Books » Book Features

Before Memphis Got the Blues


Based in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, Arcadia is a specialty publishing company that cranks out a seemingly unlimited series of books that focus on regional history. Its “Images of America” collection has previously spotlighted historic Memphis, The Peabody, Overton Park, vintage postcards, and even the community of Collierville.

Now they have taken on another important aspect of our culture — music. But not, as you might expect, rock and roll or the blues. Instead, as the book title reveals, this 126-page volume concentrates on Memphis Music Before the Blues.

Written by Rhodes College music professor Tim Sharp, the book — illustrated with vintage photos, sheet music, and artwork from private collections — introduces readers to the organizations, symphonies, and clubs that dominated Memphis society in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It also brings up some intriguing topics that may be unfamiliar to most readers: how Memphis became one of the largest piano distributors in the South, why John Phillip Sousa’s first orchestral arrangement was performed here, and why the song “Dixie” became the South’s “national anthem” because of a Memphis composer.

Memphis Music Before the Blues is available at local bookstores for $19.95. More information about Arcadia’s “Images of America” series.

—Michael Finger

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