As one of the county’s preeminent music meccas, the Bluff City has always boasted more than its fair share of music-centric spaces, from smoky dive bars to ritzy cocktail lounges. In the past several months, Memphis’ wealth of riches has grown even larger, with several new musically-focused bars, lounges, and venues springing up seemingly overnight. While these new offerings differ in many ways, they all have one thing in common: A desire to pay homage to the city’s storied past while also offering a view of the future. Below are three of our favorite new venues that are helping to keep Memphis’ cultural history alive and well.
Located beneath the Hotel Indigo, the Lounge at 3rd & Court elicits visions of a bygone era in Memphis when patrons would crowd into dimly lit clubs to catch performances of the blues and soul music for the city is famous. Formerly home to the Memphis Sounds Lounge, which has since relocated to Mud Island, the Lounge retains the classy old-school ambiance and feng shui that made its previous occupant a cult favorite of music aficionados.
“We did our best to keep the same style and vibe that the Sounds Lounge had, but we cleaned it up and added our own touch,” says restaurateur Ryan Trimm, who oversaw the space’s redevelopment. In addition to minor renovations and an overhaul of the Lounge’s cocktail menu, Trimm and his team also sought to create a space that could highlight various aspects of the city’s rich and diverse musical heritage. “When I think of Memphis music, it goes so much further than just the blues. I think of soul, jazz, funk, and R&B,” Trimm says.
So far, the live music offerings have reflected this desire for variety, as the Lounge has hosted Americana guitarist John Paul Keith, Booker T. & the MG’s cover band The MD’s, and funk ensemble Outer Ring, among others. In addition to the live music offerings, The Lounge also featured DJ’s spinning vinyl, again with a focus on local music. If a vintage Memphis feel is what you’ve been searching for, there aren’t many better options that The Lounge.
The Lounge is open Thursday-Sunday with live music nightly, beginning between 7 to 9 PM. Validated parking is available through the Hotel Indigo.
Located in the lobby of the recently opened Central Station Hotel, Eight & Sand is an elegant yet comfortable bar where Memphis music reigns supreme. “Music is THE most important aspect of the Central Station Hotel. It ties all the different areas of the hotel together,” says Jim Thompson of Eggleston Works, who was a designer-consultant of the Central Station Hotel. At the center of Eight & Sand, both literally and figuratively, is “Elmertha,” a converted church organ that now serves as the DJ booth. “Every night of the week, we have a live DJ in the booth mixing and blending tracks and carefully crafting a set of music. Our team consists of professional DJ’s that are some of the best in town at reading the crowd at any moment and developing a unique mix of songs,” explains Thompson. In addition to employing some of the city’s finest DJs, the bar also boasts one of the city’s most impressive collections of Memphis-related vinyl, containing over 2,500 LPs and 1,000 45 RPM records, as well as over 21,000 digital tracks.
Another unique aspect of Eight & Sand is the Listening Lounge, which is located in an intimate room behind the bar. “The sound-proof Listening Lounge features specialty EgglestonWorks speakers, designed specifically for a stunning auditory experience and can seat up to six guests,” explains Thompson. “The room also features touchscreens where visitors can interact by listening to episodes of their choice of the hotel’s original written and produced podcasts on specific Memphis styles of music, as explained by an artist of that genre.” For those looking to gain a little more understanding about Memphis music, or simply looking to find a small oasis from the bar’s usual hustle and bustle, the Listening Lounge is a must-see.
In addition to nightly DJ sets, Eight & Sand also offers special events on a monthly basis, something that they are looking to expand even more in the new year. “Monthly programming examples include: ‘Soul Service,’ a Live DJ set where the DJ’s play instruments and focus on gospel music. Also monthly, the ‘Stax on Sundays’ event features staff from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music taking on the DJ honors. A few times per year, we will feature big names in the DJ world for very special events. As an example, on Feb 1st, we will feature Los Angeles artist Cut Chemist for a unique and original all-Memphis connected set,” says Thompson. By expertly blending the vintage and the contemporary in a must-see space, Eight & Sand promises to be a Memphis institution for years to come.
Eight & Sand is open daily at 4 PM, with music available every night.
Well, I know a little spot on the edge of town/Where you can really dig ’em up and set ’em down/It’s a little place called The Hideaway/You do the rockabilly till the break of day…
-“Rock Billy Boogie,” The Rock and Roll Trio (1956)
“I knew about Hernando’s from the Burnette brothers’ song ‘Rock Billy Boogie,’ and also through interviews with Jerry Lee Lewis talking about going there in the early days,” says Dale Watson, the Texas country star who now owns the iconic Whitehaven bar Hernando’s Hide-A-Way. For decades, Hernando’s had been one of Memphis’ finest hidden treasures, a raucous roadhouse that hosted some of the city’s biggest stars from the Sun Records era, including Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and the aforementioned Jerry Lee Lewis.
When the bar shut its doors in 2006, many feared that Hernando’s was lost for good. Thankfully, that all changed with the arrival of Watson, who relocated to Memphis from his long-time home Austin last year. “What made Austin so special in the early 70’s is the same vibe that I feel is in Memphis. Original music with roots influence and an appreciative and supportive audience and community,” he explains. “There’s just an undeniable electricity in the air that ignites creativity. I was drawn to it like a fly to a light.” Following its grand re-opening last year, Hernando’s Hide-A-Way is quickly becoming ground zero for the roots music community that Watson speaks so fondly of.
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Much like the Lounge at 3rd and Court, Hernando’s transports visitors to a bygone era of Memphis music history, while avoiding the blunder of relying too much on nostalgia. The bar currently hosts live music every night of the week and dancing is encourages. “It’s always roots music, no mainstream,” Watson says. From 3:30-7 pm, patrons can also participate in the popular “Chicken Sh*t Bingo,” a game that is probably better off being experienced than explained. Additionally, Watson plans to add burlesque and comedy shows to the bar’s offerings in the near future, but music will always be Hernando’s lifeblood.
Hernando’s Hide-A-Way is open daily from 11:30 AM-2 AM. Musically typically begins at 9 PM, although shows vary.