William Christopher Handy, known as “the father of the
blues,” was the first person to notate and publish blues
songs, and is recognized for integrating blues elements into
ragtime, which was a seminal form of jazz, changing the
course of popular music. He wrote over 60 blues, spirituals,
and popular tunes, including the perennial blues standard St.
W.C. Handy was born in Florence, Alabama, November 16,
1873, the son of former slaves. His first instrument was the
coronet, and he advanced from lessons in a barbershop to
studying classical music. While still a teenager Handy began
teaching school but left for better paying work in a factory.
At the age of twenty, he organized a quartet to play the 1893
Chicago World's Fair, a gathering that attracted other
musical luminaries of the time, notably ragtime pianist Scott
After the fair, Handy toured with various ensembles and
taught music at Alabama A&M in Huntsville