The story of Beale Street  cannot be told without mentioning William Christopher Handy, whose Memphis  home sits at the corner of Beale Street and 4th Avenue. The building was originally located at 659 Jeanette Street, but was moved to Beale Street in 1985.
Now the W. C. Handy Home and Museum (352 Beale St., 901/527-3427, summer Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., winter Tues.–Sat. 11 a.m.–4 p.m., adults $3, children $2) is dedicated to telling the story of Handy’s life.
W. C. Handy was born in a log cabin in Florence, Alabama, in 1873. The son and grandson of African Methodist Episcopal ministers, Handy was exposed to music as a child in his father’s church. Handy was also drawn to the music of the black laborers of the area, and when he moved to Memphis  in the early 20th century he recognized the wealth of the blues music he heard in bars, on street corners, and in back alleys around Beale Street .
Handy was a trained musician, so he was able to set down on paper the music that had, up until then, been passed from one musician to another.
In 1909 Handy composed Memphis  mayor Ed Crump’s campaign song “Mr. Crump,” which he later published as the “Memphis Blues.” But he is most famous for his composition “St. Louis Blues,” published in 1914. Handy also created the “Yellow Dog Blues,” “Joe Turner Blues,” and “Beale Street Blues.”
It was Handy who famously wrote, in his “Beale Street Blues”: “If Beale Street could talk, married men would have to take their beds and walk, except one or two who never drink booze, and the blind man on the corner singing ‘Beale Street Blues.’ I’d rather be there than anyplace I know.”
The Handy museum houses photographs of Handy’s family, one of his band uniforms, and memorabilia of the recording company that he founded. You can also hear samples of Handy’s music.