Beale Street was created in 1841 by entrepreneur/developer Robertson Topp, who named it for a forgotten military hero. The original name was Beale Avenue. Its western end housed shops of trade merchants, who traded goods with ships along the Mississippi River, while the eastern part developed as an affluent suburb. In the 1860s, many black traveling musicians began performing on Beale. The first of these to call Beale Street home were the Young Men's Brass Band, who were formed by Sam Thomas in 1867.
In the 1870s, the population of Memphis was rocked by a series of yellow fever epidemics, leading the city to forfeit its charter in 1879. During this time, Robert Church purchased land around Beale Street that would eventually lead to his becoming the first black millionaire from the south. In 1890, Beale Street underwent renovation.
In the early 1900s, Beale Street was filled with many clubs, restaurants and shops, many of them owned by African-Americans.
In 1903, Mayor Thornton was looking for a music teacher for his Knights of Pythias Band and called Tuskegee Institute to talk to his friend, Booker T. Washington, who recommended a trumpet player in Clarksdale, Mississippi named W. C. Handy. Mayor Thornton contacted Handy, and Memphis became the home of the famous musician who created the "Blues on Beale Street". Mayor Thornton and his three sons also played in Handy's band.
In 1909, W. C. Handy wrote "Mr. Crump" as a campaign song for political machine leader E. H. Crump. The song was later renamed "The Memphis Blues". Handy also wrote a song called "Beale Street Blues" in 1916 which influenced the change of the street's name from Beale Avenue to Beale Street. From the 1920s to the 1940s, Louis Armstrong, Albert King, , B. B. King and other blues and jazz legends played on Beale Street and helped develop the style known as Memphis Blues. As a young man, B. B. King was billed as "the Beale Street Blues Boy".
In the 1960s, Beale became run down and many stores closed. On May 23, 1966, the section of the street from Main to 4th was declared a National Historic Landmark. On December 15, 1977, Beale Street was officially declared the "Home of the Blues" by an act of Congress. Despite this national recognition of its historic significance, Beale was a virtual ghost town after a disastrous urban renewal program with every building except Schwabs boarded up.
In 1973, the Beale Street Development Corporation (BSDC) was formed for the redevelopment of Beale Street.
quote from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beale_Street
William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was an American blues composer and musician. He was widely known as the "Father of the Blues". (As mentioned in the above History of Beale Street).
Handy remains among the most influential of American songwriters. Though he was one of many musicians who played the distinctively American form of music known as the blues, he is credited with giving it its contemporary form. While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a regional music style with a limited audience to one of the dominant national forces in American music.
Handy was an educated musician who used folk material in his compositions. He was scrupulous in documenting the sources of his works, which frequently combined stylistic influences from several performers.