W.C. Handy

1873 - 1958

W. C. (William Christopher) Handy, Southern composer, cornetist, and bandmaster, born in Florence, Alabama. He was educated in the public schools and by his father and paternal grandfather, both of whom were clergymen. He began his musical career as a cornet soloist and bandmaster with minstrel shows; one of his earliest engagements was with the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. From 1900 to 1902 he was a music teacher at the Agricultural and Mechanical College in Huntsville, Alabama. Handy turned to composition in 1907; his first published song was “Memphis Blues” (1912). Among his other popular songs are “Saint Louis Blues” (1914), “Beale Street Blues” (1917), and “Loveless Love” (1921). Handy also founded a music publishing house and edited and wrote several books, including the autobiographical Father of the Blues (1941). Originally, the blues were a type of black folk song little known beyond the southern United States. Handy's songs brought the blues to international attention.