The Daughter and I hadn't even realized this was downtown, but once we knew where it was we knew we had to go.
This is the house W. C. Handy, Father of the Blues, lived in when he was in Memphis from 1909 to 1917. The house was moved to this Beale Street location in the 1980s to restore and preserve it. The tour was a delight, led by an enthusiastic young man willing to share his extensive knowledge of Handy's story with us. The museum had period furniture in the front room. In the back room there were many photos of Handy and his family, and framed sheet music and newspaper articles. Fascinating insight into the local life of a legend.
Handy's song The Memphis Blues was written in 1909 on the upper floor of the Solvent Savings Bank building just north of the home's current location on Beale Street:
Here's a recording of that song:
The perhaps better known Beale Street Blues was written in 1916 upstairs at the Pee Wee Saloon on Beale. Here's Louis Armstrong's version:
You'll see pretty browns in beautiful gownsThere are more photos here at Historic-Memphis.com, and more information about his life at Biography.com.
You'll see tailor-mades and hand-me-downs
You'll meet honest men and pick-pockets skilled
You'll find that business never closes
Till somebody gets killed
If Beale Street could talk, if Beale Street could talk
Married men would have to take their beds and walk
Except one or two, who never drink booze
And the blind man on the corner
Who sings the Beale Street Blues
He said, "I'd rather be here than anyplace I know
Yes, I'd rather be here, than anyplace I know
It's gonna take the Sergeant, for to make me go"
I'm goin' to the river, maybe by and by
Yes, I'm goin' to the river and there's a reason why
Because the river's wet and Beale Street's done gone dry
Memphis has a rich music heritage, and I'm always excited to explore more of it.