The Memphis Blues

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composition date
W.C. Handy
George A. Norton

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Handy supported candidate Edward H. Crump in the 1909 Memphis mayoral race, and in order to help inspire black voters, he wrote a campaign song in the blues style while seated at Pee Wee’s Saloon on Beale Street. The song and the campaign were both successful. In 1912, Handy returned to the tune and rewrote it as a piano blues number, calling it “The Memphis Blues” and publishing it himself, making it the first published blues piece. Later that year the Theron A. Bennett Company in New York purchased all rights to the song for $50. They hired George A. Norton to write a lyric and, in 1913, the sheet music was a big success. In 1931, the new copyright holder, the Joe Rose Music Company, hired Peter De Rose and Charles Tobias to write a new lyric.

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