Beale Street Memphis Music neon sign. Beale Street has been playing the blues for more than half a century. Named after an unknown military hero in 1841, it acted as General Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters during the Civil War. But, Beale Street's heyday was in the 1920's, when the area took on a carnival atmosphere and gambling, drinking, prostitution, murder and voodoo thrived alongside the booming nightclubs, theaters, restaurants, stores, pawnshops and hot music. Photo by Carol Highsmith, 2008.