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Music Festival History

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Father of the Blues

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Handy's First Music Teacher

Welcome to the official website of the
W.C. Handy Music Festival!

THE 2016 W.C. Handy Festival official dates are July 22-31.

The Music Preservation Society, Inc. proudly presents its annual ten-day series of events designed to preserve, promote, and present the music of northwest Alabama (also known as the "Shoals" area). The W.C. Handy Music Festival was named in honor of William Christopher Handy, the "Father of the Blues", who was born in 1873 in Florence, Alabama. The award-winning W. C. Handy Music Festival has been held each year since 1982 and has been recognized, among other honors, as:

  • The Alabama Department of Tourism Top 10 Event
  • Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Event for July, August, September
  • Geo-tourism Map Guide to Appalachia Featured Site
  • Top 100 American Bus Association Event in North America

July 22-31

We look forward to seeing you there!


Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer
W.C Handy Festival 2015 Headliner - Booker T. Jones

and Special Guest Ace Guitarist
Special Guest Ace Guitarist - Lee Roy Parnell

Saturday, July 25, 2015
at the
Norton Auditorium, University of North Alabama Campus

Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Concert begins at 7:00 p.m.

Sponsored by: Music Preservation Society, Inc., Shoals Solid Waste Authority, Colbert County Commission, TVA, University of North Alabama, Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa, Rhoda P's Catering, Coca Cola Bottling Company, and Quad-Cities Limousine

The W.C. Handy Music Festival Committee will present their Headline concert Saturday, July 25, 2015 at University of North Alabama's Norton Auditorium. Booker T. Jones and his phenomenal band will be featured, with an opening performance by Lee Roy Parnell.

Grammy Award winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Booker T. Jones gained worldwide popularity beginning in the 1960's with his R&B/funk band "Booker T. & the M.G.'s", a group credited with shaping both Southern and Memphis Soul, and originating "the unique Stax sound" while working as the label's house band. Their inimitable style led to the release of instrumental records under their own name including their hit single "Green Onions", written by Jones while he was still in high school. The song went to the top of the Billboard charts, sold over a million copies, and has been featured in countless movies. Booker T. has played with or produced the Beatles, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Albert King, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd, Elton John, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, the Staple Singers, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Al Green, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Johnny Cash, Anthony Hamilton, John Fogerty, Raphael Saadiq, and others including past Handy Headliner the Drive-By Truckers.

Lee Roy Parnell has enjoyed success on the country and blues charts, and is among the elite few who can be identified as a triple threat: an ace guitarist as well as a distinctive singer and hit songwriter. Parnell has garnered the respect of fans and industry veterans alike with his soulful vocals and award-winning slide guitar playing. His music runs the gamut of diversity: Blue-Eyed Soul, Delta Blues, Road House Rock, Southern Boogie, Texas Swing, and Gospel, and defies conventional classification. He draws from a broad range of music sources and combines them with seamless dexterity.

Seating is general admission with a reserved VIP area. Ticket prices are $40 for general admission, and $150 for VIP packages, plus a nominal fee. Tickets at Counts Brothers Music on Woodward Avenue in Muscle Shoals, at Pegasus Records on Tennessee Street in Florence, and on line at Tickets will be available at Handy Festival Headquarters located in the Kennedy Douglass Center for the Arts at 217 East Tuscaloosa Street beginning July 13th,

Trivia contests will take place on our Facebook page and on Twitter, #WCHandyFestival leading up to the start of the Festival. Answers can be found using background information on our Headliner Booker T Jones, and special guest Lee Roy Parnell. Three winners will each receive a pair of tickets to the July 25th Headliner Concert. One lucky winner on Facebook and one lucky winner on Twitter will each receive the Concert VIP Package. Good Luck!

Two of the Shoals area's greatest assets are our rich musical heritage, and the natural beauty that surrounds us. Keeping outdoor events litter free allows us to showcase both of these assets. The objective of the N Harmony with Nature initiative, launched during the 2011 W. C. Handy Music Festival, was to promote environmental stewardship by reducing litter and waste, and emphasize the value of recycling. The initiative was a tremendous success and was designated as the top project for Northwest Alabama Resource, Conservation and Development Council (RC&D) and for the State of Alabama.

Our goal is to build on the success of the previous W. C. Handy Music Festivals by promoting the reduction of litter and waste, not only for our outdoor events, but also for indoor events. We are asking all of our Festival attendees, including members of our community, and visitors to our area, to help us in our efforts by disposing trash in the marked bins that will be provided at most events.

For more information about N Harmony with Nature, visit


Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 38 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy, and 7,000 gallons of water!


About the 2015 W. C. Handy Music Festival Design

May 29, 2015 - The Music Preservation Society, Inc. is delighted to announce that talented local artist Carl Brackin submitted the winning design for the 2015 W.C. Handy Music Festival. The artist is a 2004 graduate of the University of North Alabama and currently works in various media including photography and graphic art. Brackin said that for this year's competition he "used design elements conveying the rich heritage and connection of the Shoals area to both W.C. Handy and the music styles that have become synonymous with the Muscle Shoals Sound." He continued, "the flow, the sound of music, and the river are historically important to the Shoals area, and W.C. Handy was famous for bringing these rich elements together. Lines of Blue are used to convey the ideas of both music and the Tennessee River at the Shoals. Red and yellow represent the deeper soul of the music and the climate of warm summer days and evenings against the background of deep purple nights."

The annual W.C. Handy Festival Design Competition draws participants of all ages. The winning design is featured on the front of the 2015 T-shirts, on the Official Handy Brochures, and on other marketing materials. Mr. Brackin has already autographed a limited number of the posters. There will also be unsigned posters available for purchase.

Posters and other concession items will be available at W.C. Handy Festival Headquarters located at the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts Annex, 217 East Tuscaloosa Street, in Florence, Alabama. Handy HQ hours of operation are 10:00 a.m. til 6:00 p.m. from July 13th until 16th. Starting July 17th, hours will be from 10:00 am til 10p.m. Monday through Saturday with delayed openings on Sundays. This year's official Handy Festival dates are July 17th through July 26th, 2015.

Handy Festival concessions are available by calling 256-766-7642, or 256-394-8674.
T-shirts and hats can also be found at:

W.C. Handy Home & Museum
620 W. College Street
Florence, AL 35630

Ye Olde General Store
219 North Seminary street
Florence, AL 35630

Jewell's Accessories Boutique
111 North Court Street
Florence, AL 35630

Counts Brothers Music
713 Waverly Avenue
Muscle Shoals, AL 35661

Zoey Belles Boutique
300 N Montgomery Avenue
Sheffield, AL 35660

The 2015 W. C. Handy Music Camp was held June 8-11, 2015

The 22nd W. C. Handy Music Camp was held June 8-11, 2015, on the campus of the University of North Alabama. Ken Watters (trumpet player and jazz composer) will serve as camp director. The faculty is composed of professional musicians with extensive performance experience. Camp curriculum will include theory, private lessons, sectionals, combo, big band, and improvisation performance history. The Music Camp will culminate with a concert on Thursday, June 11 at 6:00 pm.

The Music Camp is a joint effort of the W. C. Handy Music Festival and the University of North Alabama (UNA) and is hosted by Dr. Lloyd Jones and Dr. Edd Jones, both of whom have directed UNA's bands. For information and registration please contact the W.C. Handy Festival (256-766-7642) or by email at

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