A Music Legend From Florence, Alabama

 
W.C. Handy Birthplace, Florence, AL, built circa 1870 … Photo by Caroline Pugh

W.C. Handy Birthplace, Florence, AL, built circa 1870 … Photo by Caroline Pugh

 

You may have heard of the famous recording studios in North Alabama. I’ll have more on that in a later post. But there’s an older music legend from this area that left his mark on music to this day. On a recent trip to Florence, Alabama, I visited W.C. Handy’s birthplace. It’s part of the Mississippi Music Trail, also. In case you’re not familiar with the famous musician, scroll to see more about the “Father of the Blues.” Enjoy!

W.C. Handy, age 19. By uploaded to Wikipedia by Mink Butler Davenport - the English language Wikipedia (log), Public Domain

W.C. Handy, age 19. By uploaded to Wikipedia by Mink Butler Davenport - the English language Wikipedia (log), Public Domain

 
Please help support the mission of the Jazz Video Guy. Contributions of any size matter! https://www.gofundme.com/support-the-mission-of-jazz-video-guy W.C. Handy plays his composition, "St. Louis Blues," on Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town, 12/18/49
 
By W. C. Handy - from the Library of Congress, Brown University Collection of African American sheet music, Public Domain

By W. C. Handy - from the Library of Congress, Brown University Collection of African American sheet music, Public Domain

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

 
Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh

Photo by Caroline Pugh


Music Mondays - American Jazz Museum

Welcome to the first installment of Music Mondays, when I feature people and places relating to music history. Today I introduce you to the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

American Jazz Museum in Kansas City, Missouri … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

To learn a little about the museum and the history of jazz, I interviewed Marissa Baum, the museum’s Director of Development and Communication:

 

Marissa Baum, Director of Development and Communication … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Marissa Baum, Director of Development and Communication … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Melissa, what does your job entail?

I am the Director of Development and Communications, so my job includes everything from managing press releases and PR, social media, graphic design and ads, to web development, memberships and major gifts, annual fund campaigns, grant writing, and more! 

 

What do you wish for a visitor to gain/learn after touring the museum?

I think sometimes jazz feels a bit inaccessible, in that there's something you're supposed to "get" and if you don't, you can't appreciate it. But there is such a beauty in the history of jazz and how it developed (and continues to develop!) as an American art form, that anyone can enjoy and appreciate it. 

 

Charlie Parker’s saxophone … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Charlie Parker’s saxophone … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

What is the most popular item on exhibit?

Easily the most popular item on exhibit is Charlie Parker's plastic Grafton alto saxophone. Played in the famous Jazz at Massey Hall concert in Toronto, Canada, this saxophone was a part of a monumental moment in jazz history: It was the last time that Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, and Max Roach played together as a quintet. And while some of these musicians had recorded with one another in small combos, Jazz at Massey Hall was the very first time that all five musicians recorded together. The performance took place only two years before Parker's death and is regarded by many as one of the final great performances of his career. 

What is YOUR favorite item on exhibit?

Personally, I adore a film from our John H. Baker Jazz Film Collection called Pie, Pie Blackbird. It's a 1932 Vitaphone pre-Code short comedy film released by Warner Brothers on June 4, 1932, starring African American musicians Nina Mae McKinney, the Nicholas Brothers, Eubie Blake, and Noble Sissle. Pie, Pie Blackbird is the Nicholas Brothers’ first film and Fayard (Nicholas) was 18 and Harold (Nicholas) was 11 at the time of release. Their acrobatic infused tap dancing is just awe inspiring, and their talent is unparalleled.

The American Jazz Museum is located at 1616 East 18th Street, Kansas City, MO 64108. For more information, visit the museum’s website at https://americanjazzmuseum.org.

Scene from “Pie Pie Blackbird” … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum

Scene from “Pie Pie Blackbird” … Courtesy of the American Jazz Museum