Sunday, April 29, 2012

Looking Up and Down on Beale Street, in Memphis

It's only a couple blocks of neon lights and blues clubs, but Beale Street turned out to be an interesting place to unwind in the off-hours during a busy library conference. Co-librarian Bill was intrigued by the sites mentioned in the Joni Mitchell song, "Furry Sings the Blues". Co-librarian Brian was anxious to visit the Gibson guitar factory. I was just "looking up and down Beale Street" for cool stuff to photograph and good barbeque.

"Furry Sings the Blues" is the Joni Mitchell song from the 1976 album Hejira about the demise of Beale Street. She wrote most of the songs on this album while on a solo journey across the country. (Hejira means journey in Arabic.) During her sojourn in Memphis she noticed the statue of W.C. Handy,
[W.C.] "Handy's cast in bronze"
the old Daisy Theater which to us indeed seemed abandoned except for a sign encouraging us to have our next big event there,
The old Daisy
and the New Daisy which during our visit was offering live music including a band called "I Wrestled a Bear Once." If I'm ever in a band, I want them to help me name it.
The New Daisy, across the street from the old

The Gibson Guitar Factory is just off Beale Street, and we managed to spend some time at their store before conference registration opened on Wednesday. Bill and I watched Brian try out some guitars, trying to predict if he would actually purchase one and have it shipped home, and snapping photographs and videos of him and the shop. The factory tour is only an hour, but we just couldn't fit it into our schedule, darn it.

Brian trying out an Epiphone Zakk Wylde Bullseye Les Paul
 Beale Street had more to offer us during our future visits including raw rock & roll gift shops,

the opportunity to tour downtown Memphis in a Cinderella-style buggy (most were staffed by one human and one canine),
and our Beale Street grand finale, dinner and live blues at BB King's famous club.

This was a last-minute dinner selection on our last night in Memphis. The place was packed, but miraculously, we got a table right near the stage. The Will Tucker Band was performing--four pieces led by the young Will Tucker who looked like Justin Bieber but was a guitar VIRTUOSO! He plays at B.B. King's Blues Club every Friday and Saturday, but...but....not the following (Saturday) night because he would be attending his senior prom. Lucky we were there to see him on Friday night. This kid was fantastic, better than fantastic, and my jaw dropped to the floor (figuratively) when I read about his prom and high school graduation on his blog: (And he has some free music on there, please look.) In any event, we stayed for two sets and maybe more because this band was so good. What a treat!

B.B. King's Blues Club had another treat for us, too. Hung high on the wall behind Bill were four portraits of blues musicians, one bearing the name of Furry Lewis. I wasn't sure if I should know this already, but was this the same Furry from the Joni Mitchell song? If I pointed it out to Bill, would he say, "Duh, of course there is a portrait of Furry Lewis in B.B. King's Blues Club, duh." I decided to take a chance since Bill is usually polite when I say stupid stuff. Well, evidently it is not common knowledge that the song is about a real old-time blues guy named Furry. Bill seemed glad to learn that.

Anyway, here's more of that young Will Tucker and his band, technically in B.B. King's Nashville club, but it's a good-quality video:

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