The building that would become Earnestine and Hazel’s started out as a pharmacy in the late ‘30s.
It ran as any old pharmacy would until the owner, Abe Plough, created a product that could, “straighten the hair out.” His concoction took storm between New York to New Orleans, allowing people to position their hair into the slick styles we’re used to seeing in old, sepia-toned pictures. Abe later went on to make the famous Coppertone suntan lotion and, overwhelmed with his mounting financial success, gave the building to two hair stylists that were using his product upstairs – Earnestine and Hazel.
The two sisters turned the building into a cafe. Meanwhile Earnestine’s husband, a street promoter named Sunbeam, opened a nearby music joint called Club Paradise, which hosted legends like B.B. King, Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Motown, Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Sam Cook, Chuck Berry, and Jackie Wilson. Throughout the next 20 years, these musicians walked from Club Paradise to Earnestine and Hazel’s each night so they could get food, tell stories, and find action from women upstairs. The good times rolled until the ‘70s, when Club Paradise got boarded up with the rest of downtown Memphis.
Between the late ‘80s and the early ‘90s, Russell George promoted and danced for a band called the Icebreakers. After finishing up with them, he met with another nightclub operator who proposed Russell turn the property into a bar. Russell was hesitant at first, but after investigating the building on a rainy day in ’92 and remembering the old mystique of downtown Memphis, he thought, “I figure I can make a living here.”
Earnestine and Hazel’s is more that just a cool dive bar, it represents the history of Memphis. It represents the soul, jazz, and blues that echoed into streets and the legends like B.B. King, Tina Turner, and Aretha Franklin that went there for solace. But most of all, Earnestine and Hazel’s represents what Memphis is all about – great music, great food, and great times.
Courtesy Bing: Step Inside, and check it out here! (Look for link on right side of page)