Who was William Christopher Handy?

W.C Handy was one of the most influential songwriters in the United States. Despite his humble beginnings, he became world famous because of his life long pursuit of love for music.

W.C Handy nickname was “Father of the Blues”. Although he did not create the genre, he was the first to publish music in the blues form. He was born on November 16, 1873, In Florence, Alabama. He was an African American leader who “popularized” blues music in the 20th century. He showed love for music at a young age.  At age 12, he fell in love with a guitar in a shop window, and after counting out the salvaged earnings from his string of odd jobs, he was finally able to buy it. He played and traveled with many bands throughout the Midwest and South. Handy later made his own songs named, “St. Louis Blues,” “Memphis Blues” and “Aunt Hagar’s Blues”, which helped popularize the form and then became major commercial hits. In the course of his career, he wrote 60 music compositions and his autobiography entitled “Father of the Blues”. In the 1930s, he went blind but kept composing and publishing his music.

William Christopher Handy was a blues composer and musician. He remains among the most influential American songwriters.


  • Handy was inducted in the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970.
  • He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983.
  • He received a Grammy Trustees Award for lifetime achievement in 1993.
  • Handy was honored with two markers on the Mississippi Blues Trail, the “Enlightenment of W.C. Handy” in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and a marker at his birthplace in Florence, Alabama. 
  •  In 2017, his autobiography “Father of the Blues” was inducted into the Blue Hall of Fame in the category of Classics of Blues Literature.

Other writings by the author

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