W.C. Handy Biography
William Christopher Handy
Composer, Cornetist, Trumpeter, Schoolteacher, Editor
W.C. Handy (William Christopher Handy) is best known for “St. Louis Blues” (1913), which became the title of a film based on his life (1958), starring Nat King Cole. Handy taught himself cornet and trumpet over the objections of his preacher father who believed that anything but a hymn was the “devil’s music.” He became a schoolteacher but gave it up for higher paying jobs as a laborer.
In 1896 he joined Mahara’s Minstrels and toured the South with them until 1903. During this time he absorbed the songs and spirituals of southern blacks. He was the first to collect and transcribe these melodies and the people’s singing patterns.