Memphis soul music was shaped by many talented voices that are still famous in the music business today. People like W.C. Handy, Frank Stokes, Willie Nix, Furry Lewis, Sleepy John Estes, Junior Parker, Ida Cox, Memphis Minnie, Rosco Gordon, Howlin Wolf, Robert Wilkins, Big Mama Thornton and Bobby Sowell all worked together to create, shape and define what Memphis soul music was, and the impressions that they have left remain strong in the city still today.
Memphis soul music began to take shape in the grand city during the 1920s by some of the local musicians there who hung around the musical district of Beale Street. Beale Street was the center of artistic musical creation, and Memphis soul music was no exception. Not only was Beale Street the soul music capital of Tennessee, it was the soul music capital of the world. There have been countless books and documentaries written about the high times of Beale Street and its Memphis soul music. One of the most popular and more recent bestsellers was James Dickersons Goin Back to Memphis, which was written in 2000.
When Memphis soul music was first evolving, emphasis was first placed on the strange musical instruments that were distinct to Memphis music. These ranged from trombones and drums to guitars and homemade items, like washboards and mandolins made out of gourds. Harmonicas found their way into the hearts of many Memphis soul music lovers as well. These homemade instruments all came together to create the inspirational and unique sound of Memphis soul music.
Household items as instruments came into being because many of the musicians of Memphis soul music started their careers when they were very poor, and they could not afford to buy the shiny new guitar in the music shop on Beale Street, so they would make their own. Other types of musicians that formed the famous Memphis jug bands used empty jugs made of clay or glass and blew over them at different ways to make their music. There were also Jews harps, banjos, and any other kind of item that could make a great sound that were influential in Memphis soul music, as well as other types of Memphis music, too.
It wasnt until after World War II that the home made instruments began to be replaced by the electric instruments that came about into the music world, and the sound of blues and Memphis soul music changed with the introduction of these instruments. The large numbers of African American immigrants into the city also changed the sounds and structure of the Memphis soul music. The soul music of Memphis would forever have a unique history that is unmatched by any other genre of music today.