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W.C. Handy

William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 - March 28, 1958) was an African-American blues composer and sometimes referred to as The Father of the Blues.

He is most remembered for his composition "Saint Louis Blues".

While Handy was not the first publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from an obscure regional music style to one of the dominant forces in American music. His songs don't always follow the classic 12-bar pattern, often having 8- or 16-bar bridges between 12-bar verses and lovely melodies.

Handy was a trained musician who used folk material in his compositions. He was scrupulous in documenting the sources of his works, which frequently combined material from several performers. He loved this simple early music. Still, it is unquestioned that he brought his own transforming touch to it.

Handy was a founder of Black Swan Records, the first black-owned record company.

Compositions

  • "The Memphis Blues", written 1909, published 1912. Although usually subtitled "(Boss Crump)", it is a distinct song from Handy's campaign satire, "Boss Crump don't 'low no easy riders around here" which was based on the good-time song "Mamma Don't Allow It".
  • "Saint Louis Blues", (1912) "the jazzman's Hamlet."
  • "Yellow Dog Blues" (1912), "Your easy rider's gone where the Southern cross the Yellow Dog". The reference is to the Southern Railway[?] and the local Yazoo Delta Railroad[?], called the Yellow Dog.
  • "Loveless Love", based in part on the classic, "Careless Love". Possibly the first song to complain of modern synthetics, "with milkless milk and silkless silk, we're growing used to soulless soul".
  • "Aunt Hagar's Blues", the biblical Hagar[?], handmaiden to Abraham and Sarah was considered the "mother" of the African-Americans.
  • "Beale Street Blues" (1916), written as a farewell to the old Beale Street of Memphis (actually called Beale Avenue until the song changed the name), but Beale Street did not go away and is considered the "home of the blues" to this day. B.B. King was known as the "Beale Street Blues Boy" and Elvis Presley watched and learned from Ike Turner there.
  • "Long Gone John (From Bowling Green)", rap-style tribute to a famous bank robber.
  • "Chantez-Les-Bas (Sing 'Em Low)", tribute to the Creole culture of New Orleans.
  • "Atlanta Blues", includes song known as "Make Me a Pallet on your Floor" as chorus.

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