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Great Memphis Soul and Blues on a Beale Street Sunday Evening
Great Memphis Soul and Blues on a Beale Street Sunday Evening

Great Memphis Soul and Blues on a Beale Street Sunday Evening

Although I don’t usually venture out on Sunday nights due to the Monday start of the work week, I was invited down to B. B. King’s on Beale Street by the great bass player Jackie Clark to see the band he plays with and possibly to sit in with them on a song. As it turned out, it was an absolutely gorgeous evening, sunny and not too hot, and despite some chaos that had occurred on Saturday night, I found Beale Street in a festive mood. I had not been there since before 2020, and there had definitely been some changes, including a new sweet shop full of tempting candy that I avoided with some difficulty. My musician homeboy Danny Peterson also owns his own popcorn business, and had set up a sales table on the corner of Second and Beale, and I got caught up with him for a minute before I went inside the club.

B. B. King’s was packed to overflowing. The band included Marquis Hodges on drums, and Keelyn Ellis, who is both a singer and a keyboard player, and is called the Divercity Band. I ordered a hamburger and fries for dinner, and was surprised at how good the food was. Like everything on Beale Street, it was more expensive than it should have been, but it was at least good and satisfying, and given the convivial atmosphere and great music, it was worth it. While the band lives up to its name in being diverse musically, the best of their material is the classic blues and soul, and these are among the best young musicians in Memphis. At one point, the music director for the whole B. B. King’s corporation David Mason came up and sat in on drums. Eventually, I was asked to come up, and they decided to play “Georgia,” which was fortunate, because it is a tune I know fairly well. It was a wonderful night of music, fellowship and fun.

At the end of the night, I was surprised at how quiet Beale Street was after midnight. Presumably the recent high-profile shootings and crime downtown have frightened away many customers, and may be causing businesses to close early. But there is still authentic Black music to be found on the street if one knows where to look.

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