Book Review: Read My Lips

Historical overview of Memphis' legendary music row

Read My Lips

Beale Street Dynasty

by Preston Lauterbach
W.W. Norton & Company, 368 pp., $26.95

Music writer Preston Lauterbach breezes through nearly a century of the booze-saturated history of Memphis' infamous stretch of concrete in Beale Street Dynasty: Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis. Rebuilding after the Civil War, politicians and musicians fed on prostitution, gambling, and violence. The first black earl of Beale Street, Robert Church fueled both lavish brothels and the talon-sharp writing of journalist and NAACP activist Ida B. Wells, who in 1892 fled Tennessee for the north when the city no longer desired her conscience. Lauterbach, author of The Chitlin' Circuit, lays the groundwork for both Prohibition and the Beale Street Renaissance of the Forties that nurtured future blues titans like B.B. King, then sketches in how Church's son, Junior, furthered his father's work in politics and music by proposing a local chapter of the NAACP and becoming close friends with and patronizing blues forefather W.C. Handy. Ultimately, it cost him everything. Intertwining newspaper reports with a keen narrative focus, the author navigates a turbulent part of Southern (and American) history with ease.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Memphis
Day Trips: Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis
Day Trips: Stax Museum of American Soul Music, Memphis
Memphis' Soulsville lives on

Gerald E. McLeod, Feb. 19, 2021

The Correspondence
The Correspondence
Austin writer Jim Lewis on how things came together in his new novel, and on his current assignment in the Congo

Roger Gathman, Aug. 1, 2003

More Music Reviews
<i>Me & Mr. Cigar</i>
Me & Mr. Cigar
Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes debuts a deeply weird and wonderful young adult novel.

Alyssa Quiles, Feb. 21, 2020

Revenge of the She-Punks
Revenge of the She-Punks

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 6, 2019

More by Nina Hernandez
Indoor Skydiving Lets You Train Your Dragon in Virtual Reality
Indoor Skydiving Lets You Train Your Dragon in Virtual Reality
Taking to the skies with iFly's latest immersive VR

March 27, 2019

New Study Changes City Council's View of Flood Risk
New Study Changes City Council's View of Flood Risk
Puzzling over a variance on Avenue D, and spending the first of the 2018 bond funds

March 15, 2019


Beale Street, Memphis, B.B. King, W.C. Handy

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle