Music from Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is a city that sits in the southwest corner of Tennessee and is the county seat of Shelby County. Memphis rises above the Mississippi River on the Chickasaw Bluff which is just south of the mouth of the Wolf River. The estimated population of Memphis is over 670, 000 which makes it the largest city in the state of Tennessee. It is also the second largest city in the entire southeastern region of the United States only behind Jacksonville, Florida. Memphis is the youngest of the four major cities in Tennessee which include Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville. It seems hard to believe that it is the youngest of these four cities because music from Memphis has been around for so long.

Music from Memphis first began in the early 1920s with the introduction of the blues sound. Some of the most popular musicians credited for the beginning of Memphis blues are Frank Stokes, Sleepy John Estes, Furry Lewis, and Memphis Minnie. The music from Memphis in the blues era was largely based around simple guitar sounds and jug bands. Jug bands were exactly what they sound like, a jug that is made into an instrument which when blown upon the opening, emits a lovely and musical sound. The pitches can be altered by increasing or decreasing the space between the mouth and the opening of the jug. Jugs that are made into musical instruments are typically made of glass or stoneware.
Some other unusual instruments that were used to produce music from Memphis during the blues era are harmonicas, violins, mandolins, banjos and kazoos.

In addition to the blues music from Memphis, there was also a large genre of music known as soul that originated from the area. Memphis soul music is a subset of the genre of soul music. Soul music emerged in the late 1950s in African American neighborhoods in Chicago, Memphis, Detroit and Philadelphia. It began when artists like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles started to merge traditional gospel with R&B music. Soul music revolved around two record labels; Stax Records and Hi Records. Stax Records produced all the songs from songwriters and musicians in the entire Memphis area. Hi Records used a nearby studio to record their songs and with Stax, brought soul music to a national level. Music from Memphis has had a large influence on the way we look at and feel about music today and without it, it is safe to assume that the sounds of music today would be completely different.

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