Few cities are as synonymous with live music as Memphis, Beale Street among the city’s most visited attractions for tourists looking for live blues and soul music. Inevitably, as Beale Street grows in popularity, so too does its distortion to tourists, packaging up manufactured experiences that are still compelling and enjoyable but might leave a bit of the “real” Memphis behind.
Enter a place like Wild Bill’s Juke Joint
, one of the last remaining juke joints in existence and a live music haven for those seeking something a bit more authentic than a Beale Street bar. Beers here are served in 40-ounce bottles with a pair of caps for sharing, the live music kicking into full gear when the crowd arrives late (say midnight or so). Few places on Earth match the intensity of an intimate blues performance at Wild Bill’s.
Music is again the theme at Earnestine & Hazel’s
, a dive bar routinely cited as one of the world’s best and the byproduct of what was once a jazz club on the building’s first floor that served as the afterparty location for famous musicians for decades. Ray Charles, Chuck Barry, Aretha Franklin all visited, the building given to hairdressers Earnestine and Hazel by the building’s owner who hit it big by inventing what became Coppertone sunblock. Little has changed, including a focus on live music, the existence of the must-try Soul Burger and unquestionably haunted jukebox.
These dive bars are probably the city’s most famous offerings, but unique dives exist throughout Memphis. The Lamplighter Lounge
is one such dive, again a live music hub that features a collection of chairs and tables that can generously be referred to as mismatched. The Midtown staple is another beer-only, cash-only, bring-your-own-whatever option recently revamped in 2018 to create an even more potent strip mall, live music destination.
And if you’re sensing a theme here, the love affair between dive bars and live music in Memphis is a distinct advantage for the city’s selection of divey drinking options. In addition to unassuming surroundings and authentic surroundings, the dedication to and appreciation of live music sets apart Memphis’ drinking destinations in a unique and memorable way.