New year brings new beginnings for Beale Street - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

New year brings new beginnings for Beale Street

(WMC-TV) – A new year means new beginnings for the world-famous Beale Street.  Now that the City of Memphis has taken over the iconic street, Mayor AC Wharton announced a plan to bring more blues back as well as restore some of the history that's been lost over the years.

"How do we work together to come up with a permanent management and development structure?" Mayor Wharton asked "The key work is development. We're not satisfied to just keep Beale Street as it is."

Wharton hopes to build on what's already happening downtown and see more investments and restore some of the heritage.

"Beale Street was not merely an entertainment zone," the mayor said.  "There were black law offices there, black dentists, black doctors there. We want to go back to the roots, more real blues music. There are people from around the world looking for blues music and they have difficulty finding it."

The Mayor said part of the plan would include adding more blues influence to Beale and surrounding streets, encouraging more African-Americans in the ownership of businesses and clubs and appeal to a more diverse crowd.

Wharton would also like to take some of the existing things on Beale Street and turn them into an experience that takes you back in time and to showcase Beale history and blues.

Those ideas are welcomed by musician Memphis Jones.

"Blues is the heartbeat of all American music, every single piece of American music whether it's gospel, country no matter how far you go, jazz, blue grass, it all has roots right here on Beale Street," Jones said.

Jones plays regularly at BB King's and says people from around the world travel to Memphis, looking for one thing. 

"We try to bring the stories behind the legends, the songs to life," Jones added.

Stories that Phil Laws, who is visiting Memphis from Texas, now gets to share with his family.

"It's the type of food, the type of warmth, the music you can only get in Memphis," Laws said.

A unique experience that in 2014 will serve as a chance to spotlight history and heritage.

"So that when you come to Beale street you really get a good dosage of what blues is really all about," Mayor Wharton said.

The changes are all part of a strategic long-term plan laid out by an advisory board back in 2011.  The mayor said we should expect some kind of announcement in the next month with more official details.

Meanwhile, business owners on Beale said they hope to keep what they say is a diverse taste of music and Memphis right here on the iconic street.

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