• Downtown Memphis by James Blucher

Discovering the Memphis Music Scene

Written by Ysmay.

Gibson Guitar Factory by Paul KnittelGibson Guitar Factory by Paul Knittel

Many people believe Memphis is synonymous with music, and this is even reflected in the city's official slogan "Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock and Roll."

Memphis's first claim to music fame was in the early 20th century. Thanks to the South's first black Millionaire Robert Church, Beale Street - which is still famous for its music - was the epicenter of black culture. Much more wild and vibrant than it is today, Beale Street was home to drugs, organised crime, and prostitution. Beale Street boasted Pee Wee's Saloon, a famous meeting spot for Memphis musicians. Rumour has it W.C. Handy used the cigar counter at Pee Wee's to write out copies of songs for his band members.

Stax Records was responsible for the famous "Memphis Sound" of the 1960s. Founded in 1960 by siblings Estelle Axton and Jim Stewart in a converted movie theatre, Stax Records recorded many classics including "Soul Man" and "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay." Stax is often credited with launching the careers of many recording artists during this time.

Despite the fact that 2003 saw the rise of Memphis native Justin Timberlake to a pop icon, Memphis is still a blues town. To catch live blues in Memphis, head on down to Beale Street and take in the sounds from a number of popular blues joints including Alfred's and Blues City Cafe.


Memphis has played a role in the growth of Southern Hip-Hop, and continues to be one of the genre's biggest markets. The term "crunk", as popularized by rapper Lil' Jon, is used to denote the style of Southern Hip-Hop that originated in Memphis. Crunk uses a lot of drum machine beats and thumping bass lines. Crunk performers are referred to as "crunksters" and include Ying Yang Twins and Three 6 Mafia.

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