Sun Studio, Memphis, Tennessee. Photo by Dan Ball. Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved.
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Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On At Jerry Lee Lewis’ New Beale Street Cafe & Honky Tonk

Jerry Lee Lewis has played to colossal crowds the world over, and even as he nears 80, you can bet he’ll be on the Beale Street Music Fest lineup every May. But friends say he prefers smaller venues. With a cozy dining room, secluded courtyard and exclusive second-floor bar, his new café and honky tonk at 310 Beale should fit just right.

Outside the club

Jerry Lee Lewis Café and Honky Tonk opened just in time for Memphis in May and promises nightly live music from crowd-pleasers like Johnny Holiday (who portrayed Carl Perkins in the 2005 film Walk the Line), omni-bluesman Jack Rowell, Jr. and pianist Sidney Kirk. Then there will be those who channel Jerry Lee – notably, Jason James and Landon Lane. We caught Lane the night of our visit, and the way he banged, clanged – and yes, hoisted a heel – on the keys was simultaneously derivative and danceable. An Elvis impersonator was anticipated later that evening. Staff members say Lewis himself has been asking when he can play “the club” – follow Facebook for details.

Landon Lane at the piano

Landon Lane at the piano

Between songs, we retired to our sidewalk table on Beale and listened as front-of-the-house man Marcus summoned wayfarers inside. “When the band finishes tonight, we’re going to karaoke…we’re going to keep it going all night long,” he’d say. (No exaggeration – the club will stay open until 3 a.m. Monday through Friday; until 5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Karaoke takes over around 11 p.m. each night.)

Album covers everywhere

Album covers everywhere

Marcus’ alternating refrain, “Everyone’s welcome, from the smallest to the tallest,” embodies the establishment’s family-friendliness. Kids’ meals under $6 end with ice cream, and my five-year-old wasn’t the only young’un on the dance floor. As I talked with Marcus, a man and his 12-year-old son filed out and thanked him. “We were just walking by and heard the music. I got a picture of him with the piano,” the father beamed. The café opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, prime time for family lunch or dinner.

Shortly after dark, I.D. checks signal an acceleration in Beale’s intensity. That’s around the time, Fridays and Saturdays, when live blues electrify the café’s courtyard and you can drift upstairs to Twelve Bar, a low-lit lounge with tables, a notched-up menu and classic cocktails. Jerry Lee has a private room on this floor, and Morgan Freeman recently celebrated his birthday up there. Call ahead (901-596-9378) and the staff will open the adjacent private parking lot for you. Downstairs or up, there’s no cover.

The menu and décor (particularly the New Orleans-esque courtyard) nod to Lewis’ Louisiana roots while tugging at his Memphis and Mississippi ties (his ranch sprawls about 30 minutes south of Beale in the town of Nesbit, Miss.). Expect appetizers like Mississippi Frickles (fried spicy dills); one-pot wonders like Shanty Bow Stew (“Grandma’s recipe” of braised mustards, black-eyed peas, red bliss potatoes and smoked pork belly); po-boys and burgers; barbecue and seafood platters. You can even order Fireball Cinnamon Whisky in a souvenir shot glass, if you must.

Memorabilia becomes decor.

Memorabilia becomes decor.

But the showstoppers here are the nightly performers and memorabilia – from jackets and boots to a motorcycle and car. Personally, I liked the photo of Jerry Lee with Sam Phillips in the café’s sports bar for bringing the experience full-circle. Phillips’ Sun Studio sits less than a mile away from the café – tour it to glimpse where Jerry Lee played as a session musician under Carl Perkins, jammed with the Million Dollar Quartet and forever changed music with his 1957 hit “Great Balls of Fire.”

The recording space inside Sun Studio, where Jerry Lee Lewis arrived as a session musician and left a legend. Photo by Dan Ball. Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved.

The recording space inside Sun Studio, where Jerry Lee Lewis arrived as a session musician and left as a legend. Photo by Dan Ball. Copyright © Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Have you been to Jerry Lee’s on Beale yet? Who’d you hear perform? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Hi! I’m Samantha Crespo, and I am Floridian by birth, Tennessean by heart. Growing up, I vacationed in East Tennessee, so I...Read on

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    judith 《MRS JERRY LEE LEWIS

    Wonderful article!!!!! For jll honky tonk and cafe. Thank you. Jerry Lee and Judith Lewis

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    Debbie Cartwright

    My husband and I were fortunate to be there for the opening and parade.Jason James played on that evening. The club is a must visit for all. I would love to go again but it is a long way from England.

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    Beverly Kimsey

    Does JLLewis perform in the Beale Street location? I will be in Memphis in October—how does one get tickets?

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    Kev and Barbara

    2013 Elvis Week vacation from Australia – called in on the first night and caught the amazing Jason James with Ray Gann on bass. Fantastic night that made us want more – Great service, food and booze!! Ray introduced us to Bubba Feathers and the week became more than just a holiday. Best bar on Beale – cheers!

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    Michael Prior

    What is the name of the guy or band that was in your fountain room that was playing the Blues? He was fantastic. Does he have a website where I can buy his music? Any info would be appreciated. I had a great time at your bar.

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    william a. may

    will jerry lee tour anytime soon!!!

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    Blade Papkiss

    Jerry Lee’s the man! And Robert Hall ain’t no slacker either! Best Wishes from the Mississippi Delta!

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    J

    March 23 2014-
    Was there tonight when Jason James took to stage, thought they were brilliant, and boy can they all play. The effect of setting light to the cymbals and the piano was fantastic , and if in Memphis you shouldn’ t miss the show

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    J

    March 23 2014-
    Was there tonight when Jason James took to stage, thought they were brilliant, and boy can they all play. The effect of setting light to the cymbals and the piano was fantastic , and if in Memphis you shouldn’ t miss the show

  1. Pingback: Keeping up with The Killer: My interview with Jerry Lee Lewis | Tennessee Triptales

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