If you are one of the lucky people to have tickets to see Dee Dee Bridgewater at the JAS Cafe on Aug. 12 you are in for quite a treat! Dee Dee is bringing her “Memphis Blues” show to Aspen, honoring her native city and roots, recapturing the magic and history of Memphis Blues, R&B, and Soul classics. On today’s blog we look back at a small piece of the history of Memphis blues.
The bright lights of Beale Street and the promise of musical stardom have lured blues musicians to Memphis since the early 1900s. Early Memphis blues luminaries include Gus Cannon, Furry Lewis, Jim Jackson, and Memphis Minnie.
Memphis blues was discovered by the world largely via the works of Beale Street-based bandleader W. C. Handy, who began using blues motifs in his compositions shortly after encountering the music in the Mississippi Delta around 1903. By the 1920s many musicians relocated to Memphis to perform in local theaters, cafes, and parks. The mix of rural and urban musical traditions and songs from traveling minstrel and medicine shows led to the creation of new blues styles, and record companies set up temporary studios at the Peabody Hotel and other locations to capture the sounds.
In the decade following World War II musicians from around the Mid-South descended upon Memphis, and their interactions resulted in the revolutionary new sounds of R&B and rock ’n’ roll. Riley King arrived from Indianola, Mississippi and soon became known as the “Beale Street Blues Boy,” later shortened to “B. B.” Many of King’s first performances were at talent shows at the Palace Theater, 324 Beale, co-hosted by Rufus Thomas, a native of Cayce, Mississippi, who, like King, later worked as a deejay at WDIA. King and Thomas were among the many artists who recorded at Sam Phillips’s Memphis Recording Service, the spot where Elvis Presley made his historic first recordings for Phillips’s Sun label in 1954.
Reference from the Mississippi Blues Trail Website