November 16th Ought to Be National Holiday

W. C. Handy was born on this date in 1873, the son of former slaves.

I hate to see that evenin’ sun go down,
I hate to see that evenin’ sun go down,
‘Cause my baby has left this town.

If I’m feelin’ tomorrow, just like I feel today,
If I’m feelin’ tomorrow, like I feel today,
I’ll pack my trunk and make my get-away.

St. Louis woman, with all her diamond rings,
Stole that man of mine, by her apron strings;
If it wasn’t for powder, and her store-bought hair,
That man I love wouldn’t’ve gone nowhere!

W.C. Handy is widely recognized by his self-proclaimed moniker, “Father of the Blues” due to his steadfast and pioneering efforts to document, write and publish blues music and his life-long support of the genre. Although much of his musical taste leaned toward a more sophisticated and polished sound, Handy was among the first to recognize the value of the blues, and Southern black music in general, as an important American legacy. Handy was an accomplished bandleader and songwriter who performed throughout the South before continuing his career in New York. He came across the Delta blues in the late 1890s, and his composition “Memphis Blues,” published in 1912, was the first to include “blues” in the title. Some historians don’t consider “Memphis Blues” to be an actual blues song, however it did influence the creation of other blues tunes, including the historic “Crazy Blues,” which is commonly known as the first blues song to ever be recorded (by Mamie Smith in 1920). A Memphis park was named after Handy in recognition of his contribution to blues and the Blues Foundation recognizes the genre’s achievements annually with the prestigious W.C. Handy award.

The Blues | PBS

NPR told the Handy and St. Louis Blues stories as part of the NPR 100 in 2000. Report includes Handy’s own reminiscences and the complete 1925 recording of the song by Bessie Smith accompanied by Louis Armstrong, possibly the most influential recording in American music history. 

The Smith-Armstrong recording makes my desert island list every time.