We couldn’t leave Memphis without experiencing the nightlife on Beale Street, and taking in some live music. Fortunately, even on a Wednesday, Beale Street did not disappoint.
Just off Beale Street is a little state called Pepsi Pavilion. When we walked past it, there was live music there, but not – oddly – actually on the stage. Along the edge of the seating area, there were street vendors set up, selling sundresses, sunglasses, and the like (though keep in mind it was about 9 o’clock at night). These vendors were facing away from the Pavilion toward the small stage that had been set up. A band was playing cover songs, and an adjacent stand was selling frozen alcoholic drinks.
We emerged onto Beale Street to find that Wednesday is “Bikes on Beale” night. There were scores of motorcycles parked along Beale Street, and people milling around in all directions. We wandered first toward the quieter end of the street, to see what was in that direction.
We found a photo gallery featuring the work of Ernest Withers from the 1950s and ’60s. His photos were amazing, and provided a first-hand look into the civil rights movement – including photos from the night MLK Jr. was assassinated – as well as the early Memphis blues scene. It was a fitting footnote to our earlier visit to the National Civil Rights Museum.
After that, we moseyed past the various bars and frozen beverage stands, in search of a place to sit and listen to some live music. We ended up at a place called Rum Boogie Cafe, where a blues-rock band called Patrick Dodd Band was playing. They were good – mostly played original songs, especially in the first set. The second set included a few tributes to classic blues tunes such as “Red House”. We got some drinks, found a table not too far from the stage, and chilled and enjoyed the tunes.
Our waiter was really cool. During the band’s set, he communicated with us entirely with gestures and head-nods. When he actually addressed us verbally during the intermission, Dave commented that the mystique was all gone.
We really liked the place. Hanging from the rafters were dozens of guitars, all of which were labeled with (presumably) the name of the musician or other celebrity to whom the guitar had belonged. I say “other celebrity” because some of the guitars indicated athletes from the Memphis Grizzlies or random other famous people.