Heading to Beale Street

September 16th, 2017 and I am in Memphis. It is hot outside, just over 90 degrees and feels much worse with the humidity. The sun is just starting to go down for the night. After the sun goes down, the temperature is likely to drop a few degrees; however, with the low is still 70 degrees over night there is no real relief for the heat in sight. With no parking on Beale Street, I park a few blocks away and bring my Sony A7R II (equipped with the 24-70mm lens), a FrontRow camera and Max Platypod Pro with me in hopes to catch the Beale Street Flippers putting on a show.

Setting up on Beale

After walking several blocks I finally arrive to the corner of 2nd and Beale Street to find Beale street is alive already, even in the Memphis heat. Lots of people sitting outside of BB Kings eating and drinking, Blue City Cafe appears to have a line outside, and I can feel this is going to be a great night for the best street performers Memphis has to offer, the Beale Street Flippers. I make my way over to 152 Beale hoping to find a great seat for an upcoming show and I see it is sitting in the sun, so I decide to wait across the street to see if the crew is going to perform.

The Show Begins

About 6:15 PM comes around and I see the first junior flippers and one of the bigger guys walking around with their Silky O’ Sullivan’s Diver buckets and I know it is almost time. I quickly move to my favorite spot to capture images of this amazing crew.

Chicken, as his friends call him, is the first to come down the street. Flipping at full speed, hand spring after hand spring with great poise.

Jr. Flipper
Chicken, one of the younger Beale Street Flippers, putting on his show and exciting the crowd.

Next another one comes flying down the street before I even had a chance to get my camera back into position. The show is starting and I’m ready for the entertainment. The first two to flip walk back up to the West end of Beale Street.

It’s a Long Walk Back

Long walk back
It is a long walk back up Beale Street after you flipped down the block.

Grabbing their buckets the crew walks around the crowd of rowdy on-lookers and the tips start to flow in. Little by little the dollars start to fill the bucket, Chicken walks by me and I gladly put in the cash I had on hand for the show. These guys are worth that and more.

Beale Street Flippers catch fire

Next up was a treat for me and everyone on the street. Two of the World Famous flipping crew line up at the starting position. I’ve watch this show probably a half a dozen time and I was hoping to see Jarvis line up a few people and flip them, instead this dynamic duo has a spectacular performance in mind. They flipped the length of the street, from 2nd to 3rd street in sync the entire way. Back to back, one flip after another. The sun is setting behind them and this act is on fire! There is no signs of anything cooling off tonight, especially the performance.

Dynamic Duo #1
This dynamic dou of Beale Street Flippers launches into an acrobatic flip routine and is able to stay in sync the entire way
Dynamic Duo #3
Dynamic Dou of Beale Street Flippers approaches their first landing of the routine
Dynamic Duo #2
Two of Beale Street Flippers launching away from the setting sun and away from the heat of Beale Street’s West end
Dynamic Duo #4
Ending the dynamic dou’s routine on Beale Street. The amazing acrobatic flips in this routine still in sync on the East end of Beale’s 200 block

This was simply amazing, I have seen many of shows but the skill to stay in sync for roughly 800 feet of flipping, I am more than impressed. They got pretty high in the air for a few of the flips but I didn’t know the best of the flips was yet to come.

While the Dynamic Duo is on their way back up the street some of the other members of the crew is collecting tips, these guys EARNED these tips there is no doubt. While they made it look easy, I know there is nothing easy about this and to do it in this heat is just taking it to a whole other level. Then I see another guy warming up by doing a hand stand.

Time for the main event

Warming up
Beale Street Flipper has a unique warm up routine in which he does a handstand and pushup.

Lifting himself into the air as a display of power, balance, and poise. The muscle definition on this guy tells you he takes this seriously and it ready to perform. He waits for the crew to finish collecting the tips from the last run and begins his run down Beale Street. Starting with this launch next to me.

Puttin' In Work
Putting in work, this Beale Street Flipper puts on an epic run. This is the start of the first flip in a series that left the crowd in awe.

He flew down the street at an amazing rate of speed, flipping so fast I could keep moving my camera with him in the frame. Finally catching up with him on his final flip, roughly 400 feet from his first, and it was amazing. A double backflip with a twist in the middle. He was so high in the air during this I thought I’d lose him on the frame, it was a close call.

Grand Finale
This is the final flip in the series. He ends with a double flip with a twist while in midair. It was spectacular.

These guys are legends here in Memphis and around the world. If you live here and you haven’t seen the show, I say, what are you waiting on? If you are coming through Memphis and you don’t work your way down to Beale Street for the show, it will be your loss. These guys perform the old school hustle like none other. No two shows are the same. Sometimes you get the little flippers, sometimes the big ones, and on this occasion I was blessed with both.

Finding the Beale Street Flippers

You can usually find them on Beale Street between 2nd and 3rd. Just hang out at BB Kinds or 152 and wait around 6 PM – 7 PM. Odds are good you will find them there. Or if you want to book them direct,  find them here on FaceBook.

Most of these images were captured at f4.0 at 1/2000th of a second. I am blessed and honored to live close enough to see these guys perform on a regular basis.

Want more?

I have written about the Beale Street Flippers before in August, check out the article for more. If you want to see more authentic and original images from Memphis, check out the Memphis Collection.

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