Memphis soul music is one of the most interesting forms of music around today, with an interesting and rich history that tells the tales of struggle, accomplishment and life. Memphis soul music has also influenced a wide variety of different genres, including rhythm and blues, modern jazz and rock and roll. Musicians that have been dead for more than a half century are still cited as major influences. For example, W.C. Handy, one of the pioneers of Memphis soul music, has been name checked by Bruce Springsteen in the song Walking in Memphis , where he was called to look out over the singer as he walked along Beale Street.
Beale Street was really where Memphis soul music has its roots. The famous street was (and is still today) the epicenter of entertainment and culture of the city. When Memphis soul music was first starting out, musicians would sit out on the street, playing Memphis soul music for those who walked by.
Memphis soul music has an extremely unique sound, thanks largely in part to the improvisational skills of those who played it. Because many of the people involved with Memphis soul music were poor African Americans, they had to use whatever they had laying around the house to make sounds. Since not many people could afford guitars, banjos and violins, everyday household items like washboards, Jews harps, kazoos and jugs were used to make the necessary sounds to accompany the soulful voices singing the lyrics.
After World War II, Memphis soul music began to take on a new sound. This is largely in part to the mass migration of African Americans to large cities, as they were trying to escape the life of poverty associated with living in rural, depressed areas in the South. The migrants brought electric instruments with them, which instantly took over the Memphis soul music scene.
Soon, record companies were lining up to sign popular Memphis soul music musicians into contracts. Sun Records was particularly interested, and soon had artists like Willie Nix, Ike Turner, Howlin Wolf and B.B. King on their lineup. As a result, Memphis soul music went from a regional style of music that not many people outside of the area knew about to a prevailing force in American music. Soon, artists in other areas of music were taking cues from Memphis soul music, altering their sounds a bit to create new hits.