Personalities | W.C. Handy | Roots of Rock
(Archivist, bandleader, 1873–1958)
W.C. Handy, who led string quartets, brass bands and minstrel-show groups, was a major force in exposing the blues of southern blacks to a mainstream audience. In Memphis in the 1910s Handy, who would become known as the Father of the Blues, emerged with recordings of his compositions ‘Yellow Dog Blues’, ‘The Memphis Blues’ and ‘The St Louis Blues’, one of the most widely recorded songs in history. In 1917, Handy composed ‘Beale Street Blues’.
In 1918, Handy moved to New York, and established his publishing company on Broadway. Eventually he copyrighted over 150 songs of secular and religious material, while continuing to record. In 1926, he wrote Blues: An Anthology, for which he compiled sheet music for the most famous blues songs and attempted to explain their origins. He would compile other anthologies and write his autobiography before losing his eyesight by 1943. He died in 1958.
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