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W. C. Handy

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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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