Handy, W[illiam] C[hristopher], The Saint Louis Blues. The First Successful Blues Published. Handy Bros. Music Co., Inc. (Home of the Blues), 1545 Broadway, New York: 1914.
6 pages, 12 in x 9 ¼ in, “Revised Edition Ukulele Arrangement.” (For ukulele tuned in the key of D). Illustrated cover in blue and orange with the 1914 skyline of St. Louis in the top half of the front cover, and a profile bust photograph of Marion Harris in the lower right-hand corner. Around Marion Harris’s photograph are stalks of blooming cotton, and between W. C. Handy’s name as composer and Harris’s photograph is a bale of cotton leaning against a pylon on the end of the pier – all in blue and white, as is the skyline of St. Louis. Above Handy’s name in the lower left-hand corner is the quotation, “The Most Widely Known Ragtime Composition”. Below this quote is “By W.C. Handy Composer of ‘The Memphis Blues’, “Sung by Marion Harris,” and “Columbia Record Number 2944”. The front cover design is signed by Natwick in the lower right-hand corner. On the back cover is a full-page advertisement for Blues, an Anthology, edited by W.C. Handy as published by Albert & Charles Boni and illustrated by Miguel Covarrubias.
W. C. Handy (1873-1958) changed musical history as well as contemporary musical art forms with The Saint Louis Blues. It has been said Marion Harris (1896-1944), the epitome of a white flapper, left the Victor company (because they would not allow her to record The Saint Louis Blues) in 1920 for Columbia, where she recorded another – and perhaps her greatest – jazz first. W.C. Handy remembered it in his autobiography: “Marion Harris, celebrated white blues singer, left a recording company that objected to her making a record of “St. Louis Blues”. Miss Harris had used our numbers in vaudeville for a long time, and she sang blues so well that people sometimes thought that the singer was colored.” As this happened in 1920, this edition could not have been printed before 1920, even though the copyright date in the plate is given as MCMXIV. Blues, an Anthology as advertised on the back cover was published in 1926 by Albert & Charles Boni. One may conclude that this copy was not published before 1926. Handy’s use of the rhythm of a habanera and by putting a section of a published blues in a minor key made The Saint Louis Blues a musical first. It is believed this edition is the fourth issue, corresponding to “St. Louis Blues 4” in the plate.
Condition is good, for a copy that was used, wear around the page edges. Front cover still mostly attached, with a fold separation at the foot. Sold with a signed and inscribed sheet, 10 cm x 20 cm: “To My good friend Robert Clairmont with many kind wishes W.C. Handy Oct. 22, 1930” in ink, mounted on cardboard. Robert Clairmont was a noted playboy, poet and sponsor of W. C. Handy and African-American musical events in mainstream venues at a time when such events were uncommon, a very important association and an example of the crucial function of music in the Civil Rights movement.