Birth of the Blues

By | Sep 28, 2015

During the early part of the 20th Century it was sheet music that was the way that music was purchased. On September 28, 1912, W.C Handy’s The Memphis Blues sheet music went on sale in department stores. It was a huge success selling the first thousand copies in three days.

But W.C Handy did not see much money from the success of the song. His publisher told him that it was a flop and offered to buy the rights for 50 dollars. In 1912, 50 dollars was a lot of money, so Handy sold the rights. Unfortunately this was common even as late as the 1970s.

Handy learned a lesson and although he was cheated out of the rights of his first hit, he went on to write many more songs including St. Louis Blues, and Yellow Dog Rag and self published them. With his songs he is considered by most musical scholars as the Father of the Blues with Memphis Blues as being the first Blues song.

The genesis of Memphis Blues was as a campaign tune for Edward Crump who was running for Mayor of Memphis in 1909. It was originally entitled as Mr. Crump but changed prior to its publication.

Handy didn’t create the blues. While he wandered the southern roads of the Mississippi Delta he wrote down the songs that he heard. These songs were the basis of his later compositions adapting the style to become his own.

W.C. (William Christopher) Handy was born in Florence, Alabama on November 16, 1973 in the log cabin that handy said was build by his Grandfather. Both his grandfather and father were minsters. That log cabin is now preserved. Handy died on March 28, 1958 at the long lived age of 83.


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