The subtitle is “Sex, Song, and the Struggle for the Soul of Memphis,” and if that sounds like a rather ambitious summary, local author Preston Lauterbach has pulled it off in his new book, Beale Street Dynasty. In this far-reaching exploration of the history of Beale Street, he spotlights Robert Church, scion of one of Memphis’ wealthiest and most distinguished families, a man he calls “the emperor of Beale Street.”
Lauterbach will launch his new book with a series of events this month. On Thursday, March 19th, he will present a lecture and book-signing at Rhodes College, followed the next day by a panel discussion. Later on March 20th, Calvin Newborn will join the Rhodes College Jazz Band for a performance at the Old Daisy Theatre on Beale Street. And on March 21st, Lauterbach will lead a walking tour of Beale Street “to remind Memphians of the street’s rich history of sex, song, struggle, and soul.”
The link between Robert Church and Memphis has been incredibly strong, says Lauterbach. “What shaped Memphis also shaped Church,” he writes. “He distilled all the odd, disparate ingredients that made the city, and together they grew.”
Memphis magazine book editor Leonard Gill has praised Lauterback’s accomplishment. “Thanks to his research, those who enjoy what remains of Beale today may find it hard to picture the street at its best and at its worst and as it operated, day and night, from the late-nineteenth century on into the mid-twentieth century,” writes Gill, in our March issue. “But more than the story of one street, this is the story of Memphis itself — and what kind of town, good and bad, it was and ripe for building a dynasty.”
The book-signing and lecture will begin at 6 p.m. in the McCallum Ballroom of the Rhodes College Bryan Campus Life Center. The lecture and next day’s panel discussion are free and open to the public.