Preston Lauterbach: Beale Street Dynasty

Epic, brilliantly researched history of the Memphis street where the blues took shape.

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Preston Lauterbach’s first book, The Chitlin’ Circuit: And The Road To Rock‘N’Roll, was widely praised as the best music book of 2011. It ended with the 60s-era decline of Beale Street, the Memphis street where blues and R&B took shape.

Here, Lauterbach details the history of Beale, starting with the end of the civil war and a community of free black people setting up in Memphis. One mixed-race man, Robert Church, went on to build an empire of vice and thus became godfather to the blues.

Lauterbach’s book is full of secret histories and extreme racial violence. While the blues appears with WC Handy, this is not for the casual reader wanting a book full of music stories. Yet for anyone interested in how Beale Street gained its legend, it’s a fascinating read.