Rastus show, the revue was due to open the following afternoon with a Sunday matinée in Darling, Mississippi. Later than spend the night in Memphis and race to Darling the next day, Bessie Smith, energized after the evening's performance, had her driver, Richard Morgan, take her to Clarksdale as soon as the curtain fell. Driving down old Highway 61 a few miles north of Clarksdale, the car carrying the blues legend sideswiped a truck stopped at the side of the road. Bessie had been riding with her elbow jutting out the Packard's open window. Her right arm was torn off in the crash.

Bessie Smith was brought to G.T. Thomas Hospital located at 615 Sunflower Avenue, in Clarksdale, Mississippi and bled to death during the delay as a result of injuries sustained in the automobile accident. Blues folklore holds that it was a whites only establishment and turned away her ambulance - Edward Albee even wrote a play about it. According to biographer Chris Albertson's investigation, after crashing into the truck, which was reportedly delivering Sunday editions of the Commercial Appeal to Clarksdale, Bessie Smith was attended by Memphis physician Hugh Smith, who came upon the scene on his way to a fishing holiday. After an ambulance arrived, she was taken directly to the "colored" hospital; after all; this was 1937 in Mississippi; what local ambulance driver would take Bessie Smith to a white-only hospital?

In 1944 the hospital was converted into a Riverside Hotel (named as "The Home Of The Blues"). Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) and Ike Turner later stayed - Turner wrote "Rocket 88" here - and their names can still be seen in the register. John F. Kennedy, Jr. stayed here on a blues-landmarks trip around the Delta.


The Farm Security Administration is founded by the federal government to extend low interest loans to farm workers to help them start their own family-size farms.


Experiments were being carried out on the problems of multi track optical and magnetic recording onto 35mm film stock.

GOODMAN BUILDING (CRAWDAD'S) - ca. 1938 was built. Located at 151-155 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, an original, two nineteenth-century three-story building stood at this location. Around 1938 three single-story structure replaced them. These buildings contained such businesses as Ray's Smart Shoes (151 Beale Street). Paul's Fashion Shop (153 Beale Street), and the Little Hot House, a restaurant (155 Beale Street). Abe Goodman, Jr., the owner and probably builder, was the son of Abe Goodman, a well-known Memphis businessman, banker, real estate developer, and civic leader.

JANUARY 4, 1938

Two bonds are filed in the Tupelo local court. Vernon Presley's dad, Jessie, bails out Travis Smith. Lerther Gable's bond is put up by two friends. Vernon is released from Parchman Farm, after serving about two and a half years of his three-year sentence. It is a crushing blow, his own father delivering the ultimate insult. To Vernon, Jessie makes him look like a criminal.

LEE COUNTY JAIL - Facility where Vernon and Vester Presley were incarcerated after they were convicted of check forgery in 1937. The brothers were than transferred to Parchman Penitentiary for a three-year term, but only served nine months.

MAY 24, 1938

Vernon Presley, Lether Gable, and Travis Smith are tried before Judge Thomas J. Johnston, who is known as a hanging judge. The long period in jail prompt Vernon to plead guilty. Gable and Smith also pleaded guilty. Judge Johnston then orders each defendant to serve a term of three years in the state penitentiary.

This means only one thing - Parchman Farm. It is the meanest, nastiest prison in Mississippi's Delta. Not only is it racially mixed, but Parchman is a backbreaking work camp. For six days each week the men toiled for ten to twelve hours under the hot Delta sun.

They wear blue-and-white-striped pyjamas, and guards stand by with menacing shotguns. A man's dignity is constantly at stake, and living conditions are primitive. The guards keep "Black Annie", an eight-foot leather belt, close at hand, and Vernon Presley had to constantly watch his back. Inmates sometimes work on private farms, so Vernon Presley is often faced with plantation owners who remind him of his nemesis, Orville Bean. The debasing and dehumanizing atmosphere at Parchman Farm ultimately make Vernon to change his way.

PARCHMAN PENITENTIARY, PARCHMAN, MISSISSIPPI - Located at Highway 49 West, South of Clarksdale, Mississippi, the intervention of convict lease stalemated the penitentiary movement in the postbellum South. Because convicts, most of whom were black, were leased, southern states stopped maintaining existing prisons, and penitentiaries became 'mere shells of buildings, depositories for the old, the sick and the most dangerous'. The state of Mississippi outlawed convict lease (though not the equally infamous chain gang) by constitutional amendment in 1890 and sought institutional alternatives for using convict labour that would not jeopardize the interests of free labour. Legislators authorized the purchase of several tracts of land on which penal farms were erected to provide convicts with ' healthful agricultural labour' and the state with significant profit.

The largest of these farms was established at the turn of the century on some 13,000 acres purchased from a Sunflower County planter, James Parchman. When folksong collector John A. Lomax visited Parchman in the 1930s, more than 2,000 inmates tilled 17,000 acres of rich Delta land, channelling large sums into the state treasure. Lomax found his blues and ballad recording hindered by the length of convict work days and noted that part of the farm's profit came from the 'economies' practised: labour from 4:00 a.m. until dark and a total lack of mechanization. The penal cotton plantation had been temporary home to such Mississippi bluesmen as Booker T. Washington "Bukka" White, Son House, and Sonny Boy Williamson II.

In 1968 a regional prison report outlined conditions at Parchman and penitentiaries in Arkansas and Louisiana, concluding the "the three states put together could not out of presently available funds and facilities provide the components of one prison which would meet minimum national standards". Parchman's brutality and corruption were not unique. Angola in Louisiana was also infamous, but by the 1960s Parchman had become legendary. Beatings were routinely administered for infractions ranging from failure to address an officer properly to attempted escape. Inmates employed as armed guards - 170 out of a total force of 210 guards as late as 1968 - abused and often killed fellow prisoners.

In 1971 documented instances of brutality against several hundred incarcerated civil rights workers led to sweeping changes. Within three years, the trusty system was abolished; inadequate, segregated facilities were abandoned; and vocational training was implemented.

Today most of Parchman's 21,000 acres of cotton land are leased to local farmers, and many of its 12,000 prisoners participate in external rehabilitation programmes. A stadium, a new $3 million hospital, and apartments for family and conjugal visiting are maintained. Traditional black and white uniforms have been replaced denim trousers and work shirts. Still, the aura of fear and the reality of punishment remain. Said B.B. King of his childhood visit to his uncle, a fellow bluesman and former Parchman inmate Bukka White: "After that... I knew I wanted to stay far away from the place". Bukka White wrote "Parchman Farm Blues" while serving here for manslaughter. If he'd been around seven years later, Bukka White could have nodded at the father of the infant king of rock and roll in the exercise yard - Vernon Presley and his brother-in-law, Travis Smith, both spent nine months (June 1, 1938, to February 6, 1939) of a three-year at Parchman for forgery. Vernon and Travis were transferred there from the Lee County Jail.

Although Mose Allison, arguably the only well-known white Delta blues singer, sang the line "I'm sitting down here on Parchman Farm, ain't never done no man no harm", he was never an inmate of Mississippi's largest prison. A number of other bluesmen did end up doing a stretch here, however. Son House, the sizzling singer who was a protege of Charley Patton's and a teacher of Robert Johnson's, shot a man at a party near Lyon in 1928 and served 18 months of a 15-year sentence. In 1992 Fat Possum Records came here to record blues singing inmate David Malone.


Then in 1938 Rufus Thomas was lured back to the tent shows, this time with a company called Royal American Shows that advertised itself as the ''Most Beautiful Show On Earth''. It was basically a type of carnival, known as a Midway, owned by Carl Sedlmayr and the Velare Brothers, touring State fairs and festivals across Minnesota, Oklahoma. Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and western Canada. It seems that Rufus just worked in the Southern states closest to home. He confirmed to Peter Guralnick, "It was an all-white show, but Leon Claxton had the black part and they called it 'Harlem In Havana. It was a tent show under a big tent, that was the time when they had an aisle right down the centre and blacks sat on one side, whites on the other'. At twelve o clock wed have a parade you understand, to bring the people to let the people know. It was a different town every day and at night you stayed in people's homes because there were no hotels at all for blacks at that time. Then in the morning you catch the bus and you're off to another town''. He added: ''I wouldn't have traded the world for that foundation. Even with all the racism, all the hold backs, all those things, it was still quite like-able, people were having fun. We didn't make a lot of money but we had a damn good time''.


First "Spirituals to Swing" concert at New York's Carnegie Hall, featuring Big Bill Broonzy, among others. Benny Goodman's Carnegie Hall concert.

Pete Johnson and Joe Turner cut their first boogie records in Kansas City.

Boom of boogie woogie in Chicago.

Telefunken helps develop magnetic tape for use with tape recorders.

John Hammond stages the "Spirituals To Swing" concert in New York City to highlight black musical styles. The stars of the show are the duo of singer Big Joe Turner and pianist Pete Johnson who kick off a national "boogie woogie" craze.

Saxophonist Louis Jordan leaves Chick Webb's band to form the Tympany Five, a slimmed down group that begins the rhythm & blues revolution and might well mark the beginnings of what we know as Rock And Roll.

AUGUST 16, 1938

Robert Johnson dies near Greenwood, Mississippi at the age of 26. The cause of his death is widely disputed, but it is believed that he was murdered by a jealous husband who poisoned Robert's whiskey. Some consider Robert Johnson the most influential of early blues musicians and his direct influence is still felt today.


Charlie Christian joins Benny Goodman.

Dane Stinit was born on a farm near Owensboro, Kentucky.

Leo Mintz founds a record store in Cleveland, the "Record Rendezvous", specializing in black music. 2 years later he will convince DJ Alan Freed to start playing those records on the air which launches the rock and roll era.

Art Satherly brings a Vocalion team to Memphis. In June and July that year Satherly recorded 22 songs by the Swift Jewel Cowboys and six by Gene Steele. Born Lloyd Bob in 1908, he acquired the name Gene Steele by the time he first appeared on radio station WMC in Memphis in 1937. Steele remains a WMC radio regular until 1959. Known as the Singing salesman on WMC radio, Steele recorded in a bluesy semi-western swing style for Vocalion on songs like "Ride 'Em Cowboy" and "Just A Little Of The Blues". Later, in the early 1950s, Steele appears to have also recorded for Sam Phillips on unissued titles which included "Alimony Blues" and "Daisy Bread Boogie". When he retires from music Steele turns to dog racing in West Memphis and apparently does very well in his new line of business until his death in 1984.

Sam Phillips on his way to a religious revival in Dallas, he sees Memphis and Beale Street for the first time; it leaves a lasting impression on the teenager.

Charlie Burse of the Memphis Jug Band recorded with a jazzier combo as the Memphis Mudcats, with sax, piano, and string bass in place of the old homemade instruments. Perhaps Burse was just trying to go legit. In a business where respect was hard to come by, the line dividing the musicians on the street and those who played the theaters and honky-tonks was a rigid one.

OCTOBER 14, 1939

Founded this date, B.M.I. (Broadcast Music Incorporated) one of two major music publishing unions. The other music publishing union is A.S.C.A.P. (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), which was founded in 1914 by copyright attorney Nathan Burkan. After Elvis Presley's death, it was discovered that he had been deprived of a great deal of money because he had never registered with B.M.I. As a result, he never collected royalties on the songs on which he was listed as co-composer. Ironically, it was the popularity of rock and roll that built B.M.I. into such a successful union.


Richard Wright's "Native Son".

A breakdown in contract negotiations between radio broadcasters and the American Society of Composers and Publishers results in a nine-month blackout of ASCAP-licensed songs eventually leading to the formation of Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), a rival licensing agency far more hospitable to blues and country music.

During the 1940s, radio station WMPS develops into the top country music programmer in Memphis. The station moved heavily into a country format in 1939 but the tenure of Smilin' Eddie Hill at the station between 1947 and 1950 will give new impetus to the station. Hill's show quickly became the leading country becomes program in the region. Hill and his band are supported by other top acts including the Louvin Brothers, the Carlisles, Dan Snyder and the Loden Family. Disc jockey Bob Neal becomes the top country disc jockey in the Memphis area.

Just as a few Memphis-based artists were able to record in the 1930s by travelling to major label studios, in the 1940s some of Memphis' top radio acts appear on record. Again, though, they have to sign with labels from outside the immediate area to achieve this. The Delmore Brothers are contracted to King Records of Cincinnati at the time when they are appearing on Memphis radio in the late 1940s. Similarly, Freddie Burns, based in Memphis, appears on Star Talent out of Dallas. Curley Williams, writer of "Half As Much" and other songs for Hank Williams (no relation) uses Memphis as a radio and touring base but recorded for Columbia out of Nashville. Eddie Hill is the leading light on Memphis country radio, but his records appear in the 1940s on Apollo Records of New York and on Decca and then in the 1950s on Mercury out of their Nashville office. Decca had a distribution office in Memphis (from 1938 to 1952). Other labels with offices in Memphis include Capitol (from 1946 to 1955) and King (1952 to 1956). Mostly these offices are for distribution and promotional staff and have no connection with the recording side of the business, but it could be that there is some scouting of Memphis talent through these offices.

Bukka White are released from Mississippi's Parchman prison farm, and recorded a dozen sides for Vocalion Records that, along with being some of the last recorded prewar Delta blues, are true classics of the style.

The first Grand Ole Opry tent show (still featuring a black-face comedy team) tours the South.

JUNE 17, 1940

Future Sun recordings artist Alton Lott was born in a Hillsboro community outside Forest, Mississippi.


Back in Memphis by 1940, Rufus Thomas developed a different vaudeville comedy and dance show with another partner, Robert Counts, who was known as Bones'. Rufus and Bones played at the Cotton Club in West Memphis, the Brown Derby club, and particularly the Elks Club at 401 Beale. Rufus was still dancing but he was increasingly developing as a comedian, emcee and even a singer. He said, ''It was hard. I was working on stage before there were microphones; you really had to have some kind of a voice''.

He told John Floyd that he took up singing on the back of song writing. ''I was working in a comedy team at the Elks Club on Beale. There was a blues singer there by the name of Georgia Dickerson. and I used to write blues for her every week, and she'd sing them. But she left town and that left space in the show, so I thought I'm going to try to take up that space. That's all there was to it. I sang a song by Lonnie Johnson called ''Jelly Roll Baker''. Then I learned other songs and I did a few love songs like ''For Sentimental Reasons'' and I even did ''Stardust''. But my voice then was beginning to turn and I couldn't sing anything sweet with all that gravel in it''.

It was apparently at the Harlem Theater on Florida Street that Rufus first sang something sweet to a girl named Cornelius Lorene Wilson, whom he married in November 1940. The Reverend C. L. Franklin, father of Aretha Franklin, conducted the ceremony and it marked the start of a more stable phase of life for Rufus, and the end of his vaudeville days. He took a job at the American Finishing Company, a textiles firm, and he maintained a day job there alongside all his entertainment roles until 1963. He operated the boiler plant among other things, and on a slow day would use the rhythms the boiler pipes sometimes generated to help develop ideas for songs.

The new Thomas family lived in the Foote Homes Housing Project in Memphis, where Rufus soon had fatherly duties to add to his life. His son Marvell was born in 1942, his daughter Carla in 1943 and youngest daughter Vaneese in 1959.

Nevertheless, Rufus continued to ply his trade as an entertainer, working not only at the Harlem Theater but at the, Hyde Park Theater in north Memphis near Chelsea Avenue, the Savo Theater on North Thomas, and the Handy Theater on Park Avenue.

On Wednesday nights, Rufus was the emcee at the Palace Theater on Beale Street. This was amateur night, where he had graduated from being a dancer to becoming also a comic foil for the emcee, Nat Williams, to now add to his roles that of the emcee himself. He kept the comedy, and was always sharply dressed, continuing the theme he had started in school, and developing catchphrases like ''Ain't I'm clean?" or "Oh I feel so unnecessary".

He described to Peter Guralnick the shape of the show and the scale of the talent. "First they had the movies and then the amateur, which was the bottom hour, and then it was back to the movies. I reached back and got a friend of mine, his name was Robert Counts, they called him Bones, and we were together for eleven consecutive years at the Palace Theater every Wednesday night. We were making five dollars a night and you had the Al Jackson band and they were only making 25 dollars and they had a big band too. The show was only a nickel then, but the place was packed''.

He told Beale Street historians Margaret McKee and Fred Chisenhall: ''At that time we had contestants come up to perform, and then after everybody performed they'd all come back on stage and the audience would applaud for first prize. They used to have $5, $3, and $2 but they cut that out and later everybody who came up on stage would get a dollar. B. B. King used to come with holes in his shoes, his guitar all patched up, just to get that dollar''. Guitarist Calvin Newborn has recalled being presented with five dollars by Rufus on Palace amateur night for playing a piano duet with his brother, Phineas on ''Hey Bop A Re Bop''.

In 1950, Rufus left the Palace because he couldn't get the money he felt he was entitled to for his emcee role and comedy dance routines. Four decades later it still pained him to explain to Peter Guralnick: "I wanted more, but I couldn't get Bones to go ask for it with me. So the man got with Bones and asked him if he would work with someone else, and I got fired''.

However, Rufus was soon running a Saturday midnight amateur show at the Handy Theater. He was by now a well-known name in black Memphis, and he was fast becoming associated with the good time Saturday nights for which Beale Street was famous. He said, "Beale Street was the black man's haven. They'd come into town and forget all their worries and woes''.

Rufus's daughter, Carla Thomas, had clear memories of those days. She told 'Soul And Jazz Record' in 1974: "Growing up in Memphis in the early 1950s held much excitement for me because of my musical environment. Even though I was a young girl at the time, no one could outdo me when I did the Hambone. Bo Diddley came to Memphis often and he laughed about it. My father had everyone in the Foote Homes project doing that routine. My father has been a hard worker all his life. Many times he worked three and four jobs to support our family, traveling with different musicians to parts of Arkansas and Mississippi or wherever they could get a job, along with working in a textile mill and later as a disc jockey. My brother and myself would be anxiously waiting for him to come home to give us accounts of his travels. He told us how country folks loved the blues, drank the booze, and we learned a lot about life from daddy''.

Carla had a clear picture of Rufus's work closer to home, too: "I was at the Palace Theater often because my mother always took my brother and me to see daddy who was usually the emcee. Daddy danced so well that he eventually got barred from competition: that's how he got to be emcee. I laughed until I cried at the jokes he shared with his team partner Bones, of Rufus and Bones. It seemed to me then that to be associated with Beale Street was to be associated with creativity, strength and pride. That's why many blacks, especially on the weekends, would congregate up and down Beale Street to feel the pulse of life it had to offer''.

It's easy to overplay the extent to which Beale was buzzing. In August 1950, ''Ebony'' magazine ran a feature about 'The New Beale Street''', emphasizing the rise of black owned business and the real or hoped for gentrification of the street. ''Beale is but a ghost of the boisterious, blustering thorefare of yesterday, ''Ebony'', reported. ''It's sweet men and easy riders are gone; its gambling dens and nite spots are shut down. A new Beale Street is arising as a symbol of the new, enterprising, forward looking Southern Negro of today, looking forward to the day when Negro business will dominate the street''. It reported, ''by midnite these days the street is virtually deserted in contrast to the old days when the nite spots operated all night''.

In December, on the same theme, 'Billboard' reported a speech at Booker T. Washington High School by W. C. Handy, 77-year-old band-leader and composer of the ''Beale Street Blues'' and ''Memphis Blues''. Handy thought, "In the days when I was here, everything in the Negro community centers around three or four blocks on Beale. There were theaters, drug stores and saloons. Everybody put on his best to be seen on Beale: it was a promenade. Now there are many Negro communities in the city and Beale has lost its charms. (It has) the character of an avenue of commerce, filled pawnshops, cheap cafes and second-hand stores where the tourist can find no lure''. Handy felt the same thing had happened in New York on Lenox Avenue and in Harlem, Handy, who had him created a successful business in the North, felt that "a certain race pride has gone by the boards. To many Negroes are trying to live white, and it's not good''. There may have been a generations element in this because, to the Thomas family, the,scene was still buzzing, and Rufus was as integral part of it.

For people like Rufus Thomas, and Nat Williams, the pride was still very much there, too, and I started to take other forms as well, not least through the efforts of radio WDIA, the first station to cater to black America in the South.


ONE MINUTE DAIRY LUNCH (WILLIE MITCHELL'S RHYTHM AND BLUES BLUB) - 1941 is constructed. Located at 326-328 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, this building, probably built by Paul Zerilla and Joe Maceri at the same time as the New Daisy Theater, took the place of an older two-story building constructed in the 1880s. Its occupants were mostly grocers, barbers, and restaurant and saloon proprietors, until 1921, when the One Minuted moved in. The restaurant remained open until 1953.

The One Minute, a popular rendezvous, specialized in footlong hot dogs, chili dogs, and root beer. In the 1930s the cafe sold 3600 hot dogs per day. Andrew Chaplin, the drummer who worked in "Hulbert's Lo-Down Houns" in 1930, begged the leader to change the orchestra's name because he got tired of being ribbed every time he coma into the One Minute for a hot dog. In the late 1950s, Jeff's "On Beale" Hot Pit Bar-B-Q opened. Some claimed it sold the best in town.


NEW DAISY THEATER > Historic Memphis Theaters < - 1941 is constructed. Located at 330 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, Paul Zerilla and Joe Maceri built the New Daisy to replace two other theaters at this location. The reasoning behind trading one for two is not clear, since the older theaters taken together were much larger and only twenty to thirty years old. In the trade-off, the One Munite Dairy Lunch next door got a new building, while a much smaller structure was built to partially fill in the alleyway to the east of the theater. This latter building, initially occupied by Kane's Big Dipper Ice Cream Store, became the Harlem House in 1950, a restaurant chain which had outlets all over the downtown area

The New Daisy showed films and occasionally had live music. Its architecture has an art deco flair, highlighted by a lattice pattern of brick work and elongated vents above the marquee.


The U.S. enters World War II. Within months, the federal government starts work on the Naval Air Station at Millington, Defense Depot, and Kennedy General (later Veterans) Hospital in Memphis.

Leopold Stokowski, who since 1917 had shown an interest in musical techniques to improve recorded performance, conducted the recording sessions for the soundtrack of the Walt Disney film Fantasia. The result was a technical and artistic triumph.

The Grand Ole Opry sends a tour abroad to take country music to World War II servicemen.


Alan Lomax recorded McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, for the Library of Congress on Stovall's plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi.

First jet aircraft designed.

Alex Rice Miller, aka Sonny Boy Williamson II, begins performing live on the radio KFFA's in Helena, Arkansas. ''The King Biscuit Hour'' was fairly popular and made Sonny Boy a Delta radio star.

A threatened march on Washington DC, results in federal legislation forbidding racial discrimination in defense industries.

DECEMBER 7, 1941

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and direct American involvement in World War II began.

The Great Depression and the first month of American participation in World War II were important watersheds for the many family's.


The Library of Congress recorded two black string bands from Middle Tennessee in Memphis.

The duo of fiddler Frank Patterson and singer-banjoist Nathan Frazier, and a trio consisting of fiddler John Lusk, banjoist Murph Gribble, and guitarist Albert York. Lusk's grandfather had been a slave fiddlers in New Orleans who no doubt had played many of the same tunes that had stolen the Norwegian Ole Bull's thunder more than a century earlier.

Dewey Phillips moved to Memphis from the West Tennessee town of Adamsville.

The family of Luther Perkins came back to Memphis 1942. Luther Sr. worked at Firestone. Luther Jr. (L.M. or ''Ellum'' as he was known) held down a variety of jobs.


Lionel Hampton's "Flying Home".

Billboard magazine debuts the Harlem Hit Parade to chart the top singles in the "race" field, a precursor to rhythm and blues.

Illinois Jacquet kicks off the tenor sax as a primary rhythm and blues instrument with his wild solo on Lionel Hampton's "Flying Home".

The onset of World War II results in limited record production, particularly non-pop records, slowing the growth of rhythm & blues music until war's end in 1945.

The American Federation of Musicians calls for a ban on recording in a dispute over royalties; the "strike" lasts until 1944. The Swift Jewel Cowboys had originated in Texas, working on radio for the Swift Company, manufacturers of Jewel Salad Oil. Frank Collins, manager of the Swift Jewel Cowboys who had originated Jewel Salad Oil, moved to Memphis this year, guitarist Slim Hall, they let be played over radio station WMC until 1936 and then over radio WREC until 1942. One member of the group, cornetist Pee Wee Wamble, is still resident in Memphis. The Cowboys were a jazzy western swing outfit whose best tunes included "Chuck Wagon Swing" and "Memphis Oomph". After the band left Memphis, Pee Wee Wamble continued to play in Memphis and he recorded in the 1940s as a member of Freddie Burns' Ranch Boys.


Los Angeles bluesman T-Bone Walker incorporates jazz chords into the blues guitar with "I Got A Break Baby".

Herman Lubinsky and Savoy Records begin operations in Newark, New Jersey, focusing on recording black artists.

The Orbison family moved to Forth Worth sometime in 1942. In Forth Worth, they found employment in the munitions and aircraft factories that had been expanded due to America's entry into World War II. But due to epidemic polio in 1944, Roy and his elder brother Grady were sent back to live with their maternal grandmother, a divorcee, in Vernon. Roy Orbison wrote his first song "A Vow of Love", in front of his grandmother's house the same year.

RCA Victor presented the first ever Gold Disc to Glenn Miller for the million selling ''Chattanooga Choo-choo''.

Fred Rose and the singer Roy Acuff form the Nashville-based country music publishing company Acuff-Rose, helping to permanently re-center of the country music business in Nashville, Tennessee.

APRIL 23, 1942

Roy Orbison gets his first guitar for his 6th birthday


Duke Ellington's "Black, Brown And Beige".

King Records is founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Syd Nathan to record hillbilly. In 1946 they begin recording rhythm and blues, becoming one of the most prominent independent labels of the next decade as a result.

Sam Phillips marries Rebecca 'Becky' Burns.

MAY 1943

Muddy Waters boards a train from Clarksdale, Mississippi to Chicago, Illinois. This trip is symbolically viewed as the first step in rural country blues' transformation into urban blues.


Louis Jordan's "G.I. Jive" reaches top of the pop charts.

A "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert in Los Angeles, featuring Nat Cole, Les Paul and Illinois Jacquet, among others, yields the first commercially released "live" concert recordings. Jacquet's squealing tenor saxophone solo on "The Blues" helps to plant the seeds for rhythm and blues.

The mechanical cotton picker is introduced; 20 years later, only 5% of the Delta's cotton crop will be hand-picked.

Johnny Cash's brother Jack is nearly cut in half by a table saw and dies after a week of suffering. Cash later says that he felt guilt because he had gone fishing that day.

The year's first issue of Billboard magazine introduces a "folk" chart that mixes country, jazz, and blues.


Memphis begins construction of the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge, which opens in 1949 across the Mississippi River; its still in use today.

Les Paul invents "echo delay", "multi-tracking" and many other studio techniques.

Johnny Otis assembles a combo for "Harlem Nocturne" that is basically a shrunk-down version of the big-bands of swing.

Jules Bihari founds Modern Records in Los Angeles, specializing in black music and is one of the most successful and groundbreaking labels in the country.

The immediate post-war release of research facilities to peaceful purposes gave tremendous impetus to sound quality improvement. The frequency spectrum covered by recording increased dramatically. During the war years background music came of age. By decreasing fatigue and raising morale, it contributed significantly to wartime productivity. Some estimates found it increased output by as much as 25%. This revelation had an enormous impact on the history and development of recorded sound.

"The Honeydripper" by Joe Liggins is number 1 on the black music charts for a record 18 weeks. The sexually suggestive term is an early indicator for the new direction of rhythm and blues music.

Cecil Gant's "I Wonder" becomes the first massive rhythm and blues hit to be significantly covered for other markets.

Lew Chudd forms Imperial Records and the following year Art Rupe forms Specialty Records, both in Los Angeles, to record rhythm & blues. Each label will also make significant recordings of New Orleans rhythm and blues over the next decade and a half.


Charlie Parker's "Koko" and "Now's The Time".

Radio station WMC in Memphis developed into the second most important country station. Its stars included Gene Steele, Bob McKnight and his Ranch Boys with vocalist Freddie Burns, Curley Williams' Georgia Peachpickers, Curley Fox, Harmonica Frank and, in 1945 and 1946, the Delmore Brothers with Wayne Raney and Lonnie Gosson. Alton Delmore has recalled Memphis as "the best place we ever worked". The Brothers had an early morning show on WMC radio during the heyday of their King Records career in the wake of hits like "Hillbilly Boogie". The longest running country program in Memphis was also on WMC radio. This was the Slim Rhodes show which ran from 1944 into the early 1960s and later expanded into TV.

Sam Phillips moves to Memphis and himself worked as a country disc jockey for radio station WREC in Memphis in June 1945. He was the host of he "Songs Of The West" program, where he was known as "Pardner". Sam's brother Jud was also on WREC radio as a member of the Jollyboys vocal quartet. Phillips following radio jobs in Alabama at WLAY, Muscle Shoals and WMSL, Decatur, and in Nashville at WLAC. At WREC he works as an announcer, disc jockey, and recording engineer until mid-1951.

APRIL 1, 1945

At the age of 9, Roy Orbison entered and won a contest on KVWC in Vernon, Texas, and this led to his own radio show singing the same songs every Saturday. Roy played the guitar himself for his radio show. Each week he had to learn new songs to perform, and so his gift as a legendary guitar player started right here. The station didn't even have a microphone low enough for him because he was so young, and Roy had to stand on a little footstool to reach the mic.


After radio stints in Muscle Shoals and Decatur, Alabama, and Nashville, Sam Phillips joins Memphis's WREC-AM radio as an engineer.

Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs join Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, beginning the band's most famous incarnation and marking the coming of age of the bluegrass style Monroe pioneered.

OCTOBER 30, 1945

Sam Phillips' son Knox is born on in Memphis, Tennessee.


Halfway through his thirteen year, Billy Riley and his family left the plantation in Arkansas and headed southeast to Tupelo, Mississippi bringing their tent with them. Riley's father was working as a painter but after a year with work at a premium the family pulled up roots again and headed back to Arkansas - this time to Osceola. While in Tupelo though, Riley had made his first public appearance, performing live on radio station WELO.

Billboard begins charting the sale of records in the "Negro" market, employing the heading, "Harlem Hit Parade." The weekly listing is eventually renamed "Race Records''.

Muddy Waters cuts the first records of Chicago's electric blues.

Carl Hogan plays a powerful guitar riff on Louis Jordan's "Ain't That Just Like A Woman".

Specialty Records is founded by Art Rupe in Los Angeles to specialize in black popular music.

Louis Jordan launches "jump blues" (rhythm and blues) with "Choo Choo 'Boogie".

Shortly after the end of World War II, Carl Perkins' father Buck Perkins moved his family to Bemis, Tennessee, where his brother worked in the cotton mills. Buck was refused a job in the mills because of his deteriorating lungs and the Perkins family went back to sharecropping, although this time they had a house with electricity and a refrigerator. Perkins soon found a use for the electricity when he bought a cheap Harmony guitar and plugged it in.


Robert E. "Buster" Williams and Clarence Camp launched a record distributorship, located at 680 Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee, called Music Sales. The major labels largely controlled their own distribution, but small distributors handled the indies. Music Sales distributed most of the rhythm and blues labels, such as Atlantic and Chess, and later records for Sun Records. Music Sales moves to bigger premises at 1117 Union Avenue. It will become Sun's principal distributor.


A medicine show came to town and Roy Orbison entered the talent contest singing "Mountain Dew" and "Jole Blon", and tied for first place with a 15-year-old kid. The total prize was $15, so he got $7.50 and gave his buddy half of that for carrying his guitar.

When the War was over, the family re-united in Vernon and soon moved out west to Wink, Texas, in late 1946.


Mississippi born Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup records "That's All Right" for Blue Bird records in Chicago.


Billboard described the facilities for black bands in the mid-south: "As a rule, Southern club operators are hostile toward labour and are kept in their best cooperative spirits when the word "Union" is not spoken aloud in their presence. They regard the AFM as a force of banditry. Negro bands often have to choose between vermin-infested hotels or the band bus. All of this in addition to filthy cafes, poor or no valet service, long jumps on tar-gravelled roads, crippled pianos and buzzing PA system make the South the least attractive hinterland to musicians".


LANSKY BROTHERS > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - better known as Lansky's, is a famous men's clothier located in Memphis, Tennessee. It has gained worldwide recognition for being the choice location to buy clothes for music celebrities including the complete Memphis blues scene, Sun artists such as Roy Orbison, Sonny Burgess, Johnny Cash, Warren Smith, and Elvis Presley and many many more.

In 1946 Samuel Lansky bought and opened a shop for his two sons, Bernard and Guy, at 126 Beale Street, originally a store which sold leftover Army supplies from World War II, Bernard took advantage of the elevating Beale Street music scene and looked to provide clothing for the typical characters of Beale who wanted to dress dapper.

After a few years of business, Lansky Bros. already had an impressive list of customers, including Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, and B.B. King.

At the start of 1952, Bernard noticed a young white man who would continuously walk past his window and look inside, but never actually went to buy anything. Eventually, Bernard went to invite the man in. It was a seventeen year-old Elvis Presley, who worked at the local Loew's Theatre. According to Bernard, Elvis told him that he was going to buy him out when he got enough money. Lansky responded: "Elvis, don't buy me, buy from me''! Once Elvis became an international superstar, Lansky Brothers still provided much of his attire, including his outfit for his first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956. "I put Elvis in his first suit, and I put him in his last'', Lansky recalls.

In 1981, Bernard Lansky bought out his brother, and he and his son Hal Lansky opened a big-and-tall business. It grew to 11 Lansky Big and Tall stores and Hercules stores in the Mid-South. In 1994, they sold for a nice profit.

In 2001, Lansky's established a new line of clothing entitled "Clothier To The King," which provides reproductions of clothing that Elvis actually wore combined with new 1950s-inspired clothing. Lansky Brothers has since moved its location from Beale Street to Memphis' renowned Peabody Hotel, but is still as busy as ever. Bernard Lansky remains an ideal figure of Memphis history. Musicians that currently shop there include Elvis Presley made it famous for the likes of The Jonas Brothers, Robert Plant, Eddie Floyd, Stephen Stills, Steven Tyler, Dr. John, Gavin DeGraw, and numerous others.

On Sunday August 14, 2011, Lansky Bros. will unveil a historical marker located at 126 Beale Street to celebrate the history of Lansky Bros. at the original location.

On November 15, 2012, storyteller, and most notably, Clothier to the King, Bernard Joseph Lansky passed away peacefully at his home in Memphis at the age of 85.

DECEMBER 16, 1946

TRI-STATE BANK (CHARLES E. CARPENTER LAW OFFICES)  > Historic Memphis Beale Street <  - 1907, still in operation at the corner of Beale and Main, opened in this building located at 386 Beale Street. This was the third black owned bank in the city. The first, the Solvent Saving Bank and Trust Company, started out in a building east of and next to 386 Beale Street in 1906. In 1914 it moved to 386 and then, in 1925, to 197 Beale on the corner of Beale and Third. Its failure, after a merger in 1927.

On the second floor of 386 Beale were the offices of the Pace and Handy Music Company, one of the first such enterprises in the United States owned by African-Americans. It opened in 1913 and remained there until 1918, when both Harry Pace and W.C. Handy moved to New York.

ANTONIO MACEO WALKER- was an African American businessman and president of Universal Life Insurance Company and Tri-State Bank, both in Memphis, Tennessee. Walker was born on June 7, 1909 in Indianola, Mississippi to Joseph and Lela Walker. His father, Joseph Edison Walker, founded Universal Life Insurance, and also was a medical doctor and entrepreneur.

Antonio Walker grew up in Memphis where he attended LeMoyne High School. He graduated from Fisk University in 1930 with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He then attended graduate school at New York University where he earned his Master’s in Business Administration in 1932. In 1935 he earned a second Master’s degree in Actuarial Science from the University of Michigan.

While in college, Walker worked as an insurance agent for his father’s company, Universal Life Insurance. After graduate school, Walker worked for Universal Life Insurance in the audit department, and was elected to the board of directors in 1935 at the age of 26.

In 1938 Walker married Harriette Ish and the couple had three children: Lily Patricia, Antonio Maceo, Jr., and Harriette Lucille Walker. After the death of his first wife, Harriette, he married Charlesteen Miles.

In 1946 Walker and his father, Joseph Edison Walker, co-founded the Tri-State Bank of Memphis. They established the Tri-State Bank primarily to help African American businesses receive loans since in many instances these enterprises were refused loans by white owned Memphis banks. In 1952 Walker succeeded his father as President of Universal Life Insurance. After his father’s death in 1958, he also became the President of Tri-State Bank.

Walker continued to serve as President of Universal Life Insurance until 1983, when he gave control of the company to his daughter, Patricia Walker Shaw. However, she died two years later, and Walker resumed his position as President of the company. He finally retired from the business world in 1990, resigning as the President of Universal Life Insurance and Tri-State Bank.

Antonio Maceo Walker died on June 8, 1994 in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 85.


The brothers, Charlie and Ira Louvin, arrived from Knoxville to Memphis, and the duo honed their plaintive vocal harmonies working three radio shows a day in Memphis, and booking appearances throughout the region. Charlie Louvin has recalled that in the city of Memphis where black entertainment reigned, even for much of the white audience, country music was a tough sell. The Louvins wound up working in the Memphis Post Office, but the postmaster gave the brothers such a hard time about missing work to play music that in 1954 the Louvins moved on, first to Birmingham, then to Nashville a year later.

Roy Brown writes and cuts "Good Rockin' Tonight" in Texas.

Chess Records is founded in Chicago by two Polish-born Jews, Leonard and Phil Chess to promote blues and later rhythm and blues.

Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson founds Atlantic Records in New York to promote black music at the border between jazz, rhythm and blues and pop. It will become the biggest rhythm and blues label in history.

The Ravens introduce a new form of harmony singing featuring bass vocalist Jimmy Ricks out front with tenor Maithe Marshall floating on top of the melody. Their radical reworking of "Old Man River" is the prototype for the new style of rhythm and blues group singing on the horizon.

"Open The Door Richard" becomes the smash of the year with five different artists hitting the Top Three on the rhythm and blues charts with a version, including its writer Dusty Fletcher. The comical song about a drunk trying to get into his apartment while his roommate is there with a woman signal a loosening of sexual mores, which become an rhythm and blues hallmark.

JUNE 1947

WDIA RADIO -opened as the sixth station in town, and one of the least important. At first, it purveyed classical, popular and hillbilly music, alongside the news. Bert Ferguson, who co-owned the station with John Pepper, knew that Nat Williams was a communicator, someone who could inform as well as entertain. With low ratings, WDIA figured that through Nat they could try to gain listeners among the black community, which made up nearly half the local population. Williams started in October 1948 with a show called 'Tan Town Jamboree' and he quickly got a very positive response. Within a few years, WDIA moved to an all-black format and was being promoted as the 'Mother Station Of The Negro'. Besides Williams, WDIA recruited other local personalities from the schools and theaters of Memphis, including Gatemouth Moore, Maurice Hulbert, Theo Wade, Willa Monroe, Martha Jean Steinberg, Robert Thomas, Ford Nelson, A. C. 'Moohah' Williams - and, in September 1950, Rufus Thomas.


POPLAR TUNES RECORD SHOP - Elvis Presley used to hanging out at Poplar Tunes, located at 308 Poplar Avenue, when he was in high school. The store was founded by Joe Cuoghi and John Novarese. Poplar Tunes was opened in 1947, just a few years before Elvis Presley recorded his first song.

Poplar Tunes has come to symbolize the very best in Memphis music. B.B. King came into the store on his own one evening and played his guitar. Cuoghi liked King so much that he called a friend of his who worked at a radio station, supposedly giving B.B. King his first real break.

Under the name of Hi Records, a record company they operated besides Poplar Tunes, Novarese and Cuoghi jump-started the careers of a number of local and regional entertainers including Al Greene, Ace Cannon, and Ann Peebles. They also found time to increase the size and scope of Poplar Tunes. After Joe Cuoghi died in 1970, John Novarese was joined by Frank Berretta. The company now has more than 100 employees and seven locations including one in Collierville and another in Horn Lake; three are company-owned, and four are leased. While the Memphis downtown store has quite a bit of walk-in traffic, its main thrust is on the wholesale market. This Polar Tunes is a standard record store with a unique history. Located a few blocks from Lauderdale Courts, this one store brick building looks just it did now over forty years ago. In 1953 Elvis Presley was buying records here, and in 1954 Elvis' own records sold like wildfire at Poplar Tunes, the first record store to sell Elvis Presley's music.

Dewey Phillips used to stop by the store on the way to his afternoon radio show, and he often came by after the show when the store was closed. After hours, Cuoghi and his other music-business friends would sit around spinning records and filling each other in on the latest industry gossip.

Whether Elvis Presley knew of Cuoghi's influence when he first started hanging around the record store is debatable. Located a short walk from Lauderdale Courts, Elvis Presley spent so much time in the store that Choughi came to know him as a shy, polite kid. Years later Cuoghi remembered a very young Elvis Presley coming into the store just to see if his records were selling. Whenever a young girl came in to ask for one of the records, Elvis would start to grin, but he would never come forward. Cuoghi would tell the girl, "Elvis Presley? Why that's him right over there". After the girl left, Elvis would to say, "Mr. Cuoghi, don't do that. It embarrasses me".

Today you can still purchase Elvis' music at Poplar Tunes, and many of the other voices which have emerged from Memphis. The walls at Poplar Tunes are lined with uncommon photos of Elvis Presley. "He was in here all the time", says Mary Anne Linder, who's worked in the store since 1955. "He was working at Crown Electric when Dewey Phillips first started playing his record, and he would come in on his lunch break to see if people were buying it. In those days Poplar Tunes was known as "one-stop shop" where jukebox owners would line up outside the on Monday morning to buy the latest 45s. It was also a favorite hangout for local teenagers. The two groups would stand elbow to elbow at the counter listening to records on turntables, trying to decide which ones to buy".

"Because Elvis was so shy", says Linder, "he usually hid behind the Coke machine. After they'd leave", she fondly recalls, "he'd come up to me and ask, 'Did anybody buy my record". "Long before Elvis met Colonel Parker", says Joe Scola, "it was Joe Cuoghi who convinced the late Bob Neal - who at the time owned a Pop Tunes outlet near the old Warner Theater on South Main - to manage the young singer's career. Joe said he'd buy Neal out if he would manage Elvis", recalls Scola, now advertising director for Poplar Tunes. "Joe took a real interest in Elvis from the start, but you never hear much about that any more. We do a lot of wholesaling to mom and pop operations that don't have connections with the big national distributors", says Scola. "Right now we've got about 330 customers. Although the larger chains continue to garner a sizable share of the retail record market locally", says Joe Scola, "Poplar Tunes has remained a viable competitor. Lots of record companies have come and gone", he points out, "but we're still here. We're a Memphis institution".

In 2011 without any fanfare, hope for a miracle, or opportunity for a last-minute reprieve, the Nashville-based Music City Record Distributors unceremoniously pulled the plug on Memphis' final two Pop Tunes locations including the first Pop Tunes, located at 308 Poplar Avenue., which was opened by Joe Cuoghi and John Novarese in the late 1940s as a retail record store, a jukebox supplier, and a wholesale operation. Someone died, even Elvis Presley...!


PAPE'S MEN'S SHOP (POLICE STATION) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - ca. 1947 was built. Located at 159-161 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, in 1943 Sigfried Pape bought the nineteenth century three-story building which originally stood at this location, razed it, and built the current structure. Pape's Men's Shop, the only occupant through the 1960s, sold high quality clothes. The store had an arrangement with the American Finishing Company, a finisher of cotton materials. When one of their employees had an outstanding account with Pape's, the company garnisheed his wages to pay the bill.


Ernest C. Withers broke the Memphis police force's color line, becoming one of the city's first nine black policemen and part of the first black Memphis patrol car team. It was no revolution: Black police officers still weren't allowed to arrest white lawbreakers; they could only detain them until a white officer arrived. But it was a start, and it was very good news for Memphis blacks. With black officers patrolling Beale Street, there was less potential for police harassment.

In his off-hours, Officer Withers was a photographer, a hobby he'd picked up in high school when he took some snapshots of a visiting Mrs. Joe Louis. He took his hobby with him into the army and the South Pacific, where he made a tidy side income photographing his fellow this for them to send the folks back home.

Business was so good, he says, that his superior officers accused him of running a whorehouse. Nothing else, they reasoned, could draw such big crowds of Gis.

To the day, Ernest C. Withers is rarely seen without a camera; for the past fifty years he has documented black Memphis, from the Negro Baseball League's Memphis Red Sox to church functions, lodges, and social organizations. He traveled with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during his public life, and his photographic documentation of the Beale Street scene in the second half of ninety century is among our richest testaments to its vitality.

In 2007 Withers died from the complications of a stroke in his hometown of Memphis. Withers and his wife Dorothy had eight children together.


The oil industry had developed a multi purpose thermo plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), suitable for making recording tape and gramophone records with very low surface noise. The flow characteristics of PVC made possible the pressing of microgroove long playing records developed by a CBS team headed by Dr Peter Goldmark. Edison had released Long Playing Discs with a duration of twenty minutes per side as early as 1926 but they could not be fairly compared with the CBS microgroove LP.

John Lee Hooker records ''Boogie Chillen'' for Modern Records, a single, which topped the rhythm and blues charts in 1949.

Muddy Waters' "I Can't Be Satisfied" were recorded.

Seeking an entrée into the music business, Dewey Phillips got a job hawking recorded at W.T. Grant's, five-and-dime near, a department store near the Gayoso Hotel at Gayoso and Main Street in downtown Memphis, where WHBQ radio was then located. His job description was counter clerk, but Dewey Phillips as usual defied description. Dewey immediately began blasting rhythm and blues through loudspeakers onto Main Street, then plugged a microphone onto the record player and started blasting himself. He soon had the hottest record department in the 500-store chain and had become his own brand of disc jockey. All he needed was a radio station.

Detroit rhythm and blues saxophonist Wild Bill Moore releases "We're Gonna Rock We're Gonna Roll".

Columbia introduces the 12-inch 331/3 RPM long-playing vinyl record.

Homer Dudley invents the Vocoder (Voice Operated recorder).

Memphis' radio station WDIA hires Nat Williams, the first black disc jockey.

The magazine Billboard introduces charts for "hillbilly" and "race" records.

The term "rhythm and blues" is coined by young Billboard reporter and future Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler. It will replace the negative "race records" chart a year later which signifies the new shift in black music.

The Orioles, led by Sonny Til, become the first of the young black vocal groups to appeal to a teenage audience, scoring a number 1 rhythm and blues hit with their debut, "It's Too Soon To Know", the first rock ballad.

Wynonie Harris's version of "Good Rockin' Tonight" tops the rhythm and blues charts and gives rise to the popularization of that word in connotation with the music.

The raciness in rhythm and blues becomes prevalent with such artists and songs as Julia Lee's "King Size Papa" and Bull Moose Jackson's "I Want A Bowlegged Woman" which further connect this music to a young, wild audience bent on moving away from past styles.

JUNE 1948

Columbia launched the vinyl 12-inch 33-1/3 rpm album.


Charlie Feathers left home to work as a pipeliner from Cairo, Illinois, all the way down to Texas, playing juke joints as he went. Eventually he fetched up in Memphis sometime in 1950 and promptly got married.

Atlantic Records is formed. The label has shown a flair for assessing performing styles and audience tastes that has been unmatched in the post-World War II era of popular music. Signing a succession of performers from various sources and with various styles, Atlantic's mid-1950s rosters included Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, LaVern Baker, Clyde McPhatter, Ray Charles, Chuck Willis, Ivory Joe Hunter, The Cardinals, The Clovers, The Drifters, The Coasters, and Bobby Darin. With these performers the company's share of the r & b market grew from three Top Ten records in 1950 to seventeen (out of eighty-one) in 1956. Though no longer an independent, Atlantic continues to thrive as part of the WEA family.


Sam Phillips' son Jerry is born in Memphis, Tennessee.


After possibly two years in the Service, bluesman Howlin' Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett) returned to farming in Mississippi but started playing in West Memphis, Arkansas around 1948. He probably continued to work on the farm for a while at least because people recall seeing him show up for radio station work in his farm overalls. At that time, West Memphis had longer drinking hours than Memphis, more gambling joints and a city administration willing to turn a blind eye. On Friday and Saturday nights, school buses brought sharecroppers in from the surrounding Delta country.

The Wolf and his small group (very young James Cotton and Little Junior Parker), plied their craft as the country folk boozed, whored and gambled away their meagre earnings.

Pat Hare, who later played guitar with James Cotton and Muddy Waters, recalled that his first paying job was working with Howlin' Wolf in a West Memphis whorehouse in 1948 or 1949. Howlin" Wolfs band spotted broadcast over station KWM, where Sonny Boy Williamson II, had a spot. (See Howlin' Wolf sessions)


Jack Clement signed up for a four year stint in the U.S. Marines. The Marine base where Clement was stationed was just outside Washington, D.C., and here late in 1948 he was first exposed to bluegrass music. "That was when I fell in love with the five-string banjo", he recalls, "and I just had to get one and practise on it straight away".

Soon, he was proficient enough to play duets with Roy Clark, now a country superstar but then a resident artist at a Washington club called "The Famous". On Saturday nights, he would travel down to Maryland with Scotty Stoneman's band. Scotty was the mainstay of the popular Stonemans. He played fiddle, with mandolin, banjo and bass support from Jack Clement, Buzz Busby and Jimmy Stoneman. The group was completed by Ralph Jones on dobro and Clement recalls Jones being one of the finest oldtime country musicians he ever knew.


Radio advertising revenue plummets with the advent of television. In the greater Memphis market, WDIA and KWEM are especially hard hit. KWEM opts for a ''Pay to Pay'' format. Any artist who can find a $25 sponsor can get a fifteen-minute show. Among those appearing on the station are Howlin' Wolf, Joe Hill Louis, Ike Turner, Matt Murphy, Elmore James, Pat Hare, Willie Steele, Hubert Sumlin, The 3 Aces (Willie Nix, Willie Love, Willie Joe Jenkins), Calvin Newborn, Phineas Newborn, James Cotton, and Junior Parker.


In 1948 Billy Riley tried to enlist in the armed services. Only 15 years of age, he was rejected. By 1949 the Riley family had moved back to Pocohontas although his sister stayed in Osceola. Riley tried again to enlist and with his sister signing the necessary papers attesting that he was 18 (Riley had no birth certificate), he became an employee of Uncle Sam.

For Riley, the Army was just a way out of grinding rural poverty although he eventually saw some benefits: ''While I was in the service I got more interested in music because I won some talent shows at the service club''. Playing in these talent shows, singing hard country music along the lines defined by Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Thompson, Riley first performed in a full band context. He was even offered a position in Special Service but surprisingly turned it down due to stage fright. During his hitch in the service, Riley made his first private recordings including the Hank Williams weeper ''My Son Calls Another Man Daddy''.

It is unclear exactly how long Billy Riley spent in the service. He recalled to Bill Millar that he returned to civilian life and then re-enlisted for three years. In any event, Riley probably found himself back in civilian duds around 1953 or 1954.


Richard "Tuff" Green, Phineas Newborn, and Ben Branch were injured in a band bus crash outside Memphis that killed three members of the band. Green quit touring after that, while Phineas senior, with his two sons quickly coming on of age, decided to form a family band. Calvin played guitar, and the brilliant but tragically unstable Phineas junior played piano. In the early fifties, the Newborn family band was one of the hottest acts on the Memphis club scene. Along with their regular gigs on Beale Street and in West Memphis, the Newborn family band helped B.B. King make his first recordings in the studios of WDIA radio, and the band make many early Sun Records recordings.

Fats Domino cuts "The Fat Man'', a new kind of boogie.

Hank Williams' "Lovesick Blues" reaches the top of the country charts.

Scatman Crothers cuts "I Want To Rock And Roll" (1949), with Wild Bill Moore on saxophone.

Todd Storz of the KOWH radio station starts the Top 40 radio program.

The Billboard chart for "race" records becomes the chart for "rhythm and blues" records.

Aristocrat changes its name to Chess Records.

(Delta blues, Chicago blues, boogie).

The first demonstration of the transistor by Shockley, Brittain and Bardeen caused a revolution in recording equipment design and performance parameters, and was to have the same effect on domestic equipment. With the release by RCA of the first 7 inch diameter, 45 rpm microgroove discs, a short lived and good tempered battle to establish a new standard, 10 inch (or 12 inch) diameter records at 33.33 rpm or 7 inch (or larger) diameter records at 45rpm, commenced. In the event, both existed happily side by side each serving a particular purpose.

MGM releases Hank Williams's "Lovesick Blues''.

The saxophone becomes the centerpiece sound of rhythm and blues and is used for its suggestiveness and its ability to incite a crowd into a frenzy as evidenced by Big Jay McNeely's smash "The Deacon's Hop" and the slowed down sultriness of Paul Williams "Hucklebuck".

The electric guitar takes hold with the blues recordings of T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters and will soon become a centerpiece in rhythm and blues.

Atlantic Records starts its run as rhythm and blues's biggest label with Stick McGee's "Drinkin Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee".

The Orioles continue their dominance of the market with 8 Top Ten hits during the year and frequently cause riots at their performances.

A failing white Memphis' radio station WDIA hires Nat Williams, the first black disc jockey and changes its format to rhythm and blues which promptly turns the station's fortunes around. They also hire future singing stars B.B. King and Rufus Thomas as DJs.

Louis Jordan's massive hit "Saturday Night Fish Fry" marks the end of the jump blues dominance of the 40's, while Jimmy Preston's raucous "Rock The Joint" points towards a new horizon of rock and roll for the 1950's.


Roy Orbison forms his first high school band, the Wink Westerners, which included James Morrow on mandolin, Charles Evans on bass, Richard West on piano, and Billy Pat Ellis borrowed the high school drum kit. They appeared on KERB Radio in Kermit, Texas, and the character of their music can be judged by their name and the Roy Rogers bandanas toed jauntily around their necks.

MARCH 31, 1949

RCA Victor introduces the 45rpm record which is easier to produce, smaller and cheaper than the delicate 78's, which makes it more practical for younger audiences who will soon become music's primary customer. RCA Victor also offered a small inexpensive record player for $12.95 to play the new size and speed.

APRIL 1949

Granville "Sticks" McGhee's "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" is Atlantic Records' first national hit.

JUNE 1949

Jerry Lee Lewis' first public performances at the Ferriday Ford dealership. He sang "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee", a song he must have picked up at Haney's, and the sweet rapture of the applause that followed set Jerry Lee on his personal course - initially across the river to Natchez, Mississippi, and then to Shreveport, Louisiana, to audition for a Hayride package show that was to be headlined by Slim Whiteman.

JUNE 17, 1949

Billboard, without any editorial comment, begins employing the term "rhythm and blues" in reference to the black charts.

JULY 1949

B.B. King's first recording, "Miss Martha King", is released on Bullet Records, the single was recorded in WDIA studio, the Memphis radio station where King has a daily radio show.


Eddie Hill started his session for Decca Records in Nashville, Tennessee, which was held at the same time as Bob Price's session.


Apprehensively, but aware of his success at Grant's the station gave Dewey Phillips a shot at hostling, and in less than a year the show grew from 15 minutes to an hour; then two; then three. Broadcasting from the magazine level (i.e. mezzanine) of the Chisca Hotel, his signature was a manic, machine-gun style of speaking that made few concessions to proper English. "Deegaw", he would yelp, and no one cared what it meant. If the jocks at WDIA radio talked over records to disguise lewd lyrics, Dewey Phillips did it just because it was fun.


Leadbelly appears in France, becoming the first country bluesman to perform in Europe. Back in the United States, Leadbelly died in New York City.


Elvis Presley often slipped quietly into the black ghetto to listen to music. He was intrigued by the language and mannerisms of the black Memphis subculture and, as there were no blacks at Humes High, Elvis Presley made friends with them during pickup football games. In a time of personal and musical growth for Elvis Presley, his experiences with blacks were educational ones. This time, Elvis Presley met blues singer Furry Lewis in the Beale Street area.

"My older brother went to school with him", recalled singer Barbara Pittman, "and he and some of the other boys used to hide behind buildings and throw things at him, rotten fruit and stuff, because he was different".

It was not long before many country bluesmen migrated from western Tennessee, north central Mississippi, and the Delta in search of new performing venues in Memphis. Although segregation was still prevalent, when the sun went down, white and black musicians played side by side in the small clubs. Memphis' famed entertainment district, Beale Street, featured fledgling blues artists like B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, Walter Horton, Joe Hill Louis, Little Milton, Lowell Fulson, Rosco Gordon, Johnny London, Handy Jackson, Willie Nix, Rufus Thomas, D.A. Hunt, Big Memphis Marainey, Jimmy DeBerry, Little Junior's Blue Flames, Bukka White, and Furry Lewis.

Before too long, these artists made records that found their way into Elvis Presley's life. It was therefore no accident that performers like Elvis Presley copied the frenenic vocal style of local black blues artists, characterized by rough vocals with an energetic personal flair.

There were other influences from black musicians. The guitar and piano accompaniments of many black blues acts could provide the rhythm and power of what seemed like a whole orchestra. Early commercial recordings of Memphis blues artists of the time often feature two-guitar teams. Yet, these were just two-piece backup bands, usually augmented by the singer's guitar.

It was just this blend of blues, hillbilly, and rockabilly music that later made Elvis Presley so popular, and it was precisely this type of music that dominated the city when the Presley's arrived.

"Del Dean... these guys were a little ahead of us in high school", said Red West. "And me being an athlete, I looked up to these guys. Del Dean was a tough, rouch guy from a place called Lamar Terrace - that's a housing project over in another part of Memphis. We all lived in different housing projects. I lived in Hurt, Elvis lived in Lauderdale Courts... These guys were good athletes - football players and boxers. Larry Bell and his brother, they went to Humes and they were my idols in junior high school. Then later in 1963, they came to us and told us they had a football team and they wondred if Elvis would sponsor them. So he sponsored the team, and then we started playing too. They were some of the best times we ever had", says Red West.

WALTER "FURRY" LEWIS - Born in Greenwood, Leflore County, Mississippi on March 6, 1893. His parents, Victoria Jackson and Walter "Furry" Lewis were farmers. "Furry" was his childhood pet name, and Lewis learned music on homemade guitar at about 6 years of age. Lewis was six years old when he came to Memphis and stayed there ever since. He went to the Carnes Avenue School in Memphis, and he didn't get any higher than the fifth grade.

Lewis was seventeen years old when he left school, Lewis help by his mother, he quit work, riding a bicycle and carrying drugs and worked in a drugstore. At the age of twelve, when he first started playing guitar, he strolled the streets with his guitar for nickels and dimes, played at parties for his neighbours and jived with the jug bands for bigger to-dos from circa 1900.

He ran away from home to follow Jim Jackson in passing medicine shows circa 1906-1908 and returned to Memphis to work with W.C. Handy Orchestra, or single, in the local yavers, speakeasies, dance halls, house parties, streets, suppers, picnics, frolics, fish fries, dances or occasional passing tent, medicine shows through the area circa 1908-1916. He frequently hoboed through the South working as an itinerant singer, guitarist and suffered loss of leg in a train accident in 1916. He returned to Memphis to form a group with Jim Jackson, Will Shade, Gus Cannon working Pee Wee's, Big Grundy's, Cham Field, BB Anderson's and others and occasional street work to circa 1916 into 1920s.

Most prized, and most repeated, he played with W.C. Handy, but he never had a regular job with Handy. When W.C. Handy went to New York, Furry Lewis was on the road with medicine shows, more as a comedian than as a musician. He was with Dr. Benson's doctor show, selling Jack Rabbit medicine, pills and such as that, corn medicine, too.

In the 1920s Furry came off the road and took a steady job, cleaning the streets of Memphis. Earlier, Lewis had a succession of jobs, others more substantial like being cook's helper on the excursion boats or running the 'whisky train' (hauling cases of whisky from the riverboats to a roadhouse on Beale Street).

Furry Lewis played as hard as he worked. He lived around the corner from Beale Street and, always carrying his guitar, became one of street's most familiar fixtures, playing in honkytonks, in Beale Street Park, for Amateur Nights at the Palace Theater. He was called upon to play at Memphis' fashionable homes, at picnics, barbecues, and political rallies.

Furry Lewis toured with Doctor Willie Lewis' Medicine Show working through the Arkansas and Mississippi area circa 1920s. He frequently worked with Memphis Minnie, with Blind Lemon Jefferson, with Texas Alexander and others, working on riverboats, juke joints dives through the south into the 1920s. and worked mostly outside the music field with occasionally house parties in the Memphis area between 1923 to 1966.

He occasionally worked with Will Shade's Memphis Jug Band in Church Park (W.C. Handy Park), on Beale Street, dances, parties in Memphis with some touring in the late 1920s. In 1927, Lewis recorded for the Vocalion label in New York City; recorded for the Victor label in Memphis in 1928; recorded for Vocalion label in Memphis in 1929 and in 1959 for the Folkway label in Memphis.

In 1961, Furry Lewis recorded for the Prestige-Bluesville label in Memphis and he appeared in the documentary film "The Blues" in 1963. Worked at the Bitter Lemon Coffeehouse in Memphis circa 1963; played on the Chicago Folk Festival in 1964 and recorded for the Rounder label in Memphis in 1963. Worked for the Memphis Blues Festival in Memphis during 1966-1969 (a portion of a 1968 concert has been released on the Sire-Blue Horizon label) and toured with the Alabama State Troupers rockroad show on working concert dates in the late 1960s.

In 1968, Lewis worked at the Preservation Hall in New Orleans and recorded for Biograph/Matchbox labels in Memphis; recorded with Bukka White for the Asp label in Memphis in 1968; worked at Electric Circus in New York City in 1969; recorded with Bukka White and others for Adelphi label in Memphis in 1969.

In 1970, Lewis worked at the Cafe A-Go-Go in New York City and at the Berkeley Blues Festival at the University of California in Berkeley, California in 1970; at the Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin in 1970; appeared on the "Homewood Show" on PBS-TV station in 1970; worked for the Washington Blues Festival at the Howard University in Washington D.C. in 1970; and appeared in the film "Roots Of American Music: Country and Urban Music" in 1971 and he worked at the Caslight Club in New York City in 1971 (a portion has been released on the Ampex label); appeared on the River City Blues Festival, Ellis Auditorium in Memphis in 1973-73 (a portion of the 1973 concert was heard on VOA-radio); worked at the Long Beach Civic Auditorium in Long Beach, California in 1971 (a portion has been released on the Elektra label); appeared at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, California in 1971 (a portion has been released on Elektra label) and appeared at the University of Chicago in 1972.

In 1972, Walter Lewis appeared at the Delta Blues Festival at the University of Arkansas in Fayettevilly, Arkansas, and appeared in the French film "Blues Under The Skin" in 1972 and appeared in a short film "Thinking Out Loud" in 1972; toured with the Memphis Blues Caravan and working on college circuit across the United States in 1972 to 1976; recorded with Don Nix for the famous Stax label in Memphis in circa 1974; appeared on the Johnny Carson's Tonight show on NBC-TV in 1974. He worked for a salute show to W.C. Handy in Henderson, Kentucky in 1974; appeared at the Hotel Pontchartrain in Detroit, Michigan in 1974; at the Peanut's Club in Memphis in 1974; appeared in the film "WW and The Dixie Dancekings" in 1975; worked at the Jubilee Jazz Hall in Memphis in 1975, film clips were shown on "Omnibus Show" The Friendly Invasion) on BBC-TV in London, England in 1975. He also worked on the Cornell Folk Festival in Ithaca, New York in 1975.

Walter "Furry" Lewis worked with the Memphis Blues Caravan in the Performing Arts Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1976 and appeared on the Mac Davis Show for NBC-TV in 1977. He appeared on "Good Mornin' Blues" for PBS-TV in 1978. In 1980, Lewis worked occasionally on festivals into the 1980 and he also appeared in the film "This Is Elvis". Walter "Furry" Lewis was made Honourary Colonel of the State of Tennessee in 1973. Lewis was influenced by Blind Joe and he influenced Dave Van Ronk. Furry's expressiveness and subtlety have an almost intimate feeling. He is in many ways one of the most personal blues singers.

His individuality lies in his unconventional use of the guitar as a percussive instrument and as a supplementary vocal line. His style is highly anecdotal and emotionally charged, brimming with tales of hard times. Furry Lewis died of lung cancer in Memphis on September 14, 1981. He is buried at the Hollywood Mt. Carmel Cemetery at 2012 Hernando Road in Memphis, Tennessee. Lewis marker says, "When I Lay My Burden Down".


WDIA RADIO - On June 7, 1947, WDIA radio station started as a pop and country station in Memphis, located at 2074 Union Avenue, and changed to a black music format the following year. The station was used by David James Mattis to record Bobby "Blue" Bland, Rosco Gordon, Junior Parker, and Johnny Ace for the Duke label, had a minuscule output of 250 watts. Even though it remained under white management by John R. Pepper and Bert Ferguson, WDIA - and to a lesser extent KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas, and WLOK, also in Memphis - gave daily exposure to the artists and their competitors. Their principal medium was the fifteen-minute sponsored live show, a format that spawned B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and many more.

The following year, however, Bert Ferguson shrewdly recognized that blacks were being ignored by local radio. He approached black businessmen with an idea for a black-oriented musical format, and they agreed to advertise. When Nat D. Williams, a local black high school history teacher, was hired, the station began its transition into a major blues force. A 50,000 watt transmitter turned it into one of the pre-eminent radio stations in the South.

Williams was brought into the station to do his own show on an experimental basis, it proved to be an overnight sensation. He was the first black radio announcer in the South to play the popular rhythm and blues records of the day over the airways. His show was so successful that within six months of its debut WDIA radio had changed its format from a classical music station to one appealing solely to black listeners and advertisers.

In addition to initiating an entirely new music format, Williams launched a wide variety of programming innovations at WDIA radio and recruited other talented blacks onto the airways. His first recruits were fellow high school teachers A.C. Williams and Maurice Hulbert. Both men went on to have long and distinguished careers in black radio. His most famous recruit was a youthful B.B. King, who used the exposure on WDIA radio to initiate his career as the country's premiere urban blues artist. After Rufus Thomas also went to work as a disc jockey, and in addition to these black males, Nat D. Williams also recruited the South's first black female announcers to WDIA's airways; two of the best known were Willa Monroe and Starr McKinney, both of whom did programs oriented toward black women.

Gospel music, religious programs, and black news and public affairs shows were also prominent on WDIA radio. The most acclaimed public affairs program was called "Brown America Speaks", it was also created and hosted by Nat D. Williams. The program addressed race issues from a black perspective and won an award for excellence from the prestigious Ohio State Institute for Education in radio in 1949. With the success of WDIA radio, other radio stations around the country also began to adopt black-oriented formats, and black radio became a fixture in commercial broadcasting nationwide. WDIA radio station still programs for a black audience in Memphis, making it the oldest black-oriented radio station in the country.

NATHANIEL DOWD WILLIAMS - The most important ally of all, the man who loved Beale Street most. Williams claimed, Elvis Presley, whose roots were nurtured in Beale's rich and fertile music area. Born in Memphis in the Beale Street area, Williams saw himself as a boy, looking on wide-eyed as his mother performed her shake dances on the Palace Theater.

Nat D. was an history teacher, newspaper columnist, master of ceremonies at the Palace Amateur Nights, disc jockey, and about-to-be-retired Beale Streeter. He was a Beale Streeter by upbringing and by inclination. Nat D. Williams began the first black newscasts, started having short segments on black history, and used the basic titles of respect in referring to everyone.

Nat D. and Robert Henry introduced Elvis Presley to many of Beale Street entertainers in the early 1950s. Nat D. spoke warmly of the young white entertainer who badgered him into giving him a chance to perform along with black contestants on the amateur shows at the Palace Theater on Beale Street.

Nathaniel Dowd Williams, hampered by a stroke, retired, and died on October 27, 1983, in Memphis, Tennessee. Beale Street at the time was on the brink of a rebirth spawned by urban renewal.

ABOUT ELVIS PRESLEY - Nathaniel Dowd Williams spoke warmly of the young white entertainer who badgered him into giving him a chance to perform along with black contestants on the amateur shows at the Palace Theater. "We had a lot of fun with him. Elvis Presley on Beale Street when he first started was a favourite man. When they saw him coming out, the audience always gave him as much recognition as they gave any black musician. He had a way of singing the blues that was distinctive. He could sing 'em not necessarily like a Negro, but he didn't sing 'em altogether like a typical white musician. He had something that certain humanness about him that Negroes like to put in their songs. So when he had a show down there at the Palace, everybody got ready for something good. Yeah. They were crazy about Presley. We had a boast that if you made it on Beale Street, you can make it anywhere. And Elvis Presley made it on Beale Street".

Nathaniel Dowd Williams raised some pointed questions in his December 22, 1956, column in the Pittsburgh Courier about Presley's hero status on Beale. "Maybe it's the Indogo Avenue's blase blues sophistication, native ignorance of the important, or just pur-dee meanness, but ordinarily nobody generally excites Beale Streeters enough to cause them to cue up to buy tickets or crash lines for autographs... But Elvis Presley has 'em talking. And they ain't talking about his art. Beale Street's more or less miffed at Elvis. And many of the brethlen in black, brown and beige are plump flustered by the man. You see, something happened the other night that the average Beale Streeter doesn't altogether dig nor appreciate.

It was like this: Memphis' famed radio station WDIA staged it's annual goodwill revue for the benefit of needy Negro children. Naturally everybody for miles around was invited... along with scads of topflight Negro entertainers like B.B. King, the Moonglows, the Magnificent, Ray Charles, the Five Blind Boys and various others.

Well, more than 9,000 head of God's chillun showed up... along with Elvis Presley. Now, why Elvis came and how he got in the middle of such a concentrated Kodachrome crowd, one may never know. But he was there. He tried to stay backstage. But somebody spotted him, and asked him to come out and take a bow. Well, he did. And that did it. A thousand black, brown and beige teen-age girls in the audience blended their alto and soprano voices in one wild crescendo of sound that rent the rafters... and took off like scalded cats in the direction of Elvis.

It took some time and several white cops to quell the melee and protect Elvis. The teen-age charge left Beale Streeters wondering" "How come culled girls would take on so over a Memphis white boy... when they hardly let out a squeak over B.B. King, a Memphis culled boy?". "Both the boys have made names for themselves. And some folk feel that Elvis might just barely have borrowed something from B.B. But further, Beale Streeters are wondering if these teen-age girls' demonstration over Presley doesn't reflect a basic integration in attitude and aspiration which has been festering in the minds of most of your folks' womenfolk all along", recalled Williams.

OCTOBER 1, 1949

Sam Phillips signed the lease on a small storefront property at the junction of Union and Marshall Avenues, near the heart of downtown Memphis. The rent at 706 Union Avenue was $150 a month. He installed his recording and transcription equipment with the help of a two-year loan from Buck Turner, a regular performer on radio station WREC. Working with the slogan "We Record Anything-Anywhere-Anytime", Sam Phillips opened the doors of the Memphis Recording Service in January 1950. Becky Phillips took a photo of her husband standing outside the studio and pasted it into the scrapbook with her caption, "A Man's Dream Fulfilled-What Next?".

When Sam Phillips opened his Memphis Recording Service in 1950, he was literally taking a chance on a new area of business in Memphis. There just had not been any successful attempts to set up a commercial recording venture. There were no record labels currently operating in Memphis. Even a company called Royal Recording, set up in 1948 to record private functions and the like, had folded during 1949. "It was because of the closure of the Royal Studio downtown that my bosses at WREC radio warned me against trying to start my own recording business", Sam Phillips recalled.

Despite the legendary reputation the city now has for its recorded music, Sam Phillips could have stood in his new studio and looked back over the short history of recorded sound seeing no local expertise upon which to draw other than radio. The local radio engineers sometimes recorded music or advertising material onto disc for subsequent radio broadcast. Occasionally radio studios would be used by an out of town recording company. Other then this, and the booth in a local store where you could record a message for your own private use, there were no recording facilities in Memphis.

Major national recording companies had occasionally made recordings in Memphis "on location" as part of a field trip to find regional music forms, but there had been no concerted effort to document or market Memphis music, be it popular, jazz, blues, gospel or hillbilly. In other regional centres, it sometimes occurred to local furniture stores to make recordings to sell in their shop along with the phonographs. Bullet Records of Nashville and Trumpet of Jackson, Mississippi started in this way, but there appears not to have been a Memphis equivalent of these ventures. Similarly, there had been little interest shown by local radio engineers or record distributors as sometimes occurred elsewhere. There were large record pressing and distribution organizations in Memphis from the late 1940s - Plastic Products, and Music Sales - but they were geared to the major labels and to west coast and north eastern independents.

Sam Phillips was a radio man. At heart, he still is. It was through his friend and contacts at radio station WREC in Memphis that he acquired sufficient equipment to set up his studio in the first place. He bought his first recording machines from WREC's country disc jockey Buck Turner.

BUCK TURNER - Countrystar Slim Rhodes' competitor on radio station WREC was Buck Turner with his Buckaroos. Turner, from French Camp, Mississippi was probably not the same Buck Turner who recorded out of Dallas in the 1930s and had a minor success with "Sing Blues", although Turner's story has never been properly investigated. He died sometime in the early 1970s without having been interviewed. Details of his Buckaroos are also scant, but the group included Curt Gilmer on guitar whose cousin Will Gilmer recorded before the war the Leake County Revelers. Before Buck Turner's days at WREC radio, during the 1930s and 1940s, Ramblin' Red Lowery and the Swift Jewel Cowboys had appeared regularly on the station.

OCTOBER 15, 1949

The Memphis Housing Appeal, the Housing Authority's newspaper, lists the Presleys as one of seventeen new families who have recently moved into the courts. Quietly, without going out of his way to call attention to himself, Elvis Presley starts to make new friends, playing guitar with a group of older boys under the leafty trees of Market Mall, the path that bisects the neatly kept housing development. He remains in the background for the most part, singing the gospel numbers and popular ballads that he loves and learning all that he can from these more experienced teenage musicians.

OCTOBER 23, 1949

Dewey Phillips goes on-air at WHBQ. Initially his ''Red, Hot & Blue'' show airs from 10:15-11:00, but quickly grows to 9:00-midnight. Because WDIA goes off-air at sundown, WHBQ believes it can capture some of that station's audience.


Professor Longhair and his New Orleans Boys recorded the anthem "Mardi Grass In New Orleans" at J&M Studios.

NOVEMBER 21, 1949

Joe Hill Louis records a session in Nashville for Columbia Records.


The Weaver's version of Leadbelly's "Goodnight, Irene" sells over 2 million copies. Across the river in West Memphis, Arkansas, radio station KWEM was developing a reputation for country music. In the 1950s, their top disc jockey's were Bill Strength and Dick Stuart, supported by live acts including Clyde Leopard's band, Charlie Feathers and Jack Earls.

The competition for Bob Neal in the country disc jockey stakes came from Dick Stuart on KWEM and Sleepy Eyed John Lepley on WHHM. Other forms of specialised music programming included some blues and gospel on most stations, particularly KWEM and, of course, the black radio station WDIA in Memphis.

As to recording actually made in Memphis in the immediate post-War years, very little activity has been uncovered before the establishment of Sun, Duke and Meteor in 1952 and Starmaker in 1953. Ike Turner recorded some blues in makeshift studios for Modern Records of Hollywood in 1951 and 1952, and Rufus Thomas and others recorded for Star Talent at Johnny Curry's Club in Memphis. There were some very short-lived labels operating in 1953, including one-issue blues labels like Wasco (Professor Longhair) and Back Alley (Tippo Lit). The only vaguely substantial recording enterprise to predate Sun appears to have been the Buster label formed in the late 1940s by Buster Williams started in 1949. However, the evidence suggest that the Buster releases were in fact reissues of material from west coast record labels and that Buster was primarily a manufacturing and sales exercise rather than a recording enterprise related to local musicians.

Two people share primary responsibility for the development of the electric guitar: Leo Fender and Les Paul. Fender started building guitars and amplifiers in the forties. In 1950, he introduced the first solid-body electric guitar, the Broadcaster, later renamed the Telecaster. In 1952, the Gibson guitar Corporation brought out the Les Paul, named after its designer, a successful musician and inventor. in 1953, Leo Fender launched the Stratocaster, considered a sexier, more futuristic version of the Telecaster.


THE VOGUE SHOP, (B.B. KING'S GIFT SHOP) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - 1950s, was built. Located at 147 Beale Street, the top two floors of the original structure, built before 1890, were removed in the 1950s. Jacob Rudner operated his dry goods store at this location from 1906 until 1925. Other occupants were Lester's Women's Clothing (1937-1951) and, beginning in 1952, The Vogue Shop, a women's clothing store owned by Irvin Lansky.

SIMON COHEN AND SONS (MEMPHIS MUSIC RECORDS, TAPES AND SOUVENIRS) > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - before 1890, dry goods shop was built. Located at 149 Beale Street, Simon Cohen bought this building to house his dry goods store which stayed in operation from the early 1920s through the late 1940s. Prior to this period, it was the original location of Schwab's. In the 1960s Art Hutkin's hardware store became its sole occupant. At various times rooms were rented for residents and professional offices. The building has a nineteenth-century flavor with its attic vents, slightly arched brick supports above the windows, and cast-iron support columns.


HOME OF THE BLUES RECORD SHOP > Historic Memphis Beale Street < - Ruben Cherry's record store, located at 107 Beale Street (now occupied by the Elvis Presley statue) across from South Main Street in Memphis where, in the early 1950s Elvis Presley bought many 78rpm records by rhythm and blues artists.

There was scarcely a musician in town who didn't know the Home Of The Blues Record Shop. The shop's proprietor, Ruben Cherry,didn't load the racks with new releases or dump his inventory when an artist's stardom began to fall. Instead he tried to carry one of everything, figuring that every record had a buyer somewhere.

It was an archives of sorts, and part of a Memphis musician's education was gleaned from standing in front of the old wooden bins flipping through records. At the same time, it was like a giant song factory, because every song there had the potential of becoming a hit. Copyright and ownership were ill- defined in those days, and any musician looking for a song to cut might start with an older record.

When the Rock And Roll Trio, made up of Johnny and Dorsey Burnette and Paul Burlison, stopped in Memphis before a Nashville recording session, the newspaper reported that they were going to the Home Of The Blues Record Shop to pick out songs to record. "If you liked it you could always change it into rockabilly if it just had good words and a melody", Paul Burlison said. "You could always put a beat to it if you wanted to. You could take an old country song and put a beat to it like Elvis did with "Blue Moon Of Kentucky".

Johnny Burnette once told an interviewer that after school he used to hang out in the Home Of The Blues. He used to run into Elvis quite frequently there, he said. When "That's All Right" was released, Ruben Cherry was the first to stock it.

In fact, many Memphians remember buying their first Elvis Presley records at Home Of The Blues. Ruben was such a strong supporter of Elvis Presley that he even loaned Elvis money to get to his early concerts.

The name of the store may have inspired Johnny Cash, Lily McAlpin, and Glen Douglas to compose the 1957 Johnny Cash recording of "Home Of The Blues" (SUN 279). In 1976, upon learning that his old friend was ill, Elvis Presley wrote a letter to Ruben thanking him for his early support. The letter was read at Ruben's burial service.

Historic-Memphis Website with special thanks to Gene Gill

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