It's become one of the state's biggest tourist attractions, but, some visitors are saying Memphis' famed Beale Street Entertainment District isn't living up to the hype.
It's a major concern also shared in a nearly two-year-old report on the future of Beale street. The report has not been seen by or read by many in Memphis government. Yet, it's filled with recommendations which could have an immediate impact as the city is still considering who's going to take over management of the street's operations.
You've heard the phrase "truth in advertising, so, when you crow about being the Home of the Blues, people expect that everywhere they walk on Beale Street they're going to hear that undeniable sound emanating from every nook and cranny.
Well, that's not exactly true is it?
On a tourist-busy Monday, devotees of blues music who are already flocking to the reputed "Home of the Blues," the Beale Street Entertainment District in Memphis, were, to say the least, a bit disillusioned.
"It could be blusier," said Sarah Kuesel of Bemiji, Minn.
"Yeah, it's definitely disappointing," added Dan Slattery of Chicago. "Definitely like to see something like that. Obviously, that's what everyone knows about Memphis."
The lack of pure blues venues was one of a number of issues addressed in the 19-month old report filed by the Beale Street Strategic Planning Committee. It wasn't released until April 2013 after litigation with the Performa Management Company had been completed.
Written in September 2011 few people, including some who were appointed to the 31-member blue-ribbon panel, say they've never seen or read the 52-page report.
Among the recommendations a call for a non-profit organization to oversee a management company to run the street for the city, or having Mayor A C Wharton appoint a special committee to oversee operations. Additionally, the report suggests the street should have more daytime activities and the administration should push for more black-owned businesses in what was historically a black-owned area.
But, as the tourist season goes into full swing, FOX1 3News wanted to concentrate on two recommendations that could be implemented to have a direct impact on our visitors. The fact blues music played on Beale seems to begin and end at B.B. King's and Rum Boogie Cafe, leaving two blocks of an uneven mixture of R&B, rock and hip-hop.
"The quick money, the tourists money," Jeffrey "Mr. Motown" Howard, Beale Street entertainer. "But, the tourists are complaining. The tourists come here for one thing - blues."
"That's what I like about blues music is that when you walk in, it's like the whole crowd is a family all of a sudden," Kuesel said. "You can just sit there and shake your head all night long and it's just wonderful."
"It's a difficult music to play," added Eric Hughes, Beale Street entertainer. "The old-timey blues requires a lot of dedication and musicianship and that's a lot to invest in."
The reports also cites the need for more informative outlets to tell the Beale Street story. A series of historical markers composed by the Center for Southern Heritage years ago were mostly dismantled. Yes, there are the Blues Notes, but, it's often left to older Beale Street denizens to fill in the historical blanks.
"A lot of people come through, believe it or not, they don't even know who W.C. (Handy) is," Howard said. "People are just so fascinated with the things. They say, 'Wow! We didn't even know that.'"
"Beale Street's home and anything that can make it better and spread more of our music to people in the world the better," Hughes added.
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