W.c. Handy

W.C. Handy was born in Florence, Alabama, on 16 November 1873. Handy was a member of several bands, and he traveled through the Midwest and South to learn about African-American folk music. This would be known as the “blues.” Handy composed several songs, some of which would become commercial hits such as “St. Louis Blues,” and “Memphis Blues”. In 1958, he died in New York City. William Christopher Handy, composer, musician, and music publisher, was born November 16, 1873 in Florence, Alabama to Elizabeth Brewer Handy and Charles Barnard Handy. Handy was the grandson and son of Episcopalian ministers. Handy’s love for music began at an early age and was supported by his maternal grandmother. His father was not in favor of secular music and only agreed to pay for lessons on the organ. Handy remained true to his love for the cornet and continued his school a cappella singing lessons. According to some reports, Handy was 15 when he joined a minstrel troupe. This show featured African-American music in caricatured form. After several performances, the troupe disbanded. Handy then studied at the Teachers Agricultural and Mechanical College, Huntsville, Alabama and received his degree in 1892. After becoming a teacher, he briefly worked for a piping firm before deciding to pursue music as a career. Handy’s contributions to the creation of what we now call the blues were influenced in part by African-American musical folk traditions he encountered on his travels and performances. Handy started a band called Lazette Quartet, which was meant to be a major force at the Chicago World Fair. However, the fair was delayed and the band had to break up. Handy ended up in St. Louis where he lived through difficult times of poverty, hunger, and homelessness. He held firm, played the cornet at shows, and eventually made his way to Kentucky. There, he was hired by Henderson’s well-to-do as a musician and was inspired by the music of a musical director. Handy joined W.A. in 1896. Handy joined Mahara’s Minstrels in 1896 as its bandleader. He stayed with the group for many years. Handy married Elizabeth Virginia Price in 1898. They had six children together and were married until Price died in 1937. Handy was a member of a few bands, and settled in Memphis at the beginning of the second decade of the 1900s. He had lived in Clarksdale for a while and was familiar with the blues music. Handy also formed a partnership and songwriting partnership with Harry H. Pace. Handy also formed a partnership with Harry H. Pace, a singer-songwriter. Later, the song was reworked to become “Memphis Blues.” Handy signed a deal to publish the song in 1912 and became a pioneer in the introduction of the song structure to large audiences. Handy was not able to enjoy the financial benefits of “Memphis Blues”, despite it being a huge hit. He had sold the rights and fell prey to exploitative business practices. The next step was to create a publishing company and retain the rights to his songs. His next hit, “St. Louis Blues”, was released in 1914 under the Pace. It outlines the hardships he had experienced years earlier in the same city.

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