On Beale Street
Readers of On Beale Street will be plunged into the dynamic music culture of 1954 Memphis, Tennessee. Johnny Ross loves the blues, but being white and only 15, must sneak into nightclubs to hear the leading African American artists. An encounter with a fellow blues fan named Elvis leads Johnny to talk his way into a job at Sun Records. He learns how segregation deprives black musicians of their royalties and lets white singers steal their material and stage moves. Hanging out with the son of his mother’s boss’s chauffeur gives Johnny even further insight into the racial divide. Then a startling truth about his mother’s past changes everything.
Today’s pop music fans who can’t be parted from their MP3 players should be encouraged to read this book, which will help them understand the roots of the sounds coming over their earbuds. Kidd includes an author’s note telling what happened to the real people after the end of the story. He asked one of the musicians from the era to read his manuscript and make corrections, so the musical aspects of the story ring true, though the fictional parts aren’t quite as believable.