Walking in Memphis

What had been a layered reference in a smoky song became a delicious, life and live music affirming experience for us last week when we went walking in Memphis.

Beale Street pulsates with a captivating combination of history and good ole American fun. Its bars and juke joints beckon from a street named officially by a 1971 Act of Congress, the Birthplace of the Blues.

We strolled aimlessly and poked our heads in random places, summoned by the deceptively mellow sounds of the blues. We put our feet up and relaxed in a patio as the talented Sonny Mack and The Mack II Band played. Then, Molly and I jumped up and danced with people we had never met. Molly enjoyed a spontaneous, mid-song guitar lesson from Sonny himself.

That would have been enough, Memphis, but you offered more.

We ate ribs so tender and tasty our teeth took a backseat to our taste buds, and forked breaded catfish so fresh it flaked.

Your food was delicious, Memphis, then you showed us more.

We wandered down to the river, past the historic Orpheum Theatre, to work off our heavy meal. Magnolia blossoms shook petals in our path, the setting sun glinted off a Mississippi Riverboat and the Hernando de Soto bridge arched across it all. The Memphis Riverwalk features cool art, including a sculpture depicting an 1871 Yellow Fever epidemic, which led to Beale Street’s rise.  It also houses a fitness trail, built in conjunction with the Memphis Grizzlies, which I discovered the following morning.

Eventually, we made our way back to Beale Street, where we happily frittered the night away, toasting, once again, the happy gift of live music on a street where one of its loveliest genres began.

Blues City Cafe
I love this picture of Molly walking into the Blues City Cafe and, oh man!, did we love our enormous lunch there!
Put some south in your mouth
How cool is this place? You almost feel like Louis Armstrong and Muddy Waters are about to walk in. (B.B. King wouldn’t, though, because his restaurant is right across the street.)
Catfish and ribs
Mississippi sunset
So, we wandered down to the river to walk it off. What a great choice that was!
Mississippi Magnolia
Mississippi Magnolias.
Mississippi view
I just really love that double arched bridge behind us.
Mississippi Riverboat
And the sun hit this river boat just right.
Beale Street Sonny Mack
Then we went back to Beale Street where Sonny Mack played the guitar with his tongue.
Molly  and Mack
…and gave Molly a lesson mid-song.
Galina Building
A fire destroyed the rest of this building 35 years ago, and steel girders hold the front facade in place. It’s become a giant piece of street art. There is a patio behind featuring live music from Silky O’Sullivans, the bar next door.
Handy shadow picture
I am so thrilled with this picture! It’s the shadow of the blues. See W.C. Handy and his trumpet there in the middle? He’s widely known as the Father of the Blues. (The shadow in the bottom right corner belongs to the Father of the Molly). You can see my shadow there too. I like the live musician on the stage and the way you can’t tell if that’s shadows or live musicians behind him. To me, this picture sort of tells the story of Beale Street. There are live musicians and the cool ghosts of past musicians everywhere.
Beale Street window
Look in almost any window and you’ll find live music.
Last call singer
This was a 21-and-over establishment, but we loved their sound. So…
Last call
…we enjoyed them from the street. Perfectly acceptable on Beale Street.
Beale Street
See the neon lights above and the strolling families on the street? That’s Beale Street.
Gibson guitar
What can I say, Memphis? You’re beautiful.


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