Beale Street's Barbara Blue, 14 Years of Blues by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 3/22/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) Yesterday I cruised over to the beautiful midtown Memphis neighborhood where my dear friend, Barbara Blue, resides.

Barbara Blue's beautiful home

the author is greeted by Barbara's many furry friends

I first met Barbara when she arrived here from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I have been fortunate to have accompanied her many times on stage and also toured in her big blues band.

Barbara Blue
(photo by John Henry)

That incarnation of the band featured Howard Grimes and Leroy Hodges of the Hi Rhythm Section. We used to practice in the downstairs party room of the Rivermark, a famous high rise edifice located on Riverside Drive on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms and Barbara Blue perform at Silky's on Beale
(photo by John Henry)

At the time, Barbara Blue lived in the building, as did Isaac Hayes, who would often drop in to hang out and visit with us. Drummer Howard Grimes and Isaac went to high school together in Memphis and I got to listen to many hours of the great stories of their past as they reminisced while we watched the river flow down toward New Orleans.

Barbara Blue
(photo by permission of John Henry)

Barbara quickly jumped into the Memphis music scene, taking a job at Silky's on Beale Street where she carved out her own place in Memphis music history. During her 14 year tenure that club became the most successful club on Beale. Barbara Blue is a big part of that success as she played there 5 days a week, as she continues to do to this day. She likely has played more nights on Beale Street than any living songstress.

Barbara Blue
(photo by John Henry)

Painting by Barbara Blue

Barbara Blue
Pittsburgh Blues Festival 2009
(photo by John Henry)

She sings blues, originals off of her albums and even performs requests. Barbara began her career singing faithful versions of Janis Joplin songs and she still performs many of those tunes for adoring fans who come back to see her year after year from all over the world. She has a great sense of humor and has a bigger than life personality which exudes friendliness and good will. Her humor from the stage and impromptu remarks keep her fans coming back to see her year after year.

River relics, mastodon teeth found by Barbara's fiancee, John Henry

Barbara has an elegant website which features five excellent studio albums and another three live recordings, all of which are available for purchase online. You can listen to her many tunes there at the site and the variety and scope of these recordings is as impressive as the heartfelt quality of the vocals. Click on the link and check out some music:

Her material continually evolves and she adds new songs to her repertoire constantly. I played a couple of new tunes on her magnificent upright piano which I penned, as she and her fiancee, photographer and explorer, John Hyde, listened and recorded them. Barbara will likely include them on her upcoming CD project which will be completed during this spring.

(photo by John Henry)

She has financed and produced all of her recordings independently and continues to be a force to be reckoned with in the musical marketplace. For a girl who drove down from Pittsburgh fourteen years ago, determined to achieve her aspiration, to play the blues on Beale Street, that is one hell of a noble accomplishment.

(photo by John Henry)

Barbara Blue has also served on the Blues Foundation's Board of Directors. Speaking of the Blues Foundation, I received an invitation to the 2010 Blues Music awards today from Joe Whitmer and I am planning on being there for as much of the festivities as I can attend. I will be playing a gig at the rooftop of the Madison Hotel that night with the Reba Russell Band so you are all invited to drop by before the big show at the Cook Convention Center which is slated to go on for a full 7 that's a big blues show.

If you have not done so already, please take a moment to join the Blues Foundation and support the music that we all love. Here's a link to their site and it is easy to join online:

Join today, click here!

Barbara Blue sings to a packed St. Patrick's Day crowd at Silky O' Sullivan's, 2010
(photo by John Henry)

While you are in town for the big show, drop on by Silky O' Sullivan's at Third and Beale to catch the Barbara Blue show. Silky's has a very large, well-stocked bar and a huge patio adjacent to the club. If for no other reason, it is always fun to go in there and see patrons drinking the famous Silky's Diver, a drink made in a gallon paint bucket. Here's her schedule:

BARBRA BLUE LIVE at Silky O'Sullivan's

Another interesting feature of the bar and patio is, as they proclaim on their site, "we are the only bar on Beale Street if not in the nation that has live Goats year round that live here!" Yes, it is true and no, it is not a reference to the owner or to me. Maynard the goat was a friend of mine. Many nights I have seen him goozle a bottle of beer. He lived a very long and indubitably happy life.

(left: Maynard and Silky)

Check out my website at


©2010, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

Internet Marketingdata recovery