Summertime and the Livin' is Handy

Trip Start Mar 07, 1997
Trip End Dec 25, 1998

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Flag of United States  , Alabama
Friday, August 8, 1997

Go with me? That is, if you like blues and jazz and river cities. We're headed for the last weekend of the W C Handy Music Festival, and a nice drive along the Tennessee River to the tri-cities of Florence, Sheffield, and Muscle Shoals.

It's the biggest, broadest celebration of one man's contribution to music you're ever likely to find. W C Handy was born there in 1873, and started out playing the cornet in a brass band. During his long musical career, he was the first to publish a tune with the word "blues" in it - Memphis Blues in 1912. St Louis Blues and Beale Street Blues are among the classics he wrote. The W C Handy Award is the most prestigious honor given to blues artists today.

When you go to a festival, you might expect to head for one spot and be part of a crowd. But this festival spans four counties! The 160 events take place in concert halls, libraries, galleries, businesses, restaurants, churches, athletic fields, nursing homes and street corners all over the place.

There is a headliner event Saturday night on the campus of the University of North Alabama. Get your $15 ticket in advance or at the door for an evening with the legendary Hank Crawford and the fabulous Jimmy McGriff.

But look at the variety of other things going on! Friday you can lunch on chicken stew for $3 at the Underwood-Petersville Community Center while you listen to the Ray Hansen Dixieland Band. Later in the afternoon you can hang out at the Parkway Shopping Center for a few hours of Kent DuChaine. Then there's music at sundown in the park, riverside jazz, a river cruise, a cabaret, and Handy Nights.

Handy Nights are handy indeed. If you happen to be in Florence, go to LaFondas. If you're in Sheffield it's the Holiday Inn or Sports Rock Cafe; Muscle Shoals The Grille or Union Station. There's more, but that should get you started.

Then join together at Wilson Park in Florence Saturday morning for the street strut and parade, in joyous celebration of the life of the "father of the blues" and the music he left for us to enjoy today. See you there.

W C Handy Music Festival, Florence, Alabama
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