Rumboogie Cafe celebrates 25 years on Beale
by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 6/07/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) A star studded day and night of blues took place at the Rumboogie Cafe to honor their 25th year of existence and also to provide some much needed charity for Musicares, the Memphis Music Foundation and the Memphis Blues Society. I was fortunate to play with the Eric Hughes Band which took the stage at 6 pm and also to play with the Memphis Blues Society Band at 7:30. The event was completely sold out of $50 general admission as well as $75 VIP tickets and a blues loving crowd was in attendance.

Before the festivities began, I got a chance to congratulate the man that made this club happen from the outset 25 years ago, Preston Lamm. That's Preston's photo above. This club was the foundation stone that anchored the entire redevelopment of Beale Street, which up until then was a bombed out looking section of fallen bricks, empty storefronts, pawn shops, A. Schwab's sundry store which has been there for 4 generations, Handy Park(where I played for tips in the 1980's) and little else. It had been almost forgotten by the city and was, save for a few facades, falling down to the ground in shambles. Beale had experienced a glorious past as home of the blues and a haunt for the world's most famous blues players for decades before it's near demise.

Carson Lamm

Preston Lamm, and now also his son, Carson, have run this club and their company, River City Management on a daily basis for 25 years. The Street itself has grown to become the largest tourist attraction in Tennessee, grossing over 44 million dollars in 2005.

Papa Don McMinn

The name of Don McMinn, the "Pale Prince of Beale" appears on the brass note in front of the club was the first bandleader of the house band, dubbed Don and this band led the transformation of the street into an entertainment center and brought blues music back to downtown Memphis. Previous to this there was only one large blues club downtown called Blues Alley and it had closed, leaving a void that was soon to be filled.

James Govan and the Rumboogie Band
James Govan took over where Don McMinn left off and led the band and the club into the next phase of its success as an entertainment destination.

photo by Blake Ryan

Most unsung hero of the Rumboogie is my friend Robbie Rose who has engineered the sound at this club, worked many long hours for many years and made every musician who played there sound GREAT! Her positive winning attitude and enduring expertise explains much of the success of this venue's consistent good sounds.

Elmo Lee Thomas and Skip Pitts of Elmo & the Shades

Original Isaac Hayes cape adorns a wall of the Rumboogie

Trumpet player Rudy Williams has been a fixture on Beale for as long as I can remember. He still plays outside of the clubs for tips as he has for over two decades.

Guy Venable has played on Beale for many years

Victor Wainwright and author hanging out on Beale Street

The original STAX "stack of records" neon sign on the Rumboogie wall

Billy Gibson

I backed up singing harmonica player Billy Gibson, guitarist Johnny Holiday and my friend, songstress Laurie "Waddy" Mitchell when performing with the Memphis Blues Society Band. The band was comprised of Leo Goff on bass, Darren J. Fallas on guitar, Tony Adams on drums and yours truly on keys.

Darren J. Fallas

Eric Hughes

The Eric Hughes Band plays on Beale Street

At 6:30 I played with Eric Hughes Band and we played a selection of Eric's original songs, a few familiar blues standards and a couple of hippie songs in rememberance of our departed friend, Richard Hite of Canned Heat. Richard played in my band during the 20 years he lived in Memphis and we played a rousing version of "On the Road Again" in his honor. The crowd was gathering in force throughout the day and these folks were very responsive blues lovers. This is usually the case at the Rumboogie where locals and tourists alike have come to hear blues for 25 years.

John Lee Hooker, Jr. headlined the big show

Many other acts also performed concurrently at Handy Hall, which is located adjacent to the Rumboogie.

Chris Stephenson plays with the Patrick Dodd Band

Blake Ryan Band

Pam and Terry

Carriages parked across the street from the club on Memphis' 3rd Street, which is also known as Highway 61, the blues highway.


© Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms, 2010

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