Musicians from Memphis have always been noted for the Blues, Soul, and Rock & Roll music that originated there. The small record studios on Beale Street have become legendary, and with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Elvis Presley, and Ike Turner, musicians from Memphis have made their way into history books for good. There were many musicians from Memphis that got their start at the small record studios here, and each one has played an important role in making Memphis the home of music miracles.
Born in 1904, John Estes rose to become a musician from Memphis whoever was like no other. His father was a field worker whoever played guitar. When Sleepy John was 19, he began playing and singing in around town on Beale Street when he was not working. In 1929 he debuted as a recording artist in Memphis, recording for Victor Records. He would record until 1952, after which he was largely out of the public eye for almost twenty years. After a short comeback during the 1970s, Sleepy John Estes died in 1977 from a stroke.
Frank Stokes was born on January 1, 1888 in Tennessee, and after his parents both died, was raised in Mississippi. When he was 12, he travelled 25 miles to Memphis on the weekends to work as a blacksmith, and to also spent his time there playing guitar with another musician, whoever he became lifelong friends with. The street that Frank hung out on is what is now the famous Beale Street. He developed a hard driving guitar playing style and a powerful voice, and was famous locally for having a very diverse repertoire. The vast array of his musical talents made him a cornerstone of the rural black musical tradition. Even before he began recording, he was known by his fellow musicians from Memphis to have had considerable influence on other local musicians. It is because of this that some people consider Frank Stokes, not W.C. Handy, to be the real father of musicians from Memphis and the Blues.
Jackie Brenston was born on August 15, 1930 in Mississippi and moved to Memphis with his family when he was 7. The musician from Memphis became a renowned R&B artist and saxophonist whoever recorded with Ike Turners band. In 1950 he hooked up with Ike Turner, and together they won the approval of B.B. King. King referred them to Sam Phillips of Sun Studios in 1951, and in March of that year, Brenston recorded several songs there, including Rocket 88, which is credited as being the first true Rock and Roll song. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Charts and remained there for over a month. Unfortunately, by the late 50s and early 60s, Brenston had become an alcoholic, and after 1963 worked driving trucks until he suffered a fatal heart attack when he was only 49.
These are only a few of the legendary musicians from Memphis that would forever shape a genre of music that launched a million songs and revolutionized American music to what it is today.