W.C. Handy biography
W.C. Handy – Born: November 16, 1873, Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Died: March 28, 1958, New York, New York
Also known as: William Christopher Handy
W.C. Handy is widely recognized by his self-proclaimed moniker, “Father of the Blues” due to his steadfast and pioneering efforts to document, write and publish blues music and his life-long support of the genre. Although much of his musical taste leaned toward a more sophisticated and polished sound, Handy was among the first to recognize the value of the blues, and Southern black music in general, as an important American legacy. Handy was an accomplished bandleader and songwriter who performed throughout the South before continuing his career in New York. He came across the Delta blues in the late 1890s, and his composition “Memphis Blues,” published in 1912, was the first to include “blues” in the title. Some historians don’t consider “Memphis Blues” to be an actual blues song, however it did influence the creation of other blues tunes, including the historic “Crazy Blues,” which is commonly known as the first blues song to ever be recorded (by Mamie Smith in 1920). A Memphis park was named after Handy in recognition of his contribution to blues and the Blues Foundation recognizes the genre’s achievements annually with the prestigious W.C. Handy award.
Essential listening: “St. Louis Blues,” “Yellow Dog Blues,” “Beale Street Blues”