For those that love “The Blues,” you know that Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee is the place to be if you are in the “Blues Business.” At the American Folk Festival this year, we are proud to present Preston Shannon, the King of Beale Street, who brings the birthplace of The Blues with him, every time he enters the stage.
Born to sharecropper parents in the country town of Olive Branch, Mississippi, Shannon is the youngest of 11 children. Brought up in the arms of Pentecostal teachings, his parents would tell him to stop listening to “That Devil Music” on the radio (they had no TV), when his parents weren’t home. Instead, he would sneak the transistor radio underneath his pillow at night so he could fall asleep listening to The Blues.
“It’s Not Music, It’s About the Feeling”
When asked about his entree into The Blues, Preston explained, “When I was young, there were three kinds of music: Blues, Gospel and Country. I can play country maybe but I need to feel it, you know? A feeling can’t be taught.”
Preston feels it is the artist’s job to present the music to the people. “If I can make you feel what I feel, even a little bit, I am satisfied. I want you to forget your problems even for a short time and if I do, I have fulfilled my purpose.”
Brass Note on Beale Street
The Brass Notes Walk of Fame was instituted after the Urban Renewal “efforts” decimated Beale Street. Similar to Hollywood, famous Blues, artists, composers, promoters, etc. have brass notes embedded in the concrete sidewalk. Preston Shannon has his own Note, #73, joining other greats like B.B. King, Elvis and The Staples SIngers.
Shannon and his band play almost every night and recently toured 21 countries in 5 months where he was fondly known as the King of Beale Street and in 2011, Shannon played at the Blues Festival in Rockland and can’t wait to come back for lobster and the great people of Maine.
Plan on joining us and “feeling” Shannon’s Blues from the Stage at the end of August!