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WC Handy Picture

The Music Preservation Society, Inc.

presents the 35th annual

W.C. Handy Music Festival

in honor of

Florence (the Shoals), Alabama’s


Composer, Publisher, Musician, and


William Christopher (“W.C.”) Handy, known to the world as the "Father of the Blues", was born in Florence, Alabama, on November 16, 1873, where the sounds he heard influenced and inspired him to create an enduring body of music and garnered him international acclaim. His hometown is proud to claim him as a native son and continues to celebrate his genius. Handy left an indelible impression, not only on the other cities where he lived such as Memphis, TN, and New York, NY, but also on the international music scene. Many musicians through the years have credited Handy’s influence as their inspiration. The world lost Mr. Handy in 1958, but his family continues his legacy through Handy Brothers Music in New York. As always, the Music Preservation Society extends its sincere appreciation to the family of William Christopher Handy for its continued support of and participation in the W.C. Handy Music Festival. We are honored to have the privilege to celebrate Mr. Handy’s life and the musical gifts that he left for us all. (By Dr. Carlos Handy, Grandson, and Tori Bailey, Festival Chair)

About the W. C. Handy Music Festival & Music Preservation Society
By: Tori Bailey, Festival Chair

This year we will celebrate the 35th annual W.C. Handy Music Festival! Three and a half decades of honoring the legacy of William Christopher Handy and the music created in and inspired by the Muscle Shoals area. It was in 1982 that Sheffield, Alabama native Willie Ruff, a musician, author, educator, lecturer, and founding director of the Duke Ellington Fellowship Program at Yale University, brainstormed with David Mussleman of Florence, who served as the very first president of the Music Preservation Society, Inc. ( a non-profit organization, formed to preserve, promote, and present the musical heritage of Northwest Alabama). Together Mussleman and Ruff decided to pay homage to the accomplishments of W.C. Handy and the music of Muscle Shoals with a Festival consisting of live musical performances. The result of that collaboration is a synergy between the counties of northwest Alabama to showcase some of the best music in the world. The W. C. Handy Music Festival has grown into the largest tourism attraction held annually in northwest Alabama with hundreds of fun events held during at least ten days (and that doesn’t include the “Pre-or Post- Festival events)! The Handy Festival doesn’t happen without our event organizers, partners, tourism, local and state government, performers, and especially the sponsors to pay for it all! We are excited to offer something different this year by expanding our partnership with the University of North Alabama to present “I’ll Take You There”: the Music of Muscle Shoals. You won’t want to miss it! We are also extremely grateful to the Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area for its support of this W.C. Handy Music Festival. As you all know by now, the Festival is GREEN. We encourage being good stewards of our environment so DO recycle! DON’T litter, and drop in to see Robin Wade and the gang on Saturday, July 30th at the SHOALS CREATIVITY EXPERIMENT #11: when we will all explore the results of a collision between Shoals Creativity, technology and green energy! You can bring money, or even better, you can bring your talent as your fee. Come and visit Handy Headquarters starting July 18th so we can help you plan your Festival week or visit us at, or on Facebook. We truly appreciate each and every one of you! Have a Fun Festival! Sincerely, Tori Bailey, Handy Festival Chair

W.C. Handy Festival Recognition

The first music festival dedicated to W. C. Handy was held in 1982 in the Florence, Ala. (Shoals area). Since then, each year the Festival has attracted a growing number of talented musicians from around the world, who draw increasing numbers of visitors from many states and countries to the Shoals area, providing an economic tourism boost to the state of Alabama. The W. C. Handy Music Festival is recognized as:

  • An Alabama Top 20 Event
  • Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Events for the months of July, August, September each year since 1986
  • Geotourism MapGuide to Appalachia Featured Site
  • Three time Cultural Olympiad Regional Designee
  • Southeast Tourism Top 21 Event for July
  • "Local Secret, Big Find"
  • Top 100 Event in North America


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