The backbone of modern music, the blues has been carefully woven into the fabric of our American culture. It's hard to find someone who doesn't like the blues at least a little.
Moreoften the creation of the blues is mistakenly thought to predate the Civil War, but really, it happened around 1900.
W.C. Handy, who grew up in northwest Alabama, had never heard the blues until the early 1900s – approximately 1900-1903. According to writer and researcher for the Blues Trail, Scott Baretta, Handy was out on a touring gig in Tutwiler, Miss., when he heard what he considered the strangest music ever to greet his ears. He'd been playing in the Delta for several years and had not heard this kind of music yet.
Handy took that sound and began creating his own "blues" songs.
The Sept. 28, 1912 printing of his first sheet music composition "Memphis Blues" marked a turning point in music history, initiating the popularity of blues.
At the time, most African Americans who were touring musicians were wrapped up in the Vaudeville scene, not unlike Handy, and having printed compositions was a big deal. With printed copies of his songs, he easily worked his way into the mainstream through this avenue.
Even though Handy is regarded as the "Father of the Blues," it's not because he created it, but because he popularized it by becoming a successful publisher.
Still, it was ephemeral in the sense that there weren't any blues songs documented in an audio form. This changed around 1920 when actual recordings of blues music began to surface.
Mamie Smith – or Bessie Smith as most know her – was the first to record the blues, a song which happened to be Handy's "St. Louis Blues."
Followed by recordings of Ma Rainey, Bert Williams, and more, the blues began to take its hold on American culture.
According to Baretta, there is still a lot of academic contention about Handy's role, but the fact remains — his compositions, particularly "St. Louis Blues," are part of the cornerstones of American popular music, particularly rock and roll, still today.
Twinkle VanWinkle was born in a small town in Mississippi. A life-long lover of music, media and food, she grew up following those three things along her path. She has almost 20 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks while working in restaurants and bakeries in Oxford, Miss. She baked 300 apple pies for the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and appeared on "The Best Of..." in the same year. Along with producing dynamic entertainment content for LIN Media, she is a mother, musician and social media fanatic.
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