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William Christopher Handy, 1941
Musician and composer, William Christopher Handy in 1941

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The "Worry Blues," recorded in 1939

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William Christopher Handy's "Memphis Blues" Was Published
September 28, 1912

Born in Alabama in 1873, W.C. Handy found his true calling when he began playing cornet with dance bands traveling the Mississippi Delta. Along the road, Handy wrote down and collected blues songs he heard in the 1890s. Audiences, however, wanted to hear ragtime dance tunes, the lively and popular music of the day, so that's what he played. When he settled in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1909, Handy found a sophisticated population with a limitless appetite for music. Music was so popular in Memphis that an aspiring mayor, E.H. Crump, hired Handy as the bandleader for his campaign.
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CREDIT: Van Vechten, Carl, photographer. Portrait of William Christopher Handy, 1941. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-42531 DLC.
AUDIO CREDIT: Harrison, W.S., Sylvester Jones, and Wallace Chains. “Worry Blues,” 1939. American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Call Number AFC 1939/001 2606b1.