A Little Memphis History



Memphis is steep in history. Entire books have been written on the subject. This short article only touches on two of the short stories in the long history of Memphis.

One short story is about the impact the legendary B.B. King had on Memphis and the other is about the French Quarter Hotel.

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B.B. King Brings the Blues to Memphis

W.C. Handy is credited as the first man to introduce the Blues to Memphis (and the world) but B.B. King certainly had a profound affect in making it the popular music genre that it is today. He was orignaly born Riley B. King in 1925, on an Itta Bena, Mississippi, plantation in the heart of the Delta. King started his music career playing for tips on street corners and finding occasional gigs in the area he was born. As he gained a little popularity, he was known to play in as many as five local towns in a single night.

At age 22, in 1947, King found his way to Memphis where his cousin Bukka White taught him the Blues. It wasn’t long before he had his own radio show known as “King’s Spot” on WDIA. His popularity demanded that he take on a DJ name which is when he became known as “Blues Boy King”. Eventually he shortened that to B.B. King. His first recording was “Three O’clock Blues” in 1949, which topped the Blues Chart in 1951.

Beale Street has gone through many transitions since it was first established in 1841 (long before B.B. King came on the scene). It began as a white commercial street but in the 1920s it evolved into what was known as the Negro Main Street that eclipsed Harlem. It might surprise many that Beale Street was floundering until the city of Memphis requested that Thomas Peters open the flagship B.B. King’s Blues Club in 1991. Beale Street has now become the top tourist attraction in Memphis and Tennessee.

The French Quarter Hotel

The French Quarter Hotel doesn’t have as long of history as many Memphis attractions do. However, it does have an interesting history. The French Quarter Inn opened in 1984 with 73 all boutique suites, each containing a sitting room, kitchenette, bedroom, and bathroom with a large Jacuzzi tub.

Not surprisingly, music played a big part in the popularity of the hotel with a Sunday jazz brunch being the favorite. Although he never played the venue, Bob Dylan attended performance on a regular basis.

Romance was the second big draw to the French Quarter Hotel. It became customary to see as many as seven or eight fully gowned couples at a time in the lobby bar. Every time one walked in, there was a round of applause. Couples often spent their wedding night at the hotel before heading out on their honeymoon the next day.

At one point, the hotel was sought out as a romantic destination for teenagers on prom night. However, the hotel put a policy in place that not even parents could make reservations for teenagers for prom night.

Sorry to say, the French Quarter Hotel is scheduled to be torn down but will be replaced by the headquarters for the Memphis Ballet. In all probability, that will bring more good things to Memphis.

When you make travel plans to Memphis, put plenty of thought into how you are going to spend your time. Memphis has so much history that you need to live there to uncover much of what it really has to offer.

Please leave a comment if this article was helpful or if you have a question.

PhotoAuthor bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 30 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. In the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.