W.C. Handy is the Father of the Blues and is definitely
the Father of Memphis Blues.
William Christopher Handy was born in Florence, Alabama
in November of 1873. He got his first music lesson in
a barber shop which was common in those times. He performed
in a quartet and a few bands and in 1909 he was asked
to write a song for a Memphis political boss which was
the very first Memphis blues song he ever wrote. It was
appropriately named the "Memphis Blues". The
song was so successful that the political candidate won
the election and the "Memphis Blues became a huge
hit across the country. Another early tune by W.C. Handy
was called "Beale Street Blues" which was named for the "the colored
thoroughfare in Memphis." It's hard to imagine
what Memphis blues would be like without W.C. Handy or
if there would have ever been any Memphis blues at all!
When visiting Memphis and wanting to take in a Memphis blues festival there are some different choices which all provide many things to do for visitors. Memphis in May is a month-long ongoing festival encompassing several elements that join together to create one of the most exciting festivals and events in Tennessee. The Memphis blues festival element of Memphis in May is called the Beale Street Music Festival and features many great blues bands including old blues greats and newer bands as well. Past performers at this Memphis Blues festival have been James Brown, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis and the North Mississippi AllStars, a newer, blues based funk band from the deep south. If looking to hear the music from the very soul of Memphis this is Memphis Blues festival to attend, hands down.
Blues Street in Memphis is also called Beale Street
and has a long and fascinating musical history behind
it. Blues Street in Memphis is where the old soul and
spirit of Memphis lies and is now a major historical landmark
which provides great shopping and dining for visitors. In the 20th century Beale Street
was quickly becoming Blues Street in Memphis as the street
echoed the sounds of music from churches and nightclubs.
African tribal harmonies blended with music from the church
to create a completely American form of music. It was
around this time that Handy wrote the first blues tune
and Blues Street in Memphis gained its moniker shortly
One Memphis blues fest that has gained notoriety over the years is the International Blues Challenge which takes place in the beginning of February each year. Located on Beale Street this event for blues fans includes the "International Blues Challenge" as well as "Keeping the Blues Alive Awards". The Blues Music Awards is another annual Memphis blues fest which honors blues artists and the industry. The Beale Street Memphis blues fest is the number one event to kick up your heels at and listen to some funky blues music. With live music throughout the month of May the celebration is truly the best in Tennessee! The Memphis Music and Heritage Festival is a Memphis blues fest which celebrates the music, food and arts of the region while Juneteenth Freedom Festival is a freedom celebration with blues and gospel music as well as a carnival, vendors and a golf tournament.
There are different variations of a Memphis Blues fest going on all year long in the city. Memphis hotels accommodate thousands of visitors every year for various blues festivals. Music dominates in history as well as in every day life. From the cotton fields to the Beale Street clubs, the city is actually one continuous Memphis blues fest that shows no signs of letting up any time soon and promises music lovers a little slice of musical heaven!