W.C. Handy: The Father of Blues

W.C. Handy is widely acknowledged as the “Father of Blues”. He redefined the existing young music genre into what we recognize it to be today, and popularized it with a wider audience. Handy played the blues on his cornet at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, introducing the blues to a world of new listeners. It was the first of three World’s Fairs at which he would perform. His remarkable legacy is preserved in his co-authored Father of the Blues: An Autobiography.

Handy worked as a young man on an Alabama iron ore stone furnace, shoveling with a team of workers. As they labored, they created impromptu rhythmic musical passages that were, according to his autobiography, composed of far more complex rhythms than the standard fare of contemporary drum corps music.

He was highly intelligent. Handy passed an exam for a teaching certificate, but then passed on the career when he found it didn’t pay enough. As a composer, he was acknowledged for his thoroughness in noting the folk-music sources for the stylistic impressions his music conveyed.

With numerous awards, music festivals, and city streets named in his honor, Handy’s name will not be forgotten. Fans worldwide descend on festivals such as the annual Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival in Southern California, to honor the rich history of blues music.

For more information on blues music, W.C. Handy, and other blues musicians past and present, visit the Simi Valley Cajun and Blues Music Festival Blog, serving Los Angeles County, Ventura County, and the surrounding areas.