Handy Music Festival

Handy (W. C.) Music Festival

July or August
The W.C. Handy Music Festival honors the "Father of the Blues" in the Alabama Quad-Cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia in the northwestern part of the state known as Muscle Shoals.
William Christopher Handy, the son and grandson of ministers, was born in 1873 in Florence, took an early interest in music, and went on to become a prolific composer, performer, orchestra leader, and music publisher despite his father's ministerial influence. In 1911, he wrote an election campaign song for Mayor Edward H. "Boss" Crump of Memphis, Tenn., that became known as the "Memphis Blues" and was one of the works that made him famous. Others included the classic "St. Louis Blues," "Beale Street Blues," and "Careless Love."
Handy, working in the period of transition from ragtime to jazz, fused elements of black folk music with ragtime to create distinctive blues pieces. He also organized a publishing firm, issued anthologies of black spirituals and blues and studies of American black musicians, and wrote an autobiography, Father of the Blues, published in 1941. He expressed his philosophy with these words: "Life is like this old trumpet of mine. If you don't put something into it, you don't get nothing out." When Handy died in 1958, a Harlem minister said, "Gabriel now has an understudy."
The festival celebrates not only Handy's musical heritage but also the musical roots of spirituals and jazz. Opening ceremonies are at the W. C. Handy Home & Museum, a log cabin housing Handy's collected papers and memorabilia. His piano and trumpet are on display.
Throughout the festival there is music by nationally known musicians night and day, street dancing, a foot race, folk art exhibits, and music workshops. Events are held in such nontraditional locations as ball fields, parks, and nursing homes, and concerts are performed in the church where Handy's father and grandfather served as pastor, and in restaurants and clubs. The small community of Muscle Shoals, where several events are held, is known in music circles for having given birth to the "Muscle Shoals Sound" through a recording studio that was set up in 1965. Artists as varied as Aretha Franklin, Peggy Lee, Liza Minnelli, Bob Seger, and the Rolling Stones have recorded here.
CONTACTS:
W. C. Handy Music Festival
217 E. Tuscaloosa St.
Florence, AL 35630
256-766-7642; fax: 256-766-7549
www.wchandymusicfestival.org
SOURCES:
AAH-2007, p. 422
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