William Christopher Handy, known as “the father of the blues,” was the first person to notate and publish blues songs, and is recognized for integrating blues elements into ragtime, which was a seminal form of jazz, changing the course of popular music. He wrote over 60 blues, spirituals, and popular tunes, including the perennial blues standard St. Louis Blues.
W.C. Handy was born in Florence, Alabama, November 16, 1873, the son of former slaves. His first instrument was the coronet, and he advanced from lessons in a barbershop to studying classical music. While still a teenager Handy began teaching school but left for better paying work in a factory. At the age of twenty, he organized a quartet to play the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a gathering that attracted other musical luminaries of the time, notably ragtime pianist Scott Joplin.