Father Of The Blues William Christopher Handy (1873–1958) was born on this day in a log cabin near the Tennessee River high in the red clay hills near Florence, Alabama. The son and grandson of ministers, he grew up loving nature and listening to the songs of nearby field workers.
"Almost immediately I set my heart on owning a trumpet," he said. "I tried making my own by hollowing a cow horn and cutting the tip into a mouthpiece."
Giving up on that creation, he saved for a guitar and joined the soprano, then bass sections of the school district choir. He said, "I would practice fingering on my desk during classes. In this way I mastered the scales and developed speed."
In 1896, Handy joined Mahara's Minstrels touring group and fell in love with southern ragtime and the "primitive" tom tom beat of the tango. Music that passionately celebrated improvisational freedom and "the sadness of the ages."
He created his Memphis Blues" (1912) for a political campaign and founded his own publishing company.
"My aim," he said, "would be to combine ragtime syncopation with a real melody in spiritual tradition."
In 1914, he wrote the opening line "I hate to see that evening sun go down," and the St. Louis Blues was born, a jazz and blues standard. He continued to write over 60 songs and perform, securing rights to his and other black composers’ work.
In Way Down South Where the Blues Began (1932), he wrote: "Good times, "Just 'round the corner,' so they say."
Give... and take... passionately.