Today Beale Street is Tennessee's top tourist destination. But it was a desolate place in the late 1970s. Except for A. Schwab's, a dry-goods store destined to out-survive the cockroach, nothing could keep its doors open for very long. But by 1983, the nationally recognized "Home of the Blues" was working hard to make a comeback. Music tourists could see artists like Sandy Carroll and Don McMinn performing nightly at a short-lived joint called Lafayette's Corner. Rum Boogie Café opened in 1985, offering music, booze, and bar food seven nights a week, and McMinn, a soulful blues shouter from Little Rock, stuck around to lead the new nightclub's house band.
"Don played for eight years," says Preston Lamm, a co-founder of the Rum Boogie Café, a cornerstone of the Beale Street revival that will celebrate its silver anniversary with a blues-themed bash on Saturday, June 5th. "James Govan and Don Chandler played with [McMinn]. They started the Boogie Blues Band, and they played for the next 17 years."
Lamm says Rum Boogie survived where others failed because it got the formula right the first time and stuck to it: "Live music 365 days a year," he says. "And even many of our menu items are exactly the same as on the original menu. Gator gumbo. Nacho Mamas."
For the anniversary party, Rum Boogie is selling drinks and signature dishes at 1985 prices. Performers include McMinn, Govan, Eric Hughes, Billy Gibson, Guy Venable, and John Lee Hooker Jr.
"I'm sure glad I took this fork in my life," says Lamm, who worked as an accountant before moving into the nightclub business.
Rum Boogie Café 25th Anniversary Party, Saturday, June 5th, starting at 4 p.m. Tickets are $50 and $75. For more information,
go to rumboogie25.com.