W. C. Handy Music Festival

Dublin Core


W. C. Handy Music Festival


Music; Festival; Culture; African American History; Lauderdale County, AL; Handy, W.C.


William Christopher Handy, born in Florence, Alabama, on November 16, 1873 and is considered to be the “Father of the Blues.” His musical legacy is a prime part of the music culture in the Shoals region, especially in his home town of Florence. To celebrate Handy’s role in America’s blues music, the W. C. Handy Music Festival was organized by the non-profit organization called Music Preservation Society, Inc. The Music Preservation Society, Inc. established in 1982 in order to “preserve, present, and promote the musical heritage of Northwest Alabama.” While the organization puts on numerous events throughout the year, the W. C. Handy Music Festival each July is the most prominent. The music festival has been recognized as a top twenty summer event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

The first Handy Music festival, organized in 1982 by the Music Preservation Society, lasted for a summer weekend and musician Dizzy Gillespie headlined. Over the past decades, the annual festival has evolved into a ten day event that consists of over two hundred musical shows and concerts. The music showcases music in Florence and the surrounding cities in various parks, restaurants, libraries, museums, sidewalks, and lawns. Some of the musicians and bands that have headlined the festival throughout the years are The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Drive By Truckers, Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge, Donnie Fritts, Bonnie Bramlett, and Roy Ayers. The funding for the festival comes from grants, sponsorships, donations, and sales from festival memorabilia. Numerous corporations and businesses that team up with the Music Preservation Society and help sponsor the annual music festival are: Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa, Florence/Lauderdale Tourism, Lauderdale County Commission, University of North Alabama, Alabama Bureau of Tourism & Travel, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.


Jesse Brock, University of North Alabama


Music Preservation Society, Inc., “About US,” http://www.wchandymusicfestival.org/about.htm (accessed May 1, 2015).

Music Preservation Society, Inc., “History of the Festival,” http://www.wchandymusicfestival.org/history.htm (accessed May 1, 2015).

Music Preservation Society, Inc., “Our 2014 Sponsors,” http://www.wchandymusicfestival.org/sponsors.htm (accessed May 1, 2015).


Alabama Cultural Resource Survey