Rich in history, loaded with personality, Cooper-Young is a place unlike any other. Read here about the people and events that built this community into the cultural wonderland that it is today.
The historically hip lifestyle district.
Memphis has its fair share of historic neighborhoods. And our city’s many entertainment districts are legendary. But no place in the Mid-South, and quite possibly no place anywhere, owns a personality like you’ll encounter in Cooper-Young.
Eclectic only begins to describe it. Century-old homes tucked among family-owned businesses and contemporary gathering spots. Young and talented creative types mingle among families and life-long residents.
What began as a large private land investment quickly turned into a thriving residential community. Through boom and bust, struggle and growth, Cooper-Young never lost that unmistakable sense of community you’ll feel any time you visit, in any season of the year.
You might think that such a tight-knit community would be exclusive or difficult to discover. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Cooper-Young always welcomes, always includes.
Every year, we host hundreds of artists, crafts makers, musicians, and people passionate about what they do as they display their talents to tens of thousands of visitors from all across the Mid-South at the Cooper-Young Festival. The biggest one-day festival in our city is also the most distinctive, just like the district that plays host.
You can’t fake our kind of culture. It can’t be manufactured, imported or faked. It has to be grown. Since 1899, that’s exactly what’s been taking root in these select few blocks in Midtown. And we invite you to discover the part that appeals most to you.
William Cooper purchases 577 acres of land in rural Shelby County and establishes Cooper Street as the main thoroughfare
the first streetcar begins regular runs down Cooper Street and Young Avenue
half of Cooper-Young is annexed into the Memphis city limits
Steamboat Captain C. L. Harris purchased a home in Cooper Young
Young Avenue is named for Judge J. P. Young, a Memphis historian and attorney
second half of Cooper-Young is annexed in the Memphis city limits
Fleece School is built (later renamed Peabody School)
by this time most of the homes in Cooper-Young neighborhood had been built
Piggy Wiggly opens its doors in the neighborhood, becoming the 5th store in Clarence Saunders legendary grocery chain
the Peabody Theatre at the corner of Cooper and Nelson opened to rave reviews
the first "nickel pie" was sold from which would be known as the Keathley Pie Company years later
Easy Way Market opens in Cooper-Young
Johnny Cash records his first record in the basement of the old Galloway Church at 1015 South Cooper Street
Cooper-Young becomes a popular neighborhood for musicians, leading to an influx of artists of all types and helping to establish the art vibe that is so essential to the neighborhood’s personality
the first Cooper-Young festival is held in the parking lot of what is now First Congregational Church
the community newspaper, The Lamplighter, was published as a forum of information for residents
Cooper-Young Business Association is formed with 60 charter members and assumes management of the Cooper-Young Festival
CYCA and CYBA are granted $500,000 federal Oasis Project which gave the commerial district a jumpstart including lamp posts, gingko trees and a gazebo with flower beds and benches at the intersection of Cooper and Young
Cooper-Young is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
CYBA charters the Cooper-Young Development Corporation to take title of the Oasis improvements and to kickstart housing in the shabbier areas in the area
1994 - 1999
the CYDC would repair, restore and renovate over 50 homes receiving over 1 million dollars in grant money
the iconic neighborhood depiction of Cooper-Young by artist, Jill Turman, is installed at the trestle running above Cooper Street, creating a signature entry point to the district
the monthly First Thursday Night Out is held as a way to create celebrations and savings for visitors to the district
more than 100,00 visitors made their way to the Cooper-Young Festival, marking an all-time high in attendance
the neighborhood is named one of the "Top 10 Great Neighborhoods in America" by the American Planning Association, adding further validation to the areas commercial and residential sustainability
Harlan T. Bobomusician/performance artist/raconteur
Even after his debut release, too much love, captured the imagination of Memphis' music lovers, Harlan T. Bobo still remains a mystery. Arriving in Memphis in 1998, after traveling a route as circuitous as that of any fugitive, Harlan has been busy endearing himself to local fans and soaking up as much of the city's rich musical history as possible. Instead of shedding light on the man behind the music, his intensely personal lyrics have actually served to help perpetuate his enigmatic persona. However, with the release of his second album, I'm Your Man, one thing about Harlan T. Bobo can no longer remain an uncertainty -- his musical talent is the real thing. It's true, the man with a name that could've come straight from A Confederacy of Dunces can write classic heartbreaker songs with the best of 'em.
In December, 1954, John R. Cash, Marshall Grant, and Luther Perkins stepped into the Galloway Methodist Church on the corner of Cooper and Walker streets in Memphis, Tennessee, to play their first performance together for the Pioneers Club, a ladies church function. And the rest, they say, is music history. Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two would go on to take the world by storm, but it all began there in the Cooper-Young community in Memphis.
Jay Etkin is the owner of Jay Etkin Gallery, with locations in both Santa Fe, New Mexico and Memphis, Tennessee. Specializing in local, regional, and international contemporary artists and vintage African tribal art, his client base ranges from individual collectors to corporations. Jay's original gallery in Cooper Young was in 1988 and it was called Cooper Street Gallery.
Robert Gordon is the author of Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters. He produced and directed, with filmmaker Morgan Neville, a documentary based on the book: Muddy Waters Can't Be Satisfied. Gordon is the Writer and Associate Producer of The Road To Memphis, an episode in Martin Scorsese's 7-part series The Blues. His other film making credits include the 1990 documentary, All Day and All Night, featuring B. B. King and Rufus Thomas and music videos that have aired on MTV, BET, and CMT. Gordon is also the author of It Came From Memphis, a book about Memphis music and culture. He produced the book's two companion CDs. His other two books are Elvis: The King on the Road, and The Elvis Treasures. Among his accolades is a Grammy nomination for his liner notes to the Al Green box set, Anthology, which he produced
John Hopkinsarchitectural historian
John Hopkins was the Director of Strategic Operations working out of the Office of the Executive Vice President of the University of Tennessee. He was also Director of Tennessee NSF and DOE EPSCoR programs, including the NSF Track I RII titled Tennessee Solar Conversion and Storage using Outreach, Research, and Education – TN-SCORE. These statewide programs are directed to building research infrastructure and collaborations within the state to make Tennessee more successful in competing for research funding. Dr. Hopkins was formerly Vice President of the UT Research Foundation, which manages the technology commercialization activities stemming from the research performed at UT's campuses. From 2003 to 2009, he served as UTRF Director of Technology Transfer and oversaw the development and implementation of technology evaluation and licensing processes in both its Knoxville and Memphis offices. Prior to UTRF, Dr. Hopkins served as a faculty member a the F, Dr. Hopkins served as a faculty member at the UT Space Institute, where he contributed to a number of innovative technologies, leading to 11 US patents, and directly assisted in their commercial success. He helped develop and license laser-manufacturing technologies that were used in the world's first no-lube fifth wheel latches for over the road trucks, and has also been involved in more than ten start-up companies, including roles as founder, technology inventor, licensor of intellectual property, and business development support. Dr. Hopkins also served as a Director and Treasurer of the Tennessee Center for Research and Development, a non-profit company that supports emerging technologies in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region, and he has served on the Executive Committee of the Innovation Valley Technology Council. Dr. Hopkins authored or co-authored more than fifty technical papers.
Zac Ives and Eric Friedlmusician - Goner Records Co-Owner
Zac Ives and Eric Friedl are longtime friends who were both involved in the Memphis rock scene for years. Friedl started Goner Records, an indie record label, in the mid '90s, and when a local storefront became vacant in 2004, the pair immediately maxed out some credit cards and started their own brick and mortar shop. The result is a frequent favorite among Memphis music lovers, where they can check out close to 10,000 LPs, a similar amount of 7-inches, and an additional thousand CDs in a variety of genres—soul, funk, R&B, jazz, electro, indie rock, and local titles unique to the city. It's part of a growing synergy developed by Ives and Friedl as the Goner Records imprint continues to churn out distinctive releases by artists (Ty Segall, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, and the late Jay Reatard, who was a personal friend of the owners), hold annual music festivals, and operate both an online and physical operation.
Johnathan Kirksceycellist - Memphis Symphony
Jonathan Kirkscey is a composer, arranger, cellist, and guitarist who regularly performs with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, rock bands Glorie and Mouserocket, singer songwriters Harlan T. Bobo and Rob Jungklas, and String Theory, a classical/rock/soul fusion group . A strong background in both classical and popular music has given him a reputation as a very versatile musician. As an arranger and performer he has worked with Cat Power, Al Green, Ra Ra Riot, Smokey Robinson, Johnny Mathis, Steve Jordan, Daniel Johnston, Jay Reatard, North Mississippi Allstars, Lucero, Amy Lavere, Kallen Esperian, and many others. He has also provided arrangements for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and has had several original pieces for orchestra performed by the MSO. He can be heard on soundtracks for "The Poor and Hungry," "Black Snake Moan," and "My Blueberry Nights." Jonathan has composed scores for feature films including Mike Mccarthy's "Cigarette Girl," True South Studios' sequel to their documentary "Two Million Minutes," "The Poor and Hungry" by Craig Brewer, and the upcoming "Only Child" from director Brian Pera. Short films he has scored include "A Tangible Birthplace" and "The Fatted Calf" from The Soundtrack Project (winner of Addy awards and regional Emmy awards and nominations in several categories including best original music), and "Bookin", an award winning Memphis short documenting a collaboration combining Jookin, a street dance, and classical ballet. . He has also scored advertisements for clients such as Sunbrella, Boy's and Girl's Club, and Weill Cornell Medical College.
McCarthy has consumed, internalized, and analyzed American pop culture in the 20th century. What he has produced in turn is a filmography — including the features Damselvis, Daughter of Helvis (1994), Teenage Tupelo (1995), The Sore Losers (1997), Superstarlet A.D. (2000), and Cigarette Girl (2009) and the short films Elvis Meets the Beatles (2000) and Goddamn Godard (2012) — that interprets that pop cultural cosmos into a visionary underground art. Many filmmakers, Memphis obsessives from around the world, and other non-mainstream consumers revere him. Taken from an April 2014 article written by Dan Ball.
John McIntire, a sculptor and former professor at Memphis College of Art, is known for his multi-media creations, his one-of-a-kind personality and unique style. A master at using found objects in his work, he is the king of yard sales and flea markets, and presides over multiple booths at Bojo's Antique Mall. His influence in the art world extends beyond his abilities as a plastic artist and includes his contributions to Memphis music and literary history as well, as he once was the proprietor of The Bitter Lemon, a coffee shop that hosted bluesmen and folk artists, and lived in a house fondly called the "Beatnik Manor" where a 60's era Allen Ginsberg once spent the night on his way through town. Excerpt from article on www.truestorypictures.org
Corey Mesler is an American writer and shopkeeper. Mesler's work has published in numerous journals and anthologies including The Esquire Narrative4 Project (2013) and Good Poems, American Places (Viking Press 2011). He has published seven novels, Talk: A Novel in Dialogue (2002), We Are Billion-Year-Old Carbon(2006), The Ballad of the Two Tom Mores(2010), Following Richard Brautigan (2010), Gardner Remembers (2011), Frank Comma and the Time-Slip (2012), and Diddy-Wah-Diddy: A Beale Street Suite (2013); 4 full length poetry collections: Some Identity Problems (2008), Before the Great Troubling (2011), Our Locust Years (2013), and "The Catastrophe of my Personality" (2014); and 3 books of short stories, Listen: 29 Short Conversations (2009), Notes toward the Story and Other Stories (2011) and I'll Give You Something to Cry About (2011). He has also published a dozen chapbooks of both poetry and prose. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize numerous times, and two of his poems have been chosen for Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac. With his wife, he runs Burke's Book Store in Memphis, Tennessee. He and his wife bought Burke's, an independent bookstore founded in 1875. It is one of the oldest independent bookstores in the United States.
Dennis Phillippi is an actor, known for The Poor & Hungry (2000), 5ive Courses (2013) and TrophyMan: Kicking with TrophyMan (2001). Comedian, columnist, reporter and writer.
Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. (May 1, 1980 – January 13, 2010), better known by the stage name Jay Reatard, was an American musician from Memphis, Tennessee. Lindsey was signed to Matador Records. He released recordings as a solo artist and as a member of The Reatards and Lost Sounds. Lindsey's recording career began at the age of 15, when a home-made demo tape he had sent in to Goner Records caught the ear of former-Oblivian and Goner Records' owner, Eric Friedl. Lindsey's introduction to Friedl and his Oblivians bandmates had come that same year when the Oblivians had returned home to Memphis as an opening act for Rocket from the Crypt. Upon seeing the act live, Lindsey became enamored with their sloppy, lo-fi music and set forth creating his own brand of heavily distorted garage rock music.
Alicja Troutmusician, singer, songwriter
Alicja Trout is a Memphis-based American rock guitarist, singer, songwriter and artist. She is best known for her work with the synth-heavy Lost Sounds, which she started with Jay Reatard. Her current band, the River City Tanlines, were named an essential Memphis band by Spin Magazine in December 2007.Trout also owns and operates Contaminated Records, her own independent record label. In 2009 she was featured on the MTV show $5 Cover.
Valerie Junemusician, singer, songwriter
Valerie June Hockett, known as Valerie June, is an American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Memphis, Tennessee, United States. Her sound encompasses a mixture of folk, blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian and bluegrass. She is signed to Sunday Best label.
Randle Witheringtonarchitectural historian/professor
Randle Witherington, design professor at the University of Memphis, is the proud owner of the Cheatham-Barron House located on Blythe Street, one of the oldest homes in Cooper Young.