W. C. Handy

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Handy, W. C.

(William Christopher Handy), 1873–1958, American songwriter and band leader, b. Florence, Ala. Largely self-taught, Handy began his career as a cornet player in a minstrel show in 1896, and later organized various small bands. He was among the first to set down the blues, and with his Memphis Blues (1912), originally entitled Mr. Crump (1909), he rose to prominence. His songs, such as St. Louis Blues (1914) and Beale Street Blues (1917), are the classic examples of their type. In 1918 he moved from Memphis to New York City and remained active as a writer and publisher of music, in spite of growing blindness, until shortly before his death. His other songs include Yellow Dog Blues (1914), Joe Turner Blues (1915), and Loveless Love (1921). He was publisher of many of his own compositions and was author of several books, including Blues: An Anthology (1926) and his Collection of Negro Spirituals (1938).


See his autobiography, Father of the Blues (1941).

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Handy, (William Christopher) W. C.

(1873–1958) composer, born in Florence, Ala. He was one of the first composers to incorporate the blues idiom into song forms and orchestrations. He published his first song in 1912, and subsequently wrote such famous songs as "; St. Louis Blues" and "Beale Street Blues." In 1918, he founded an early black-owned music publishing business. His autobiography, Father of the Blues, was published in 1941.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.