And now — in lieu of his usual concerts and club gigs — Chester Chandler, better known as Memphis Gold, is performing from his apartment balcony in Ballston every Friday night from 8-9 p.m.
The informal outdoor concerts, near the intersection of N. Randolph Street and 9th Street N., have started attracting dozens of onlookers — socially distanced on the sidewalk, for the most part. From his 8th floor perch, Chandler and his guitar give the neighborhood an hour-long musical respite from the stress of life during the pandemic.
Chandler tells ARLnow that he got the idea from seeing locked-down residents in cities around the world opening their windows at 8 p.m. to bang pots and pans and make noise.
“I saw some people come out on their balcony, I said well this would be a good time to play some music, have a good time, and be happy we’re alive,” he said. One Friday night, with little fanfare and no public announcements, Chandler went outside and started playing. He’s kept it up every Friday night since.
“It turned out to be a good thing,” he said, “now people chant for more.”
Chandler doesn’t do much self-promotion during the concerts, to the point that many don’t even know who’s playing on the starkly lighted, distant balcony. But Chandler’s humility belies his musical resume.
He is a native of Memphis, Tennessee, who grew up on the famous Beale Street blues corridor. He is a Vietnam veteran who has toured internationally, playing blues festivals and concerts for U.S. troops. He also claims to be the first musical act at Whitlow’s, when it moved to Clarendon in 1995.
Chandler’s musical career started after nearly four years of homelessness in the early 90s. While living on the streets of D.C., he visited a pawn shop and saw a guitar on sale for $600. He convinced the shopkeeper to set it aside for him and eventually saved up enough from doing yard work for “little old ladies” to buy it. After that, he was able to support himself through his music.
Chandler, 65, has lived in the Randolph Towers apartment building for nearly two decades, and says there’s no place he’d rather be.
“Arlington has been my home for the last 20 years, and I tell you, I’ve love every minute of it,” he said. “I love my neighbors… I’m centrally located, and I’m an old man in a sea of yuppies around here.”
Chandler said he’ll keep playing on Friday nights until he can resume paying gigs. The loss of income has been tough, he said, but he’s been able to get by on veteran benefits and online donations from fans. And whenever he can, he gives what he can to support first responders and homeless vets.
One welcome side effect of Chandler’s playing and the pandemic? All of those passersby who are getting to hear his soulful guitar playing potentially becoming fans of the genre.
“I like it when the younger kids discover blues music,” he said.
A Friday night balcony concert in Ballston…
Posted by Arlington Now on Friday, April 17, 2020
Good Monday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…
Arlington Public Schools has a new internal social media platform for families but its anonymous commenting policy prompted a tense discussion among some School Board members. This year, the school…
An Arlington-based company that helps startup founders turn their ideas into viable ventures has a new permanent home in Rosslyn.
Through Christmas, ART bus trips in peak directions along the I-66 corridor, during rush hour, will be free.
The Arlington Sports Hall of Fame is extremely pleased to announce that our 2023 Annual Induction Dinner, again in partnership with the Better Sports Club of Arlington, will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Knights of Columbus, located at 5115 Little Falls Road, Arlington, Va.
Our dinner will pay tribute to all the honored members of the Hall of Fame and will induct the following six new Class of 2023 inductees, joining the 62 athletes, coaches and contributors who have been inducted into ASHOF since its founding in 1958:
Noel Deskins (Yorktown Class of ’79): Track & Field record-holder & Athlete of the Year at YHS and JMU
Eric Metcalf (O’Connell Class of ’85): Star NFL running back, football and track & field record-holder and Hall of Famer at both O’Connell and the University of Texas
🌟 Calling all adventurous hearts! 🌟
💑 Get ready for an evening of excitement and connection as we present Speed Dating Night at The Renegade in Arlington, VA! 🌆
📅 Mark your calendars for Oct 20th, from 6-9 pm, because