The Beale Street Music Festival is a celebration of diversity and music and it is about to make its return. The event is part of the month long celebrations known as “Memphis in May” which specifically honors a foreign country every year. What began as a small event has now turned into one of the most popular annual events in the United States.
The Memphis in May proceedings kick-off with the Beale Street Music Festival on the first weekend and that has been the case ever since the year 1977. It spans over three days and features an eclectic mix of local and popular stars. Now that the latest edition is not too far away, book your Beale Street Music Festival tickets to join the festivities live.
Memphis in May: A Little History
In the first part of the 1970s, the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce came up with a plan to kick-start a new festival. The city of Memphis used to host all sorts of different events during the month of May which included the visit by the Metropolitan Opera, the Danny Thomas Golf Classic and the Cotton Carnival among others. The idea was to bring all these different events under the umbrella of a big festival. The result was the “Memphis in May International Festival Society.”
The word Society was removed from the name immediately afterwards though and it was given the status of a non-profit organization. With an initial budget of fifty two thousand dollars, the first ever Memphis in May International Festival was held in 1977 to honor Japan. Martha Ellen Maxwell was handed the responsibility of being the event’s first ever Executive Director.
The Beale Street Music Festival
The first edition of the Beale Street Music Festival took place in the year 1977 but it wasn’t until 1978 that the festival was handed over to Memphis in May. There’s a story behind why the event is called the Beale Street Music Festival.
A History of the Beale Street Music Festival
The Beale Street was known as the Beale Avenue in 1841 and was a far cry from what it is today. During those days, the place was home to a lot of brothels and underworld of saloons. A lot of musicians and different artists were attracted to the place. Then a yellow fever epidemic hit the city and it created havoc. A lot of people living in Memphis moved out but the ones who were not that fortunate, suffered. An estimated eighty percent of the people who stayed behind contracted the disease.
Once the epidemic was gone, Robert Church, a local businessman, bought land that surrounded Beale Street. Slowly but surely, the Beale Street’s reputation began to improve and that was in no small part to the renovation that took place at Church’s Grand Opera which went on to become The Orpheum Theatre.
The Beale Street began to attract musicians, politicians and intellectuals in big numbers and then came W.C. Handy. Handy is dubbed “Father of the Blues” and the Beale Street became the place to be for blues music. Handy and the ever increasing profile of the Beale Street paved the way for legends like Louis Armstrong, B.B. King and Muddy Waters to make their way to the city. By the time 1950s came along, the Beale Street had become a major source of inspiration for a lot of stars and that list also included Elvis Presley.
1960s wasn’t a good time for the Beale Street as lack of care began to erode its attraction. It took quite a few years for the city officials to do something about it. The revitalization of the place began and the arrival of the Beale Street Music Festival in the year 1977 played a big part in restoring its reputation as a very special destination for musicians and music fans.
The Stars at the Festival
The Beale Street Music Festival has attracted the biggest names from the music industry. Stars like Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Steely Dan, B.B. King, Kings of Leon, the Foo Fighters, Snoop Dogg, Mumford & Sons, Soundgarden, Aretha Franklin, Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, John Prine, Buddy Guy, Van Morrison, Bonnie Raitt, Green Day and Wiz Khalifa are just some of the stars that have graced the stage at the Beale Street Music Festival over the years.
The Beale Street Music Festival is held at the Tom Lee Park. Quite fittingly, just like the festival itself, the park has a story to tell as well. The park is named after Tom Lee who saved the lives of thirty two people when a boat went over.
Tom Lee used to work for the company C.W. Hunter Co. and was returning to the shore after a meeting with a client on May 8, 1925. Lee was on a motorboat and because the client had left already, he was alone. A steamboat named, M.E. Norman that was on a sightseeing mission with plenty of people onboard suddenly tipped over.
Only one man was witness to the carnage unfolding at the time and that man was Tom Lee. He turned his boat around and rushed to where the steamboat had gone over. With people floating all around him, he managed to pull them up onto his boat. Since his boat could hold only twelve people at a time, Lee made multiple trips and kept on searching for survivors even after night fell. In the end, he managed to save the lives of thirty two people.
Tom Lee passed away on April 1, 1952 and two years after that, the Memphis Riverfront and the park were both named after him.
Beale Street Music Festival Ticket Prices
The Beale Street Music Festival is about to return and this year’s edition promises to be another unforgettable musical extravaganza. The biggest stars from different genres will come together to headline the famous event. If you are looking for the Beale Street Music Festival ticket prices, then you have come to the right place. Check the price and book your tickets to attend this year’s edition of this epic festival.