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Historical Markers of Shelby County

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W. C. Handy

In Memory Of W.C. Handy Composer, Music Publisher, Father Of The Blues 1976 Erected By The Association For Study Of Afro-American Life And History In Cooperation With The Amoco Foundation, Inc. Father Of The Blues William Christopher Handy Born November 16, 1873 Died New York City March 28, 1958 South Enshrined Forever In The Hearts Of The Nation Are His Immortal Songs "Memphis Blues," "St. Louis Blues," "Beale Street Blues" And "Those Who Sow In Tears, Shall Reap In Joy." With His Golden Trumpet He Gave Everlasting Voice To These And Folk Songs Of His People In The Southland Whose Music Is Known And Beloved Throughout The World As An Inspiration To The Youth And As An Enduring Gift To America's Treasury Of Songs For More Than Thirty Years. He Was A Distinguished Member Of The American Society Of Composers, Authors And Publishers (ASCAP) Which Proudly Joins The Citizens Of Memphis In Erecting This Everlasting Tribute To His Memory. East His Life Is A Tale Of Three Streets, Beale Street In Memphis, Market Street In St. Louis And Broadway In New York City. He Made A Long Step From Beale Street On A Wave Of Circumstances On Which He Advanced To One Of The Highest Pinnacles, Grandeur And Renown. In 1949, He Was Named As One Of The Twenty Grand Old Men Of This World. As A Child, He Was Thrilled By The Singing Of His People. In His Tenth Year, He Could Read Music And He Had A Good Tenor Voice. His Parents Wanted Him To Be A Minister But He Chose To Be A Musician. To Obtain Money To Pay For His Instructions He Walked To Birmingham, Alabama Where He Taught School. Later He Joined A Quartet And Journeyed To The World's Fair In Chicago. In 1897, He Returned To Alabama And Taught Voice And Band At The Agricultural And Mechanical College In Huntsville. Later He Travelled In Mexico, Cuba And Canada. North Back In Memphis He Received The Impetus That Sent Him On The Road To Success, A Great Impulse To Set To Music The Songs Of The Cotton Pickers The Work Songs Of The Railroad And The Songs Of The River Roustabouts Who Sang As They Worked. In 1909 E.H. Crump Was A Candidate For Mayor Of Memphis And W.C. Handy's Band Was Hired To Play For His Political Rallies. The Opposing Candidates Also Employed Bands And This Keen Competition Spurred Handy To Use His Creative Talents In Composing The Musical Score Which Later He Called "The Memphis Blues." A Tune Won Praise For E.H. Crump Who Served For Twenty Five Years As The Undisputed Political Leader Of Memphis, And For W.C. Handy's Undying Fame As A Composer For This Music Called The Blues. West His Next Composition Was The "St. Louis Blues." After Every Music Publisher In The Country Had Rejected As Worthless Both "The Memphis Blues" And The, "St. Louis Blues," He Sold "The Memphis Blues" For A Hundred Dollars Which Later Made A Fortune For The Young Man Who Bought It. He Organized His Own Publishing Company And Published "The St. Louis Blues" Which Has Sold More Than Two Million Copies. His Music Played And Recorded In Almost Every Country On Earth And Has Become One Of America's Contributions To The World's Great Musical Treasures. George W. Lee, Historian Erected Under The Auspices Of Frank Ahlgren, Chairman Mayor Edmund Orgill Commissioner David Harsh Honorary Co-Chairman Executive Committee Sam B. Hollis, Secretary Lt. George Lee, Treasurer