Beale Street Blues

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"Beale Street Blues"
Sheet music cover
Song by Gilda Gray
Songwriter(s)W.C. Handy

"Beale Street Blues" is a song by American composer and lyricist W.C. Handy. It was named after Beale Street, a center of African-American music in Memphis, Tennessee, and was published in 1917.


The title refers to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, an entertainment district for the city's African-American population in the early part of the 20th century.[1]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

"Beale Street Blues" "juxtaposes the 12-bar blues form with an 8-bar counter-theme".[1] The song was published in 1917.[1]

Early versions[edit]

The publication of the song coincided with the beginning of jazz recordings.[1] An early version by Earl Fuller's Famous Jazz Band earned Handy's firm $2,857 in royalties.[1] A version by singer Marion Harris was a top 10 hit in December 1921.[1] More typically, however, in the early years after it was written, jazz musicians played instrumental versions of the song.[1]

Later versions and influence[edit]

Jack Teagarden used the song as a vocal showcase in the 1930s and 1940s, and recorded it with several bands in that period.[1] In the big band era, only a few of the well-known bands recorded it; these included Tommy Dorsey and Duke Ellington.[1] Since the 1950s, the song has been associated with trad bands.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Gioia, Ted (2012). Jazz Standards. Oxford University Press. pp. 31–32.

External links[edit]