Search This Blog

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: Henderson Blues

It's time for another peek into the archives ...

Henderson Blues

Henderson has a long history of prodigious musicians, and with this week’s death of legendary blues mogul Bo Diddley, it is fitting to recognize the influence of that music genre in our own community. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that Henderson, as one-time home to “Father of the Blues” W. C. Handy, provided the motivation for the proliferation of the blues. Although Handy was not the originator of blues music, he carried it from a small regional area on the Mississippi Delta throughout the United States, decentralizing the genre to make it one of the most loved in American history.

Born in Alabama in 1873, Handy was ambitious and well-educated. After travelling to perform in the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Handy came to work for a street repair gang in Evansville, Indiana. That year, Henderson’s Cyrus Taylor hired the young man to play at a Corydon barbeque. Little did Handy know that he would love the community enough to make it his home for the next ten years. He would later write that “[In Henderson] I learned to appreciate the music of my people. . . then, the blues were born. . .”

Of that paramount day at Taylor’s barbeque, Handy wrote in his autobiography, “In the small churches in the country the old folks liked to sing about the time they got religion. Well I learned what it was to come out of the wilderness too. I had my change that day in Henderson. But mine was change from a hobo. . . to a professional musician. The dove descended on my head just as it descended on the head of those who got happy at camp meeting. The only difference was that, instead of singing about the New Jerusalem, my dove began to moan about high-brown women and the men they tied to their apron strings.”

Today, Henderson celebrates W. C. Handy’s memory by holding the annual Handy Blues Festival. To view our Handy informational files, photos, and sheet music, visit us at the library’s archives. You may also want to check out Handy’s autobiography, Father of the Blues. Also, feel free to peruse our genealogy page or other “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries.

Photo is of William Christopher Handy from the archives of the Henderson County Public Library.

No comments: