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Beale Street 1901-2001 Reenacted

Updated on May 22, 2018
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Robert Odell, Jr. is the senior video editor of the film, Take Me Back to Beale, a chronicle of 100 years of Beale Street history.

100 Years of Beale Street Blues, Jazz and Culture

Letter Carriers Band N.A.L.C. Branch No. 27.  Armistice Parade. November 24, 1924.  Memphis, TN on historic Beale Street
Letter Carriers Band N.A.L.C. Branch No. 27. Armistice Parade. November 24, 1924. Memphis, TN on historic Beale Street | Source

The Home of the Blues

Memphis, Tennessee, "The Home of the Blues," is also the home of historic Beale Street.

The on hundred year history (1901-2001) of Beale Street is creatively reenacted in a docudrama trilogy called Take Me Back to Beale.

Take Me Back To Beale has been produced in three parts called "books".

  • BOOK I (Beale Street 1901-1936)
  • BOOK II (Beale Street 1936-1952)
  • BOOK III (Beale Street 1952-2001)


Three Books That Span 100 Years of Beale Street History

What Is a Docudrama?

A docudrama is a documentary drama which features dramatized re-enactments of actual events.

Take Me Back to Beale is a docudrama which reenacts the one hundred year history (1901-2001) of Beale Street. A docudrama is a documentary drama which features dramatized re-enactments of actual events.

Different Eras of Beale Street Are Portrayed

Take Me Back to Beale is written and directed by Carolyn Yancy-Gunn. It features over seventy students and graduates of Carolyn's Finishing Academy, which is a premier, performing arts and charm and etiquette school located in Memphis, Tennessee.

The majority of the docudrama was filmed on location in nostalgic areas in Memphis that were incredibly similar to the different eras of Beale Street that are portrayed in the film.

What's It All About?

The actual history of the legendary street called Beale is artistically woven within the dramatic fabric of a fictionalized plot. CFA graduate Arthur Smith portrays the icon W.C. Handy and Tony Patterson, also a CFA graduate, plays the fictional character Hank. In this docudrama, which is also a trilogy, the spirit of W.C. Handy enters his statue in Handy Park on Beale Street to take, Hank, a lazy construction worker, working on the renovation of Beale Street in 1981, on a tour of Beale Street.

The actual history of Beale Street is woven within the fabric of a fictionalized plot. CFA graduate Arthur Smith (suited) portrays the icon W.C. Handy and Tony Patterson (white T-shirt), also a CFA graduate, plays the fictional character Hank.
The actual history of Beale Street is woven within the fabric of a fictionalized plot. CFA graduate Arthur Smith (suited) portrays the icon W.C. Handy and Tony Patterson (white T-shirt), also a CFA graduate, plays the fictional character Hank. | Source

The tour of the illustrious street spans from 1901 to 2001. As W.C. Handy and Hank travel in and out of various Beale Street time eras, Handy reveals to Hank everything that Beale Street had to offer. The duo are eyewitness to the booze, the saloons, the bawdy houses, the blues, the jazz, and the struggle of every entertainer that ever came through Beale.

The fictional aspect of the film is further emphasized by the subtitles of each part (book) of the trilogy. The subtitles describe what happens before, during, and after Hank visits a Beale Street hoodoo lady in the 1940s.

The subtitles of the trilogy Take Me Back to Beale describe what happens before, during, and after the character, Hank, visits a Beale Street hoodoo lady in the 1940s.
The subtitles of the trilogy Take Me Back to Beale describe what happens before, during, and after the character, Hank, visits a Beale Street hoodoo lady in the 1940s. | Source

Trilogy Subtitles

Each "book" of the Take Me Back to Beale trilogy has a subtitle.

  • BOOK I (Before The Red Ball)
  • BOOK II (During The Red Ball)
  • BOOK III (After The Red Ball)

Reenactments of Beale Street Events

In the docudrama, Beale Street culture and celebrities are professionally portrayed by relatively undiscovered talent. The Carolyn's Finishing Academy students and graduates who make up the cast provide an entertaining and colorful twist to the study of history. Many graduates play more than one part in the film. The passion that many of the students exhibited by first studying the characters they play, and then providing their own costumes and makeup, cause them to be virtually indistinguishable from one role to the next. The excellent filming locations along with the enthusiastic student participation serve as invaluable assets for the low budget production.


Take Me Back to Beale has:

A professionally trained cast

A creative and colorful story line

Great historical content

Beale Street 1901-1936

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I), Bessie Smith accosts a male who jilted  her.Beale Street Dancers in the early 1900's are tastefully portrayed in Book I of Take Me Back to BealeTake Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts a 1920's Beale Street saloon.  Memphis Minnie can be seen performing in the background.Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts Memphis Minnie performing on Beale Street in the 1920s.In Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) Ma'Rainey creates a fuss on a 1936 Beale Street Saturday.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I), Bessie Smith accosts a male who jilted  her.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I), Bessie Smith accosts a male who jilted her. | Source
Beale Street Dancers in the early 1900's are tastefully portrayed in Book I of Take Me Back to Beale
Beale Street Dancers in the early 1900's are tastefully portrayed in Book I of Take Me Back to Beale | Source
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts a 1920's Beale Street saloon.  Memphis Minnie can be seen performing in the background.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts a 1920's Beale Street saloon. Memphis Minnie can be seen performing in the background. | Source
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts Memphis Minnie performing on Beale Street in the 1920s.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) depicts Memphis Minnie performing on Beale Street in the 1920s. | Source
In Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) Ma'Rainey creates a fuss on a 1936 Beale Street Saturday.
In Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) Ma'Rainey creates a fuss on a 1936 Beale Street Saturday. | Source

Book I Celebrity Depictions

  • W.C. Handy
  • Memphis Minnie
  • Bessie Smith
  • Ma' Rainey

Shoppers on Beale Street in 1936

Take Me Back to Beale  (Book I) shows shoppers on Beale Street in a 1936 setting.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) shows shoppers on Beale Street in a 1936 setting. | Source

Book I Historical Sites and Events

  • The Hole In The Wall Night Club
  • Hammitt Ashford Saloon
  • Pee Wee's Saloon
  • The Monarch Club
  • The Cotton Carnival Parade
  • 1936 Cotton Makers Jubilee Festival
  • Crowning of The First Cotton Makers Jubilee King and Queen
  • Beale Street Markets
  • Doctors & Lawyers Offices of Beale Street

Gamblers on Beale Street in 1909

Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) reveals that back room gambling was a common occurrence in Beale Street Saloons during the early 1900s.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book I) reveals that back room gambling was a common occurrence in Beale Street Saloons during the early 1900s. | Source

Book II Celebrity Depictions

  • Duke Ellington
  • Bobbie Blue Bland
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • B.B. King
  • Elvis Presley
  • Ukulele Ike
  • Piano Red
  • Nat D. Williams
  • Rufus Thomas
  • The Brown Skin Models


Beale Street in the 1940s

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Beale Street was vibrant and filled with music as seen in this 1940s depiction from Book II of Take Me Back to Beale.A Beale Street hoodooist as seen in Book II of Take Me Back to Beale.
Beale Street was vibrant and filled with music as seen in this 1940s depiction from Book II of Take Me Back to Beale.
Beale Street was vibrant and filled with music as seen in this 1940s depiction from Book II of Take Me Back to Beale. | Source
A Beale Street hoodooist as seen in Book II of Take Me Back to Beale.
A Beale Street hoodooist as seen in Book II of Take Me Back to Beale. | Source

Book II Historical Sites and Events

  • Beale Street Hoo Doist
  • The Hippodrome
  • Sun Beam Mitchell's Club
  • Beale Street Pawn Shops
  • Pace and Handy Music
  • The Grey Mule Club
  • Lansky Brothers
  • The Harlem House
  • The Palace Theater

Book III Celebrity Depictions

  • Muddy Waters
  • Isaac Hayes
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

Muddy Waters on Beale Street in the 1950s (Reenactment)

Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) shows the legendary Muddy Waters on Beale Street.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) shows the legendary Muddy Waters on Beale Street. | Source

Book III Historical Sites and Events

  • First Baptist Beale
  • The New Daisy Theater
  • The Malco Theater
  • Foote Homes
  • Robert Henry's Pool Hall

Isaac Hayes at First Baptist Beale (Reenactment)

Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) portrays Isaac Hayes singing gospel music.
Take Me Back to Beale (Book III) portrays Isaac Hayes singing gospel music. | Source

A Good Choice

The three parts of the movie average around 90 minutes each. This makes a total of about 270 minutes for the whole series. Part one of the trilogy has achieved accolades for standing-room-only attendance at festivals and private showings. I believe that the 270 minute project could have been edited down to one movie of around 120 minutes. However; if that had been the case, the many classical settings and the impressively revealing dialogue in the docudrama would be sorely missed. I feel that the option to make a trilogy out of the production rather than cutting it down was a good choice that the director made.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This 1939 photo of Rex Billiard Hall for Colored portrays the culture of early 1900's Beale Street, which is reenacted in the docudrama Take Me Back to Beale.  This 1974 photo of Beale Street was taken six years before the renovation of Beale Street began in 1980.The Monarch Club at 340 Beale was known for gambling and violence.  In the early 1900's it was called "The Castle of Missing Men" because many times gamblers who went in came up missing.
This 1939 photo of Rex Billiard Hall for Colored portrays the culture of early 1900's Beale Street, which is reenacted in the docudrama Take Me Back to Beale.
This 1939 photo of Rex Billiard Hall for Colored portrays the culture of early 1900's Beale Street, which is reenacted in the docudrama Take Me Back to Beale. | Source
This 1974 photo of Beale Street was taken six years before the renovation of Beale Street began in 1980.
This 1974 photo of Beale Street was taken six years before the renovation of Beale Street began in 1980. | Source
The Monarch Club at 340 Beale was known for gambling and violence.  In the early 1900's it was called "The Castle of Missing Men" because many times gamblers who went in came up missing.
The Monarch Club at 340 Beale was known for gambling and violence. In the early 1900's it was called "The Castle of Missing Men" because many times gamblers who went in came up missing. | Source

Did You Know?

Did you know that by the turn of the 20th century, Beale Street had become something of a self-contained microcosm, with churches, pharmacies, groceries, public housing, and entertainment venues?

See results

Beale Street Is Located in Memphis, TN

A markerBeale Street -
Beale Street, Memphis, TN 38103, USA
get directions

Memphis gave birth to the blues when W.C. Handy pinned his first blues song in Pee Wee's Saloon on the colorful and historic Beale St. in 1909.

Film Festival Honors

  • Indie-Memphis Film Festival Induction
  • Showing at the Muvico Theaters in Peabody Place; Memphis, Tennessee
  • Media Co-op Film Festival in Memphis, Tennessee
  • Showing at the Congo Theater; Memphis, Tennessee

Honorable Mention

Take Me Back to Beale received honorable mention for "standing-room-only" audience attendance in the Indie-Memphis Festival.

Audience Attendance

  • Indie-Memphis Festival honorable mention for "standing-room-only" audience attendance
  • Media Co-op Film Festival in Memphis, Tennessee "standing room-only"
  • Showing at the Congo Theater; Memphis, Tennessee "standing-room-only"

Well Worth the Viewing Time

Even though Take Me Back to Beale is an independent film with a limited budget and beginning actors, the creative and colorful story line, the historical content, and the professionalism of the cast make the film well worth the time to view it.

Take Me Back To Beale, Dir. Carolyn Yancy-Gunn. Edited by Robert Odell, Jr. Perfs. Arthur Smith, Tony Patterson, CFA Graduates. DVD. CFA Productions, Inc. Archives

© 2015 Robert Odell Jr

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    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 5 months ago from Australia

      All modern music began in these places. God bless black music.

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