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From the Video Archives:

Click to watch
Music Festival History

Click to watch
Father of the Blues

Click to watch
Handy's First Music Teacher

Handy Playing St Louis Blues

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

 Last year’s W.C. Handy Music Festival was
   July 21st through 30th, 2017.

Design Competition 2018

To submit your artwork to compete to be the official W.C. Handy Music Festival 2018 design, please click on the link below and print out the rules and entry form.

W. C. Handy Music Festival Design Competition Form

The winning design will represent the W.C. Handy Music Festival on concession items such as t-shirts, posters, buttons, and
other memorabilia, as well as in several advertising formats.

Rick Hall

The board members and staff of the Music Preservation Society and the W.C. Handy Festival will keenly feel the loss of the legendary Rick Hall and send our heartfelt condolences to the Hall family.  We have been grateful for Rick's support through the years, and we will continue to hear his personal touch in the many songs that he influenced. We were honored to host his book signing during the W.C. Handy Festival shortly after release of "The Man From Muscle Shoals:  My Journey from Shame to Fame", in which told about his experiences in the music business.  Rick Hall was the catalyst which help to launch the Shoals to international attention, leading to this area's moniker, the "Hit Recording Capital of the World".  Our prayers and support are with Linda, Rodney, and the entire Hall family.

The Music Preservation Society, Inc. and the W.C. Handy Music Festival Committee

Mundell Lowe

   The son of a Baptist minister, Lowe grew up on a farm in Laurel, Mississippi. He started playing guitar when he was eight years old, with his father and sister acting as his first teachers. When he was thirteen, he ran away from home to play with bands. Occasionally his father would find him, bring him back home, and warn him about the dangers of whiskey. At sixteen Lowe worked in Nashville on the Grand Ole Opry radio program. He was a member of the Jan Savitt orchestra until serving in the military during World War II.
   At basic training, he became friends with John Hammond, a jazz fan who organized weekend jam sessions. He performed in an Army dance band while in Guadalcanal. After his discharge, he called Hammond, looking for work, and Hammond sent him to Ray McKinley. He spent two years with McKinley's big band in New York City. He joined the Benny Goodman orchestra, then worked intermittently for the next few years at Café Society and other clubs in New York.
   In 1950 he was hired by NBC as a staff musician. His first work at NBC was with Cy Coleman. He and Ed Shaughnessy were members of the Today Show band for thirteen years. Lowe acted in an episode of the Armstrong Circle Theatre television show that included Walter Matthau and live music by Doc Severinsen.
   On the weekends he played jazz, sometimes getting permission from NBC to leave for six-month periods. In the jazz world he played with Jimmy Dorsey and Tommy Dorsey, Red Norvo, Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Billie Holiday, Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Charles Mingus, and Bill Evans. He composed and arranged for NBC before moving to California in 1965.
   He wrote music for the TV shows Hawaii Five-O, Starsky & Hutch, and the The Wild Wild West, and the movies Billy Jack and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask. He recorded with Carmen McRae and Sarah Vaughan. During the 1980s he worked with André Previn, Tete Montoliu, and the Great Guitars. For four years he was music director of the Monterey Jazz Festival.
   Lowe has also worked with Benny Carter, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Hodges, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Lee Konitz, Peggy Lee, Fats Navarro, Shirley Scott, Dinah Washington, and Ben Webster .He was responsible for introducing pianist Bill Evans to record producer Orrin Keepnews, resulting in Evans's first recordings as a leader.
   He was a regular featured performer at the annual W. C. Handy Music Festival and a member of the W.C. Handy Jazz All-Stars. During the late 1970s and early 1980s he taught at the Dick Grove Music Workshop, later the Grove School of Music, in Studio City, California. He taught twelve-tone composition, film scoring, and guitar at the Guitar Institute of Technology in Hollywood.
   In 1998, he was inducted into the Mississippi Music Hall of Fame. In 1999, Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, gave him an honorary Doctorate of Arts.On July 17, 2009, he returned home to Laurel, Mississippi.
   In recognition of a lifetime of musical achievement he was given a key to the city and honored by Mayor Melvin Mack, who proclaimed July 18, 2009 Mundell Lowe Day.

   Lowe was married to singer 
BettyBennett, his third wife, for 42 years. In his last years, the couple lived in San Diego. He played on her album The Song Is You (1990) with Bob Cooper, George Cables, Monty Budwig, and Roy McCurdy. He died on December 2, 2017, at the age of 95.

Miss out on getting a Festival T-shirt this year? Don't despair, our ebay store is open and ready for business! Many sizes to choose from in our store, 2017 and previous years too. Click below to see all we have to offer!
(Local purchase/pickup in Florence is available in our office on Court Street)

Make plans now to attend this year’s
W.C. Handy Music Festival
July 20
th through 29th, 2018.

Thanks to our sponsors who have already contributed to the upcoming 2018 Festival!
Colbert County Tourism and Convention Bureau

 Contact the W.C. Handy Music Festival at any time by mail at: 
Music Preservation Society, Inc.
P.O. Box 1827
Florence AL 35631,
By phone:
Office: 256-766-7642

Drew White, Executive Director: 256-577-1363,
on Facebook,
or at  

You can also drop by to visit our office at:
 409 North Court Street
Suite #11
Florence, AL

Festival News and Updates


Become a
"Friend of the Festival"!

The Music Preservation Society Inc., which sponsors the W. C. Handy Music Festival every year, is a 501 c(3) non-Profit organization. We are heavily reliant on gifts, donations and grants to organize and present the Festival annually. As a Friend of the Festival you can help ensure that this event continues uninterrupted for years to come. Please click on the PayPal button below and contribute today.
All donations are 100% tax deductible.

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

Florence Lauderdale Tourism Office
McFarland Park
200 Jim Spain Drive
Florence, AL 35630

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

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

Counts Brothers Music
713 Waverly Avenue
Muscle Shoals, AL 35661

Internet Access during the Festival for the Headquarters Office was provided by the Muscle Shoals Public Library. Thanks to Denita Lester and Christina Johnson for their help in getting us online!

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:

  • Alabama Event of the year
  • Top Ten Event in Alabama by Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel
  • Top Twenty Event by Southeast Tourism Society
  • Top 50 Must-See Alabama Festivals for the Year of Music
  • Top 100 Event in North America by the American Bus Association
  • Alabama Mountain Lakes Peak Award Winner
  • Three-time Cultural Olympiad Designee
  • Appalachia/National Geographic Geo-Tourism Featured Site
  • Local Secret! Big Find! by
  • Winner of numerous Addy awards for the Festival campaign by Shoals Advertising Federation


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!


Microwave Dave teaches children how to "Jazz It Up With Trash"

Music Preservation Society, Inc.
and the W.C. Handy Festival Steering Committee 2017
thank the following for special support during the
2017 W.C. Handy Music Festival

for volunteering their services to work behind the scenes before and during the Festival:

Alison Stanfield
Tim Leigh
Byron Bower
Dick Cooper
Suzanne Bolton
Drew White
Wayne Chaney
Penny Freeman
Randy Bruce
John Aiken
Chad Smith

Selwyn Jones

Dr. Felice Green
Dr. Robert Garfrerick
Dr. Lloyd Jones
Dr. Edd Jones

To our tireless webmaster and office workers

Edward Corrigan
Monique Meade

Alex Beumer

And our hardworking Handy Interns

Alijah (AJ) Cole
Breon Lipscomb
Eric Yarbrough
Elizabeth Irvine

Jha’lisha Weakley
Kaitlin Belue
Maddie Morris
Oliver Irvine

Quantino Love

Schyler Thompson

Sidney White

Talia Jones

The Festival would not be a success without its sponsors.  Although there are too many to name, special appreciation goes to:

Shoals Solid Waste Authority
City of Florence
Colbert County Commission
Lauderdale County Commission
Sheffield Redevelopment Authority
City of Muscle Shoals
Local Ford Dealers
Firestone Building Products
Regions Bank
Dick’s Sporting Goods
University of North Alabama
Robert Graham, Bret Jennings, Billy Burns
Handy Brothers Music
Florence-Lauderdale Tourism
Colbert County Tourism
Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa
Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts
Coca Cola Bottling
Printers and Stationers, Inc.
Bohannon Pest Control
Long Lewis Ford of the Shoals Rental Department
Dick’s Sporting Goods
Florence Federal Credit Union
NACOLG (Keith Jones and Nathan Willingham)
Florence Recycling
Courier Journal
All television and radio stations who helped to promote the Festival
W.C. Handy Home & Museum
Kennedy Douglass Center for the Arts

Much appreciation to our amazing event coordinators:

A.B. Brooks
Aaron Freeman
Alex Wittscheck
Alison Stanfield
Alonda Crosslin
Alvelyn Sanders
Amanda Chadwell
April Rogers
Barry Griffith
Beth Ridgeway
Betty Burdine
Bill Lyons
Bill Lyons

BJ Price
Briana Butler

Bryan Montgomery
Carlisle Sandy

Carra-ellen Russell

Carroll Collins
Casey Eggleston
Christi Britten
Dave M. Smith
Davian Talley
David Johnson
David Russell
Debbie Bradford

Debbie Shaw

Dixie Griffin
Drew White
Felice J. Green
Felicia Turner

Fonda Skipworth
Glenda Beavers

Greg Crenshaw
Gwen Woods

Haley Brink

Howard Zeff
Howell Sledge

James Barnett

James Ed Champion
James Counts

Jamie Barrier

Jayme Alred

Jeff Beech
Malachi Cole
Jennifer Keeton

Jennifer Reding
Jerra Dover Burden
Jim Bedsole
Jim Grinnell
Jim Stanphill
Jimmy Oliver
Jodi Gilreath
Joe Riddle
Johnny Belew
Judy Hood
Julia Boughner
Keith Jones

Kelli Lambert

Kenn Orr
Kenneth Brooks
LaTonya Woods
Laura King
Leslie Reed
Libby Counts
Linda May
Lisa Pace

Lisa Patterson

Lorenza Collier
Marianne Leigh
Mary Settle Cooney
Matthew Connolly
May Woodie Christopher
Mickey Megginson
Mike Adams
Nancy Cabler

Nancy Sanford

Ninon Parker

Patrick McDonald

Paula Lindsey
Paula Offutt
Penny Freeman
Rachael Mansell
Randy Pettus
Rhonda Reaves
Robert Cumbie
Robert Garfrerick
Ronnie James
Ruby Tiggs
Russell Gulley
Scott Silbert
Shane Kilby
Shannon Hice Davis
Steve Price
Susie Malone
Susie Rickard
Tammie Collins
Teresa Garner
Terry Mashburn
Timmy Ray

Toni Brooks 

Tony Fowler
Tonya Holly
Tori Bailey
Verna Brennon

Vicki Hall

Wesley Richardson


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