Live Music in Memphis - The Commercial Appeal

Today's Live Music Scene in Memphis

Memphis Music

Justin Timberlake may have gotten his start as a young boy singing country music on Ed McMahon’s "Star Search," and later with Disney, but in the past decade he’s become one of the most versatile artists in popular culture. His first two records were major hits, and his acting career has taken off with hilarious appearances on Saturday Night live and roles in hit blockbuster films such as The Social Network and Trouble With The Curve. One could argue that Justin is following in the footsteps of Elvis himself. That’s debatable, but it is exciting to think about what J.T. will accomplish in his career.

Justin isn’t the only Memphis artist that’s been linked to Hollywood. Craig Brewer’s hip-hop hit movie “Hustle and Flow” took Memphis rap group, Three 6 Mafia into the mainstream with their Oscar-winning song “It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp.” While the world didn’t take notice until 2006, these pioneers have been cutting records since 1995, helping to develop a style of rap distinct to Memphis called Crunk.  

Oddly enough, Craig Brewer plays an important role in the local music scene. While a filmmaker with mainstream critical success, Brewer has become the unofficial pied piper of Memphis artists. In addition to using Three 6 in “Hustle and Flow,” Brewer also cast local singer-songwriter Amy LaVere in his film “Black Snake Moan.” But acting isn’t LaVere’s primary gig. She’s a bit of a throwback to a time when Memphis was dominated by Sun Studio and a growing roster of rockabilly artists played throughout the city. With stand-up bass in hand, LaVere has made live appearances on both MTV and "Late Night with Conan O’Brien," and her records have received critical recognition.

If you’re looking to round out your Memphis music collection, check out some of these lesser-known Memphis musicians:

Amy LaVere

Amy strummed her signature upright bass while honing her unique blend of folksy rock in some of the best clubs and bars in Memphis. Her latest album, Runaway’s Diary, was recorded right here in the Bluff City at Music+Arts Studio and features songs like “Rabbit,” “Snowflake,” and “I’ll Be Home Soon.” Amy tours nationwide, but when she’s in Memphis, you can find her at the Levitt Shell and Mollie Fontaine Lounge.

Levitt Shell at night
Enjoy 50 free concerts a year at the historic Levitt Shell at Overton Park

Hope Clayburn & The Soul Scrimmage 

Hope punctuates her soulful funk music by riffing on her saxophone. She has even been known to play two at one time. The music is high-energy, powerful and unlike anything you’ve ever heard before. Hope Clayburn & The Soul Scrimmage can be heard laying down their singular sounds at the Cove on Broad Avenue.

Star & Micey 

Named one of Paste Magazine’s “12 Tennessee Bands You Must Listen To Now,” Star & Micey’s music is a mix country, rock and bluegrass. They’ve recorded and released several songs through Memphis’ Ardent label and have built a huge following of diehard fans. When Star & Micey aren’t touring, you can hear them at the Levitt Shell, Minglewood Hall and the Hi-Tone Cafe

Valerie June

Like many singers before her, Valerie began developing as a performer in the church. Her music fuses many different genres - soul, folk, country and blues. Valerie describes it as “Organic Roots Moonshine Music,” and once you hear her unique, mellow voice, you’ll be humming along. Popular hits include, “Twined and Twisted,” “You Can’t Be Told,” and “Workin’ Woman Blues.” Valerie has performed on the David Letterman ShowNPR: Tiny Desk Concerts, and she was featured on the MTV show $5 Cover. Though this Memphis girl is currently calling New York home, you can still feel the Memphis influence in her lyrics and melodies.

Live music in Memphis
Live music is everywhere in Memphis

Will Tucker

Will Tucker doesn’t look like your typical blues musician, but this local musician has been playing regularly at B.B. King’s Blues Club for years. Will is one of the top performers in Memphis, and has been honored as one of the city’s top performers by the Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Flyer. Catch Will Tucker and his band at B.B. King’s.

Julien Baker

Born and raised in Memphis, Julien has been written rave reviews in publications like the New Yorker, Billboard and Rolling Stone for her "emotive cathartic style of performance and songwriting, as well as a fresh take on folk music." Find Julien on her U.S. tour promoting her sophmore album Turn Out the Lights. 

Chris Milam

After spending two years playing in clubs in Nashville and New York City, Chris returned to his hometown of Memphis to make his home base. Just listen to a few seconds of his classic rock sound, and you’ll see why this traveling musician was named one of the Memphis Flyer’s Top 20 Under 30 in 2013. 

Music at the Hi Tone in Memphis
Fresh new music almost every night of the week at the Hi Tone.

Southern Avenue

You can drive down Southern Avenue from the east all the way to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music in an neighborhood known as Soulsville, USA. But it's also the name of band of young folks that were influenced by those Stax Record's legends. When guitarist, Ori, came from Israel to compete in the International Blues Competition and met sister's Tyranie and T.K., he decided to stay. Now signed to the Stax Record label, the band tours both the U.S. and Europe but you can always catch one of their shows when they're home in Memphis. 


They started off a little bit country, a little bit rock 'n' roll back in 1998, but realized that if they added some horns to Ben Nichol's gritty vocals, they would define their Memphis sound.  "We realized we were a Memphis band and came by it honest. We have always brought Memphis with us wherever we went and this just proved it." With ten records under their belt, Lucero has a cult following and tours all over the country. Each year the band comes home and throws the Lucero Family Block Party to pay tribute to where it all began.

Marcella and Her Lovers

A New Orleans transplant with deep roots in Creole culture, Memphis is now where Marcella calls home. Her mix of blues, soul, Cajun and funk brings a sound that is unique but still down home and familiar. You won't be able to take your eyes off of her, whether she's  playing the accordion or crooning with that sweet soulful voice on the piano. You can catch Marcella and Her Lovers all over town. From intimate venues such as DKDC to the stages of Beale Street Music Festival.