William Christopher Handy, a composer and music publisher, was born in Florence, Alabama on November 16, 1873. He is known as the "father of the blues" because he was the first person to collect and write the songs down which had been played by workers, illiterates, and share croppers. These original blues songs had a three line verse, a definite musical pattern which usually expressed a lament of some kind, and often ended in "ironical self -ridicule, fatalistic resignation, or absurd incongruous laughter" He also had a minstrel show band.
Among the more than sixty songs he wrote were "Memphis Blues, St. Louis Blues, Beale Street Blues, Mississippi Blues, and Joe Turner Blues." Handy wrote other secular songs, made arrangements of spirituals, and did orchestral work as a composer and conductor.
To get his music published. Handy, with Harry Pace, a songwriter, founded a music publishing house in Memphis in 1907 which was moved to New York in 1918. Among the songs his company published was "A Good Man is Hard to Find" which Sophie Tucker, a white singer, sang on Broadway and helped to make it a hit.
Handy died on March 29, 1958 in New York City. Later that year a movie based on his life was issued. It was titled "St. Louis Blues" and Nat "King" Cole played the role of Handy.