"Beale Street Blues"
is a 1916 song by American composer and lyricist W.C. Handy
. The title refers to Beale Street
in Memphis, Tennessee
, the main entertainment district for the city's African American
population in the early part of the twentieth century, and a place closely associated with the development of the blues
. The song was published by the Pace and Handy music company in 1917, but was first popularized for a mass audience when sung on Broadway
by Gilda Gray
in the 1919 musical revue Schubert's Gaieties
Like many of Handy's songs, Beale Street Blues is a hybrid of the blues style with the popular ballad style of the day, the opening lyrics following a line pattern typical of Tin Pan Alley
songs and the later stanzas giving way to the traditional three-line pattern characteristic of the blues.
In the Warner Bros.
1958 movie starring Nat King Cole
as Handy, Ella Fitzgerald
, belts out a fine rendition of this song.
"Beale Street Blues" has been recorded by dozens of noted artists, from early recordings by Fats Waller
, Herb Wiedoeft
, Alberta Hunter
, Charlie Poole
and Jack Teagarden
, to more modern versions by Nat King Cole
, Lena Horne
, and Tommy Dorsey
. The song itself is now in the public domain
in the United States
, due to expiration of the copyright
, though most of the recordings of it are still covered by their own copyrights.