Although Memphis has undoubtedly earned its title as “The Home of the Blues,” the fact remains that the city’s defining genre isn’t quite as prevalent as it once was. That said, there are still plenty of great options around town to catch some live blues music that will appeal to both locals and tourists alike. Below is our one-stop guide for the clubs, venues, and bars that are helping to ensure the Bluff City remains at the epicenter for authentic Delta blues.
Wild Bill’s Juke Joint (1580 Vollintine Ave)
The sad reality is that genuine juke joints have been rapidly disappearing throughout the South over the past several decades, and Memphis is no exception. Thankfully this cozy North Memphis club is still carrying the torch and providing some of the best blues in the region into the wee hours of the morning. For the past 25+ years, Wild Bill’s has reigned as one of the city’s best neighborhood music clubs and its stature continues to grow. While the club is celebrated for its great music, friendly atmosphere, and throwback style, its smoke-filled rooms and raunchy dancing aren’t necessarily for the faint hearted. Whether you catch the house band, the Juke Joint All Stars, or a special guest performer, Wild Bill’s is the spot for real blues.
CC Blues Club (1427 Thomas St)
Known as much for their chicken as their live music and old school atmosphere, CC Blues Club is such a hidden gem that I’m guessing most native Memphians aren’t even aware of its existence. While this certainly adds to its mystique, it also means that it’s a bit more difficult to know what exactly is happening on any given night (Like a real blues club, CC’s doesn’t have a website). That said, if you’re looking to explore the more uncharted areas of Memphis and take a risk, CC’s may be the place for you.
Hernando’s Hideaway (3210 Old Hernando Rd)
While not a blues club per se, Whitehaven’s legendary Hernando’s Hideaway frequently features blues musicians and other related roots genres such as country and R&B. The club, which was once frequented by Memphis royalty like Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and BB King, retains its old-school cool and can often feel like a portal into a bygone era. In the recent past, Hernando’s has hosted some of the world’s premiere blues players and also frequently serves as the home to various Memphis Blues Society events. To see what’s coming up soon, be sure to check out their calendar.
Earnestine & Hazel’s (531 S Main St.)
America’s most haunted bar is also a great place to catch some live blues on the weekends (if you aren’t too scared, that is). This Memphis institution has been hosting live music since at least the 1950s and remains a local favorite for late night dancing, drinking, and revelry. If you happen to stumble upon E&H on a weeknight when there isn’t a band playing, don’t fret. They have one of the city’s best jukeboxes filled with local blues heroes like B.B. King, Bobby “Blue” Bland, John Lee Hooker, and many more.
The Crosstown Concourse (1350 Concourse Ave.)
The Crosstown Concourse, a converted Sears warehouse that is now a dynamic “vertical village,” offers a ton of great options for music lovers of all stripes, including blues aficionados. For live music, be sure to check out the calendars for the Green Room at Crosstown Arts and the Crosstown Theater, both of which regularly feature blues and Americana artists. You should also check out the massive collection of rare records at the Memphis Listening Lab, a unique musical library that includes hundreds of hard-to-find blues LPs, 78s, and 45s. The Lab also features live performances and listening parties from time to time.
Okay, perhaps we buried the lede here, but you kinda knew this one already, right? For over a century, Beale Street has served as the most important site for blues music in America (and probably the world). The genre remains the lifeblood of the famed street and there are countless clubs dedicated to bringing you the music that made it famous. While you can’t go wrong with the famous clubs like B.B. King’s and Rum Boogie, we find that some of the best acts are nestled in smaller clubs like Mr. Handy’s Blues Hall, the Beale Street Tap Room, or right in the middle of historical Handy Park.