(HENDERSON, KY) – The W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival, presented by the Henderson Music Preservation Society, kicked off June 12 and will run through June 15. The festival has become one of the largest free music festivals in the nation, drawing attendees from just about every state and many countries. Headliners include Coco Montoya, Ruthie Foster, Southern Hospitality, Chicago Plays The Stones, and Chubby Carrier. There are a host of other events throughout the week as well, including a Mardi Gras-style Street Strut (Sat), lectures, dance classes and much more.
The festival is a
celebration of the life and legacy of Henderson resident and “Father of the
Blues,” William Christopher Handy. His dedication to preserving the blues as an
art form and his body of work in spiritual music inspired the Henderson Music
Preservation Society, Inc. to organize a festival that would celebrate the life
and musical accomplishments of W. C. Handy.
legend, the Alabama born composer and his band were traveling home from the
postponed Chicago World’s Fair in 1892 when they ran out of money in St. Louis.
Work was scarce there, so Handy left the rest of the band and headed to
Evansville, Indiana. In need of funds, Handy worked on a street paving crew and
joined a local band that performed throughout the region. While the group
played at a Henderson barbecue, he met Elizabeth Price, who soon became his
Handy spent nearly
a decade in Henderson before moving on, eventually to be recognized as an
accomplished composer of the blues and spiritual music. In his autobiography Father
of the Blues, Handy said: “I didn’t write any songs in Henderson, but it
was there I realized that experiences I had had, things I had seen and heard
could be set down in a kind of music characteristic of my race. There I learned
to appreciate the music of my people…then the blues were born, because from
that day on, I started thinking about putting my own experience down in that
particular kind of music.”