"MUSICAL HISTORY AND AMERICAN HISTORY THROUGH AND THROUGH": JAZZ GREAT W. C. HANDY'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY, FATHER OF THE BLUES, 1951, RARE FIRST EDITION WONDERFULLY INSCRIBED BY HIM IN THE YEAR OF PUBLICATION TO MUSIC HISTORIAN TED LIVINGSTON
HANDY, W.C. Father of the Blues: An Autobiography. New York: Macmillan, (1941). Octavo, original blue cloth, original dust jacket. $5200.
First edition of the legendary musician's autobiography, inscribed by Handy in the year of publication to a prominent music scholar, "To Ted Livingston, with pleasure I add my signature after a most delightful chat. W.C. Handy 7-8-1941," this copy containing a laid-in typed leaf, stated "Second Draft," of Livingston's work on Handy's classic song, "St. Louis Blues."
William C. Handy's "influence on stage music and jazz was profound; St. Louis Blues remains one of the most frequently recorded of all jazz pieces" (ANB). Born in 1873 to former slaves, William Christopher Handy "paved the way" for the blues (New Grove 8:144). Handy's autobiography "tells the story of a musical career that has affected as many lives as that of Bach, Brahms or Wagner… his story is musical history and American history through and through" (New York Times).
This rare copy is inscribed by Handy to journalist and ASCAP editor Ted Livingston, whose booklet on St. Louis Blues was published by ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) the same year as Father of the Blues and Handy's inscription herein. Laid-in is a single carbon leaf of typescript: with "Second Draft" in red typescript above the typed and underlined title, "St. Louis Blues." The text reads in part: "William C. Handy has well earned the title 'Father of the Blues' as composer of 'St. Louis Blues,' 'Memphis Blues,' 'Beal Street Blues' [sic], ''Joe Turner Blues'… It is said that 'St. Louis Blues' was first scribbled on a cigar box… Confident that he had something out of the ordinary in music he sought to interest the phonograph companies but they could see nothing in 'St. Louis Blues' and told him that Blues as a fad that would soon die. It was a long uphill battle for him but eventually… it was sweeping the country and has since become an American classic…" Livingston's collection of material on Handy is archived at Trinity College. "First Printing" on copyright page; with photographic frontispiece portrait of Handy, two pages of illustrations and numerous in-text and full-page musical score reproductions. Bookplate of "Bill and Ted Livingston."
Text very fresh, scant trace of edge-toning to original cloth; light edge-wear to laid-in typed leaf, along with edge-wear to colorful dust jacket minimally affecting spine title. An especially distinctive near-fine copy.