The Hottest Musicians in Memphis Right Now

By: Samantha Crespo

January 21, 2014

You know Elvis and the Stax snap. But what will you listen to when you get to Memphis, and where will that quest take you? Check out our round up of the most exciting musicians in Memphis you need to listen to right now!


Fans of rockabilly


Individually, Amy LaVere and John Paul Keith have oft-channelled Memphis’ rockabilly tradition – not limited to LaVere’s portrayal of “First Lady of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line, or to Keith’s new album, Memphis Circa 3AM, produced by late legend Roland Janes, the Sun Studio session guitarist behind Jerry Lee Lewis. When LaVere and Keith cosy up as Motel Mirrors, the rock/country swing bounces on to the slap of LaVere’s upright bass and the duo’s made-for-each-other vocals – hers, angelically husky; his, grounded and true. One measure into these duets (a mix of originals and covers, now available as a self-titled album), and you’ll be smiling and dancing – even if only in your barstool.


Where to listen: Follow Motel Mirrors’ official schedule here, but watch for spontaneous performances at Bar DKDC and Mollie Fontaine Lounge.


Motel Mirrors | Who to Listen to RIght Now

Memphis musicians John Paul Keith and Amy LaVere duet as Motel Mirrors © Signal Flow PR

Fans of soul


Hope Clayburn named her band “Soul Scrimmage” for the weekly jams, or scrimmages, they played at a bygone Memphis club. But Clayburn and crew don’t jam in the unpolished sense of the word – rather, in its wandering sense – as her voice, a stockpile of instruments and, ultimately, the audience, interplay. While Clayburn’s saxophone (or saxophones – she can play two at once) conjures Stax, a rotating cast of musicians layer in drums, bass, trombone and the like to build what she calls “a new Memphis world funk sound.” And the louder it gets, the funkier it gets.


Where to listen: The Cove.


Hope Clayburn | Who to Listen to RIght Now

Hope Clayburn © Hope Clayburn

Fans of Americana


If Dan Montgomery‘s ballads temporarily break your heart, his rollicking numbers will heal it. But this veteran singer/songwriter’s folk styling goes beyond storytelling – he frequently stitches in talented pals (catch Robert and Candace Mache complementing Montgomery on guitar/mandolin and harmony vocals, respectively).


Where to listen: Center for Southern Folklore, Otherlands Coffee Bar.


Dan Montgomery | Who to Listen to RIght Now

Dan Montgomery at the New Daisy Theatre on Memphis’ Beale Street © Dan Montgomery

Fans of garage punk


Any time’s a good time to shop the music at Goner Records. But time your trip with Gonerfest (celebrating its 11th year 25-28th September 2014) to experience the record store/label’s garage punk leanings as they’re experienced best: live.


Gonerfest | Who to Listen to RIght Now

Memphis band EX-CULT performing at Gonerfest 10 © Brandi Rinks

Fans of everything


May through October, Memphis’ Levitt Shell hosts 50+ concerts by local and touring musicians (2013 welcomed acts from the North Mississippi Allstars to Lisa Marie Presley). Even better? The concerts are free and perfect for throwing down a blanket or picnic under the stars:


Levitt Shell | Who to Listen to RIght Now

Levitt Shell © Andrea Zucker

Connecting you to numerous destinations across the United States and Canada, our partnership with Delta makes booking a trip to Memphis simple.


Where do you like to listen to live music in Memphis? Who are your favourite musicians in Memphis right now? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Written by Samantha Crespo


Samantha Crespo

Samantha Crespo is a native of Florida, which she believes set her up to be a career tour guide. (It helps that she’s keen on playing tourist in her own town and beyond – Ensenada, Mexico, and Nafplio, Greece, are favourites – though she feels most at home in the American South.) Since 2005, Samantha has mixed pleasure with business as a travel writer and editor. She admits to squealing when assignments call her to listen to live music in her adopted hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, or to discover new campgrounds with her husband and daughter. Get her insider's perspective on exploring Memphis in her book, 100 Things To Do in Memphis Before You Die.

Categories: Our Places