Wild Bill’s Juke Joint is the Memphis dive bar that tourists imagine they’ll find when visiting Beale Street, one of the last remaining juke joints in existence and the unquestioned must-see destination for anyone hoping for a dose of unfiltered blues while visiting the city. Opened in 1993 by Bill Storey, little has changed in the quite literal hole-in-the-wall occupying a small sliver of an otherwise unassuming strip mall in North Memphis. The formula is a simple one, hot food, cold beers and live music with little pretention or filler. The beers sold are of the 40-ounce variety and come with a pair of cups to share. Those looking for something a little stronger are welcome to bring it in thank to Wild Bill’s bring-your-own-whatever policy.
The faded wood sign out front tells the story of the equally faded and rustic interior, a tiny red room with red lights and cramped quarters that makes for the best possible live music experience. Though there isn’t really room for a dance floor, one inevitably forms during the late hours of the evening when the crowd starts trickling in (getting there around midnight seems to be the consensus recommendation). The live band lineup has changed over the years, now called the Juke Joint All Stars, commanding a small area at the front of the building flanked by communal folding tables packed with visitors.
Burgers, wings and other plastic basket staples are served from a small kitchen in back, the walls covered with pictures of visitors and regulars through the years. After Storey passed in 2006, ownership fell to his wife Lerlene. The Memphis dive bar briefly closed in 2018 due to unpaid property taxes but roared back to life that same year, changing nothing.