Even though the Shoals in Alabama quite rightly and proudly claim William Christopher Handy as their own (he was born in Florence in 1873) and celebrate his achievements annually in their July W. C. Handy Festival, Mr. Handy’s influence has a far greater reach and he has many more friends than just the folks of northern Alabama. Scores of Handy’s musical friends and beneficiaries of his art have played and sung his music; and when they did, their interpretation of his blues artistry brings to life different aspects of his musical and storytelling genius. At its heart, the blues is a storytelling art form inspire by folk music.
Arguably the most revelatory single piece of music Handy wrote is the often interpreted and recorded 1914 signature blues hymn, “St. Louis Blues.” Born out of a lament over being hungry and poor and sleeping under the St. Louis bridge, the song has become a keynote anthem for blues, jazz, and even pop. It set the stage and the pattern for more laments and “blues” influencing performers and poets that followed him.
The speaker prefers a lapel microphone but is comfortable at a podium, as well.