Home to historic Sun Records and Graceland, the former mansion and recording studio of Elvis Presley, the city of Memphis, Tennessee is as iconic, musically, as New Orleans, Detroit, and even Nashville. Situated in the heart of downtown, Beale Street is the epicenter of Memphis Music. With bars like B.B. King’s Blues Club and Jerry Lee Lewis’ Cafe and Honky Tonk, there’s no telling who you’ll hear on these stages if you just stop and peak your head in.
From the Memphisinmay.Org History Page:
In the early 1970s, the Memphis Area Chamber of Commerce developed plans for a festival, which would serve as a promotional umbrella for the numerous events Memphis hosted each May, including the Cotton Carnival, the Danny Thomas Golf Classic, the annual visit by the Metropolitan Opera and others. The festival also coordinated the grand opening festivities of the Cook Convention Center and the city’s Bicentennial celebration in 1976.
Internationally, through the years, Memphis in May has played host to Ambassadors, exhibits and performance troupes from 36 countries. In 2017 the Festival will honor the country of Colombia.
The Beale Street Music Festival then emerged on the scene in 1977 as a “matter of fact” promotional activity originally known as the “Memphis in May International Festival Society.” It’s origins were to serve as an umbrella to encompass the events taking place in Memphis, TN during the month of May.
Thus; 2017 acts as the 40 Year Anniversary for the music festival and the lineup should provide a great soundtrack for the celebration.
-Tennessee boys Kings of Leon top the bill having released their album Walls in 2016.
-90’s Seattle Grunge Rockers Soundgarden (Chris Cornell) get a headlining spot. With hits like “Black Hole Sun”. Remember this video?
-Widespread Panic will bring a great following, as always, and their southern rock will be fitting as the Mississippi rolls by Tom Lee Park.
-One would hope that Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg might come out together (“Kush Ups“?) at some point as the two are the first Hip-Hop artists to appear on the lineup.
-One of our favorites, Grammy Winning Country Artist and Kentuckian Sturgill Simpson is coming off of his 2016 release A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.
-A band we were fortunate enough to see at Forecastle in 2016, Death Cab for Cutie, is listed 6th on the Beale Street Lineup.
-Electro Sax Face-Melter GRIZ could very well come out with any artist and hold his own.
Other moments we’re excited for; Disturbing the Peace with Ludacris, Acting like “Kids” during MGMT, maybe “Burn One Down” with Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals, walking down memory lane and missing old girlfriends from high school with Taking Back Sunday, Saying No to Drugs when someone offers us Oxycontin at Lil Wyte, possibly falling in love during Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires or Jill Scott.
Not to mention Memphis is home to some of the greatest BBQ this side of the Mississippi. While the first weekend in May is the music festival, the third is the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. If you’re unable to stick around Memphis for three weeks of fun, check out Charles Vergos Rendezvous for a must have for fans of pork ribs (dry rubbed, sauce on the table). And although festival concerts often end before midnight, artists flock from all over to perform at after-parties on aforementioned Beale Street. Be sure to check the local bar calendars online as to not miss that rising blues artist that will headline festivals in a few years.