KVBA Honors: W.C. Handy – “Father of the Blues”


W.C. Handy was a hugely influential American composer and musician. Born the son of a pastor in a log cabin near Guntersville, Alabama, he learned to play the guitar, and cornet on the sly, as his father thought musical instruments were tools of the devil. He eventually became a touring musician, when during his travels through Mississippi, he picked up the tones and structure that we associate with Delta Blues today. Handy’s popularity grew steadily as a composer and performer, playing for larger and more diverse audiences. He moved to Memphis, where in 1912 he published “Memphis Blues” with his signature style of 12- bar blues, which some say was the first official blues song.

Through his subsequent ground-breaking works, Handy turned the regional style of Delta Blues into a National art-form, earning him the moniker “Father of the Blues”.

In honor of Black History Month, the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association recognizes W.C. Handy – a great American composer, musician, who played an important role in developing the musical form that we so love and enjoy: The Blues!