Beale Street mourns the loss of two well-known business owners

Beale Street mourns the loss of two well-known business owners
Beale Street mourns the loss of two well-known business owners(Source: WMC)
Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 11:02 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis businessman who brought B.B. King’s Blues Club to Beale Street and Lafayette’s Music Room to Overton Square has died.

Tommy Peters changed the Bluff City forever, along with the lives of countless musicians.

Peters family confirms he died Sunday, September 5 in a Florida hospital from kidney failure. They say he’d also contracted COVID-19. Those who know him rave about his hard work and vision. Peters, they say, brought life back to Beale and made Memphis a better place.

Kevin Kane, the president and CEO of Memphis Tourism, says Peters put Memphis and its brand of music on the map. When Beale Street was a struggling ghost town in the 1980s, Peters opened B.B. King’s Blues Club in 1991.

“He was a visionary for Memphis,” Kane told Action News 5. “He took the Memphis brand all over the country and really, all over the world. I think his legacy will live forever.”

Peters spread the Memphis sound by opening more B.B. King clubs in cities, including Las Vegas, Nashville, New Orleans and Orlando. In 2007, he opened Itta Bena, the restaurant above B.B.’s on Beale. And in 2014, he helped revitalize Overton Square by opening Lafayette’s Music Room.

Blues City Cafe owner, Wilbur Hensley, says Peters’ passion for his city was good for other businesses on the iconic street, and it was great for musicians.

“He kept people working every day of the week, traveling bands that could come and play Lafayette’s also,” Hensley said. “It is a tragic loss.”

Peters leaves behind his wife and three daughters, and a lasting legacy that will live on with every note played from Midtown to Downtown.

“He wore Memphis on his sleeve,” said Kane. “He was a strong member of the tourism and hospitality industry. He made a difference in our city and he loved his hometown. He’s going to be sorely missed.”

Beale Street is dealing with a double tragedy. Robert “Lunchbox” McRae, the owner of Peoples on Beale, also passed away this week. Family members describe the Harding Academy grad as charming, funny, and fiercely loyal.

His funeral is Saturday, September 11 at Family Funeral Care at 4925 Summer Avenue. The service starts at 11 a.m. His celebration of life is afterward at 2 p.m. on Jerry Lee’s patio at 310 Beale. A procession down Beale will follow. They ask instead of flowers, you make a donation to the Union Mission.

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