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Friday, 17 January 2014

The Glebe in the USA 2013 - Memphis - Downtown and Beale Street

Saturday the 7th of December 2013
So, I've got the apartment to myself, Ryan's flown off to Chicago.
I've had an excellent night's sleep and I'm having my oats and fruit while watching News 3 for the weather.
It's going to be a cold day in Memphis while elsewhere in the state there's talk of 'Thundersleet' happening.
Outside there are tree branches along the side-walks snapped off with the weight of ice.
So I'm well wrapped up as I head down Union Avenue to find Beale Street.
Downtown Memphis is very quiet. It also seems easier to navigate than back in the suburbs.

After parking up close to Beale street I'm out in the cold but well wrapped up.
It's around eleven in the morning, but it seems that is still very early here in Memphis. (The freezing weather was probably the main reason I never got to sample the night life of Beale Street. I did get to enjoy live music later in the afternoon though).
I've parked just here by Church Park.
Robert R. Church Sr is often called America's first black millionaire.
His descendants have all figured prominently in the history of the southern states.

The bust is his son Robert R. Church Jr who grew up to become a prominent Republican, civil rights leader, and businessman.

Judging by the amount of historic plaques around Memphis it seems they are rightly proud of their heritage.

"Formerly known as Beale Street Baptist, this church is the first brick-constructed, multi-story church in the U.S. built for African Americans. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This church is also the first African-American Missionary Baptist Church in the country built by slaves. Newspaper publisher, Ida B. Wells operated her newspaper from this church."

At the start of the pedestrianized stretch of the street it looks deserted.

W.C.Handy the 'Father of the Blues'

I can't pay a visit, there's not much open yet.  

As I said before there are plaques and info boards everywhere.

At the junction with 4th Street  is the police station.

There's a cracking logo on the badge.  Top marks to it's designer.

There were more pages to this notice but I put this one up because it contains the word 'panhandling'.
It's a word I'd heard often but never knew it's real meaning.
Later in the day I was approached by a panhandler, now I know the meaning !

Now I'm getting into the bars, restaurants and entertainment part of the street.

I should have let the lady who offered take my picture with Jerry's car but I was worried she'd run off with my camera. It's not like me to be so suspicious !

While passing the Hard Rock Cafe I was invited in by the woman opening up. I said I might be back for food later. I did come back for a Coors, but no food, I'd already eaten. There was a guy singing I think he was called thatboy Rod, but not my kinda music. I didn't stay long. 

Fake icicles a couple or three pictures ago. Here's some real ones.

This would be a nice spot to relax from partying I guess.

As well as W.C there's high praise in Memphis for Rufus Thomas. I well remember his Walking the Dog and Do the Funky Chicken. I also remember having his daughter Carla's single 'When tomorrow comes' back in the 60's.

Doors are beginning to open. I guess the sign bottom right above gives an inkling to the kind of opening hours of the establishments on the street.

There's always an Irish bar isn't there.
O'Sullivan's takes up a whole corner.
"where It's like St Patrick's Day all the year round"

Well, the poet, Brenner, sounds Irish. It seems though that being a Tennessee Squire means he drinks Jack Daniels rather than Jamesons

There's some very sexy advertisements around.

It was on my return in the afternoon that I ventured into Memphis Music and spent ages going through the comprehensive collection of vinyl on offer. I could have stayed hours, but after selecting a handful to purchase I had to move on.
I believe that some of the records will be played at the Vine-L Sunday Sessions at the Vine Cheltenham in the very near future.

I had a look in Mr Handy's Blues Hall later in the day also. 
It's a very atmospheric place, musty smelling like you're going back in time. Tons of old pictures and memorabilia on the walls. It was very dark and the one photograph I took was totally blurred. 

I'm away ahead of myself because these photographs are from after my walk along the Mississippi, I'm just keeping the theme together.

Schwab's was an amazing store and museum. I spent quite a while in here.

There were lots of rare items on display, and also for sale. I made some purchases, but nothing to write home about, all the items I fancied would have cost me a fortune in shipping.

OK, you can now call me Boney Gumbo Dupree, yeah............far out man !

Still on Beale Street I'm heading towards the river. I found out later that the site of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King wasn't so far away. I should have visited since it's now the location of the National Civil Rights Museum.  It's on my to do list for my next visit. I think I need to spend at least a fortnight in Memphis.

There's a lot of runners looking fit out today. They're all nicely friendly with their 'Hullo's'

We know who this fellow is. It's a  Bronze Elvis Statue  by sculptor Andrea Lugar.

I never expected to see him crying, I wonder if he's singing Crying in the Chapel ?

Now here's a a hungry bird and a well known name.

Now I'm walking into the central business district. There are more people on the tram than I've seen all morning.

I've a feeling that if this was a weekday instead of Saturday these streets would have been busier. Maybe it is the extreme cold that's kept people away, they aren't used to it here.

Now I'm on the mighty Mississippi as it says on the boat. Mud Island River Park where I'd hoped to visit is closed. 
The Lozier family who run these riverboat rides have entertained the likes of  Mother Teresa, Cybill Shepherd, Ringo Star and Al Gore.
I was hoping to walk on the Hernando de Soto Bridge (above), but on asking a passer by I was told there wasn't a walkway across. There's one on the Memphis and Arkansas Bridge one of the next bridges along, but it's inadvisable to walk on since a fatality in 2012. The adjacent Harahan Bridge is due to have a custom built walkway and cycle track with construction beginning this year. Looks like I'm not walking on a bridge today ! 

I'm walking south now. This is the magnificent American Queen.

There's a queue of lorries loading her up at the new Beale Street Landing.
I spend ten minutes talking to a lady guard at the top gangway. She's feeling the cold even though she's got a decent bit of padding. A crew member coming off talks to us about his job, "best job in the world" he says. He's one of the ships engineers. This trip will be a short five day round trip north to St Louis. He tells us that upriver cruises also go to Minneapolis/St Paul or up the Ohio river to Cincinnati and other ports. Downriver cruises go to New Orleans. They also cruise along the Tennessee, Columbia and Snake rivers. He get's lots of time off and enjoys sampling various bourbons. Pity I haven't the time or the money !

This boat says Steve Dumey on the bridge, I wouldn't have known if I hadn't looked him up, but this is a mid stream fuelling boat. A close up look at the picture shows the fuelling hoses. First one I've ever seen.

Here's another hungry bird.

I'm now passing through the Tom Lee Memorial Park. 
Here's the History of Tom Lee, truly a hero.

I don't think I'm imagining things but those icicles seem to be getting longer.
The bridge heads over to a large gated community, I guess most American cities have gated estates now, I've noticed they're springing up around the U.K nowadays.

Here's the news channel I've been watching.

Another bird is disappointed with me. If I'd known I'd have brought some seed with me.
Below the bird is another zoomed in view of Hernando de Soto Bridge.

Now I'm heading back towards Beale Street.

Reaching Huling Avenue I spotted this place.
I'm now a little hungry so I'll take a look in the Spaghetti Warehouse.
First opened in Dallas in 1972 there's now a chain of sixteen in seven states.

It's brightly decorated with lots of curiosities. 

I'm glad to sit down. The four dining ladies at the next table (out of shot) had a good laugh at me taking this selfie. I ordered minestrone soup and chicken linguini and a coffee. It was delicious. I'm all for the American way of keeping coffee cups filled at no extra cost too.

I took some more indoor pictures before leaving. The trolley car had quite a few diners in, very novel. 
After leaving if I'd turned south-east I'd have come to the National Civil Rights Museum. 
I was intent on returning to Beale however to soak up some atmosphere.

There's a queue forming at the Orpheum. It was the Grand Opera House from 1890 until it was destroyed by fire in 1923. This is another place on my return visit list.
Sister Act was showing. 

There's stars all over the side-walk around the theatre so I took a few pictures.

I think I became star struck, but my snapping was soon curtailed as the queue grew.
I moved on down Beale Street. 
Before moving on to the Hard Rock Cafe which I mentioned earlier I visited the Blues City Cafe. I was impressed enough that I'd be back the next day to eat. It also seems that the back room is the preferred eating place for the Memphis Police Department. It was piped music during my visit, but the brochure I picked up was advertising rock and roll and rockabilly in the music room.  I'm sure I'll be having that fortnight in Memphis before my seventy fifth birthday !  

I'm still taking pictures as I head back to my car.
I'm wondering about on the back of a car. It seems to have started as a campaign to get ladies fit, but now might be just a ruse to get you to buy the merchandise. How about that 'No Cruising Zone', that's me scuppered ha ha. 
It was about now I was approached by a 'Panhandler'. After politely telling him to 'Go Away' I continued on my way. Maybe I should have given him a dollar !  

A little diversion on 4th street takes me to the FedExForum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies and the Memphis Tigers basketball teams.

I should have checked to see if Elvis's tears had grown. The icicles certainly have. I've about walked off my three bottles of beer and quite tired myself out, it'll be a quiet night in. The cold weather is set to continue.
Only one more full day before I have to head back to Nashville, it's too soon.


  1. I was really surprised at the immense size of that paddle steamer. That photo of the Elvis statue with the crying icicles is pretty special Jim!

  2. Some brilliant photographs Jim.
    I've seen the film Coyote Ugly set in the New York bar of the same chain. If it's as busy as that one the bar staff certainly work for their money. One of my favourite country songs is 'Evangeline' by Emmylou Harris which is all about a giant riverboat called the 'Queen' which you'll probably know.
    Epic trip.

  3. Hi Rose, I'd have loved to have had a around the American Queen, she really was a beauty.
    I have been on a paddle steamer though. It was back in the 90's and permanently moored as an entertainment and dance hall centre in Cincinnati on the Ohio River. We saw line dancing and duelling pianos that night.
    Yes, that weeping Elvis could have become a shrine.
    Cheers Bob, Emmylou Harris is as good today as she ever was.

  4. "Look" should have been in there Rose


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