I had heard from Larry Chambers over at Ecko Records that there was now a blues club on Broadway in West Memphis, Arkansas that had blues on Sunday nights. So I had gone out there to check it out, and they weren’t doing blues that particular night because the club had been rented by a motorcycle club, but the next Sunday was the day after Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, and despite a rather cold rain, the small club was packed to overflowing, and great music from the Soul Connection Band and some guest vocalists was already under way. Blues singer Ms. Dierdre came up to sing “Boogie Oogie Oogie”, and then the man of the hour, Big John Cummings, came up. Cummings is an excellent singer and songwriter, perhaps best known for the song “Too Many Mechanics” recorded by Donnie Ray, with which Cummings closed out his set. The club, CJ’s Sports Bar & Blues, has the authentic blues atmosphere that visitors to Memphis are looking for, and Sunday night is not to be missed.
CJ’s Sports Bar & Blues
3110 E Broadway
West Memphis, AR 72301
When I saw a flyer on my Facebook timeline for a performance by someone called “Lil Tyrone Davis” at a place called Ralph’s Bar & Grill in Whitehaven, I immediately planned to go, suspecting that Ralph’s might be the kind of neighborhood blues and soul spot that I like. The spot turned out to be in a strip mall on Millbranch just north of Holmes, and had just opened under new owners, although I recall it being a bar some years ago. It was quite large and roomy, with two main rooms, the second of which was centered around a good-sized stage and dance floor, and at first it was rather empty, with a DJ playing good blues and southern soul. Slowly, the place began to fill, first with women, then with men, and I noticed that many of them were singing every word of the songs the DJ was playing. These were true southern soul fans.
The high point of the evening was the band known as the Soul Connection Band, comprised of some excellent musicians who did a great job of backing up several male singers and a female blues artist named Ms. Diedre. After a brief intermission, they were back, this time backing Lil Tyrone Davis, who was from Chicago, and made a point of performing most of the late Tyrone Davis’ classic songs. Many of his friends and relatives were in the crowd, which by now had filled up most of the room. I met the club’s owner, who told me it was their intent to have live bands at least once a month.