Renovation Of The Hotel Chisca In Downtown Memphis

We came across this article on the renovation of the Hotel Chisca in downtown Memphis.

The Hotel Chisca has a solid place in blues history as the home of radio station WHBQ, whose DJ Dewey Phillips was the first DJ to play an Elvis Presley record on air when he played Elvis Presley’s That’s All Right (Mama) on 6 July 1954.

Elvis Presley had recorded That’s All Right (Mama) at Sam PhillipsSun Records at 706 Union Avenue on 5 July 1954. On 6 July 1954 Sam Phillips delivered a copy of the single to Dewey Phillips (no relation) at the WHBQ studio at the Hotel Chisca. Dewey Phillips played That’s All Right (Mama) on his Red, Hot And Blue radio show the same day and the rest, as they say, is history.

The Memphis Recording Service, Sun Records and Sun Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee
The Memphis Recording Service, Sun Records and Sun Studio, 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee

Here is a photo we took of the Hotel Chisca building before the renovations.

The former Hotel Chisca in downtown Memphis, 2014. (photo: Mississippi Blues Travellers)
The former Hotel Chisca in downtown Memphis, 2014. (photo: Mississippi Blues Travellers)

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Mississippi Country Music Trail Has Added A New Marker Commemorating Jerry Lee Lewis

On 19 December 2019 the Mississippi Country Music Trail added a new marker commemorating Jerry Lee Lewis.

Here is a video of the unveiling ceremony:

 

 

We will visit this marker in the future. But here are the Mississippi Country Music Trail markers we have visited so far:

The Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Bobbie gentry, Grand Avenue, Greenwood, Mississippi
The Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Bobbie Gentry, Grand Avenue, Greenwood, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker commemorating Elsie McWilliams, Meridian, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker commemorating Elsie McWilliams, Meridian, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Elvis Country, Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum, Tupelo, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Elvis Country, Elvis Presley Birthplace Museum, Tupelo, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Marty Stuart, Philadelphia, Neshoba County, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Marty Stuart, Philadelphia, Neshoba County, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Country Music Comes Of Age, Meridian, Mississippi
Mississippi Country Music Trail marker for Country Music Comes Of Age, Meridian, Mississippi

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Recommended Recording: It’s The Way That You Swing It – Jimmie Lunceford And His Orchestra

Recommended Recordings

As one of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we recommend It’s The Way That You Swing It – The Hits Of Jimmie Lunceford by Jimmie Lunceford and His Orchestra, a 2 CD set released on Jasmine Records.

CD cover, Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra, It's The Way That You Swing It, a 2 CD set released on Jasmine Records
CD cover, Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra, It’s The Way That You Swing It, a 2 CD set released on Jasmine Records

Jimmie Lunceford (1902-1947) was born in Fulton, Mississippi. Although he is not well known today, his band was one of the most popular bands of the 1930’s and 1940’s Big Band and Swing era.

Available through:

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Recommended Book: Up Jumped The Devil – The Real Life Of Robert Johnson

We have added Up Jumped The Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, published in 2019, to our list of Recommended Books.

This is the best biography of Robert Johnson that we have read so far.

Up Jumped The Devil, The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, is one of our Recommended Books.
Up Jumped The Devil, The Real Life of Robert Johnson, by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow, is one of our Recommended Books.

Available through:

Here is a link to our page on Little Zion M.B.E. Church, near Money, Mississippi, where we believe Robert Johnson is buried.

Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi

Robert Johnson’s Complete Recordings should be part of any blues fans’ collection. Here is the edition we have included in our Recommended Recordings.

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

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A Good Article On Robert Johnson’s Grave Site – Atlas Obscura -23 October 2019

A good article on Robert Johnson’s reputed grave sites has been published  on the Atlas Obscura website.

The author, Matthew Taub, contacted MississippiBluesTravellers.com by email with a request for information about Robert Johnson’s grave sites. We put him onto T. DeWayne Moore of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund and Gayle Dean Wardlow, who found Robert Johnson’s death certificate in the Leflore County archives in the 1970’s.

Here is a link to the resulting article on the Atlas Obscura website. We think it came out well.

If you want to see the reputed Robert Johnson grave sites for yourself, here are links to more information:

Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mississippi Blues Trail marker for Robert Johnson, Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Money Road, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church cemetery and its reputed Robert Johnson grave, Morgan City, Leflore County, Mississippi
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church cemetery and its reputed Robert Johnson grave, Morgan City, Leflore County, Mississippi
Payne Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Quito, Leflore County, Mississippi, site of one of three reputed Robert Johnson graves,
Payne Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, Quito, Leflore County, Mississippi, site of one of three reputed Robert Johnson graves,

Here is our current Recommended Recording of the Complete Robert Johnson:

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

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Update From T. DeWayne Moore On Ralph Lembo And His Historical Reputation

Ralph Lembo was a store owner and music promoter during the 1920’s and 1930’s in Leflore County, Mississippi who obtained recording contracts for musicians like Bukka White and Rube Lacey.

Ralph Lembo’s store in Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi is still standing at 114 Humphreys Street in downtown Itta Bena.

The former Ralph Lembo store, Humphreys Street, Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi
The former Ralph Lembo store, 114 Humphreys Street, Itta Bena, Leflore County, Mississippi

Ralph Lembo’s historical reputation has been tarnished through articles by blues historians, including Gayle Dean Wardlow and Ed Komara, who wrote that musicians considered Ralph Lembo untrustworthy. Gayle Dean Wardlow has written that Charley Patton refused to work with Ralph Lembo because he considered Lembo untrustworthy.

New research by T. DeWayne Moore of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund suggests that Ralph Lembo’s posthumous reputation has been tarnished unfairly and the criticism of Ralph Lembo as being untrustworthy is itself untrustworthy.

For more on this, here is a link to T. DeWayne Moore’s latest article on Ralph Lembo, published in July 2019.

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1924 Paramount Records Advertisement For Ma Rainey’s Mystery Record

Researchers at Mt. Zion Memorial Fund recently came across this 1924 advertisement for Ma Rainey recordings on Paramount Records, which originally appeared in the New York Age newspaper.

Paramount Records invited fans to send in their suggestion for the name of Ma Rainey’s “Mystery Record, (Paramount 12200) and offered 100 prizes for respondents.

A 1924 advertisement for Ma Rainey recordings in the New York Age. (Courtesy of Mt. Zion Memorial Fund)
A 1924 advertisement for Ma Rainey recordings in the New York Age. (Courtesy of Mt. Zion Memorial Fund)

Our thanks to the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund for putting us onto this advertisement.

Here is a YouTube recording of Ma Rainey’s Mystery Record:


Here is our Recommended Recording for Ma Rainey on CD:

CD cover, Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, a 5 CD box set released onJSP Records.
CD cover, Ma Rainey, Mother of the Blues, a 5 CD box set released on JSP Records.

 

Recommended Recording: Black Tornado, by Magic Slim

Recommended Recordings

As one of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we recommend Black Tornado, by Magic Slim, released in 1998 on Blind Pig Records.

CD cover, Magic Slim, Black Tornado, released in 1998 on Blind Pig Records
CD cover, Magic Slim, Black Tornado, released in 1998 on Blind Pig Records

Available through Amazon.com and these Amazon affiliates:

Here are some videos of Magic Slim:

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Recommended Recording: Reconsider Baby – The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962, by Lowell Fulson

Recommended Recordings

As part of Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings, we are recommending Reconsider Baby – The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962 by Lowell Fulson.

CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Reconsider Baby - The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962, released on Jasmine Records
CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Reconsider Baby – The Complete Checker Singles 1954-1962, released on Jasmine Records

Available through Amazon.com and these Amazon affiliates:

 

Our Recommendations and Recommended Recordings also include these Lowell Fulson releases:

CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Blues Shadows (with the Powder Blues Band), recorded in Vancouver, B.C. in 1982
CD cover, Lowell Fulson, Blue Shadows (with the Powder Blues Band), recorded in Vancouver, B.C. in 1982

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The Daily Memphian Has Published A Music Tour Which Includes A Link To Our Page On Hooks Brothers Photography

The Daily Memphian has published an article entitled A Memphis Music Road Map: The Early Years which includes a link to our page on Hooks Brothers Photography Studio, 164 Beale Street, in downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Our thanks to The Daily Memphian for its recognition of our page on Hooks Brothers Photography Studio and the fact that one of the two known photographs of Robert Johnson was taken there.

For our readers planning a trip to Memphis, here is a re-posting of our Page about Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street in downtown Memphis which was mentioned by The Daily Memphian:

web header image showing part of the Hooks Brothers Photography sign, beale Street, memphis

This Tennessee Historical Commission marker is located outside the King’s Palace Cafe at 162 Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was located at 164 Beale Street, which is the second floor of the King’s Palace Cafe building, in the space currently occupied by the Absinthe Pool Room.

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (front) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The front of this marker reads:

HOOKS BROTHERS PHOTOGRAPHY ESTABLISHED IN 1907 – Established by Henry Hooks, Sr. and his brother Robert B. Hooks, Hooks Brothers Photography Studio was the second oldest continuously operating black business in Memphis. Located during its early years at 164 Beale Street, it next moved to Linden Avenue and finally to McLemore Avenue where it ceased operation after a destructive fire in 1979.”

Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis
Tennessee Historical Commission marker (rear) for Hooks Brothers Photography, outside 164 Beale Street, Memphis

The rear of this marker reads:

“Covering much of the 20th century, the company chronicled and documented the history and lives of black Memphis and Memphians. Among the subjects and luminaries captured on film by the Hooks Brothers were Booker T. Washington, W.C. Handy, Robert R. Church, the beginning days of the Memphis NAACP, the Lincoln League, early high school and college graduating classes from Howe Institute, LeMoyne College and many other activities of black society and ordinary people.”

Although it is not mentioned on this Tennessee Historical Commission marker, Hooks Brothers Photography was also where the only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.
Kings Palace Cafe, 162-164 Beale Street, Memphis, TN. The second floor was once occupied by Hooks Brothers Photography. The only known studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken by Hooks Brothers Photography.

Hooks Brothers Photography and Robert Johnson

CD cover, Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.
CD cover, Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings. This is the edition we are currently recommending.

The Hooks Brothers Photography studio at 164 Beale Street is also of interest to blues fans because of its connection to Robert Johnson.

There are only two known confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson.

One of the two confirmed photographs of Robert Johnson, the one used on the Robert Johnson Complete Recordings album cover (left), is a studio portrait taken circa 1934-1938 at the Hooks Brothers Photography Studio at 164 Beale Street.

The other is a snapshot of Robert Johnson that was used in making the cover of the Elijah Wald book Escaping The Delta, shown at left below.

 

 

Book cover, Escaping The Delta - Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.
Book cover, Escaping The Delta – Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues, by Elijah Wald.

Here are links to some articles about photographs of Robert Johnson:

 

The office and studio space used by the former Hooks Brothers Photography is now the Absinthe Pool Room, part of the King’s Palace Cafe located downstairs at 162 Beale Street.

Many of the original features of this space are still intact and it is possible to get some idea of what the Hooks Brothers’ offices and studio may have looked like in the mid-1930’s when the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken here circa 1934-1938.

Here are some photos of how the space now appears.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once the Hooks Brothers reception area.

The photo above shows what the entrance area of the Absinthe Pool Room looks like today.

This is the second floor room you first enter after coming up the staircase from Beale Street. The Absinthe Pool Room uses this space as a bar and sitting area.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography would have used it as a reception area and waiting room.

The main architectural features of interest today are the original wooden wainscoting, transoms above the doors and the interior windows that open in all the interior walls. The interior sliding windows are an interesting remnant of the days before air conditioning. Interior windows that opened allowed air to circulate more freely through the interior spaces, allowing more effective ventilation and circulation of interior air.

We’re speculating that Hooks Brothers Photography used the spaces shown in the photos below as offices.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers office.

The photos below show the current appearance of what we believe to have been a room used by Hooks Brothers as a photography studio. These rooms overlook Beale Street and have large south facing windows overlooking Beale Street which allow natural light to enter. These are the only rooms in the space with natural light, which leads us to believe Hooks Brothers Photography would have used them as studios. If so, this is where the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson was taken.

These photos show the view looking toward the north, away from the Beale Street frontage of the building.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.
This photo of Robert Johnson was taken at Hooks Brothers Photography, 164 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee.

The photos below show another view of the same room shown in the photos above.

This view looks south toward the Beale Street frontage of the building. The large windows face south onto Beale Street and allow natural light into the interior space at the front of the building.

None of the other upstairs rooms have windows allowing natural light to come in. For that reason we think Hooks Brothers Photography would have taken advantage of the natural light and used these rooms overlooking Beale Street as their photographic studios. If so, the confirmed studio portrait of Robert Johnson (shown at left) was taken in these rooms.

The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.
The former Hooks Brothers Photography Studio is now a pool hall. We think this was once a Hooks Brothers studio room.

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