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                                           About Us



The Music Preservation Society, Inc.

presents the 36th annual

W.C. Handy Music Festival

in honor of

Florence (the Shoals), Alabama’s


Composer, Publisher, Musician, and


   As William Christopher (“W.C.”) Handy, the "Father of the Blues", describes it on page 1 of his autobiography “Where the Tennessee River, like a silver snake, winds her way through the red clay hills of Alabama, sits high on these hills my home town, Florence. Here I came into the world…”  On page 14 he remembers, “When I was no more than ten years, I could catalogue almost any sound that came to my ears… There was a French horn concealed in the breast of the blue jay. The tappings of the woodpecker were to me the reverberations of a snare drum. The bullfrog supplied an effective bass. In the raucous call of the distant crow I would hear the jazz motif. The purple night would awaken a million crickets with their obligatos of mournful sound…  As I grew older I added the saxophonic wailing of the moo-cows and the clarinets of the moody whippoorwills.  All built up within my consciousness a natural symphony. This was the primitive prelude to the mature melodies now recognized as the blues. Nature was my kindergarten.”
   Handy found music wherever he traveled, and some of these experiences are described on pages 52 and 53.  “While entering Havana harbor (in February 1900)… “The music of the island intrigued me...  I sought out the small, shy bands that played behind closed shutters on dark out of the way streets where the passion flower bloomed in the heart of the night.  These fascinated me because they were playing a strange native air, new and interesting to me. More than thirty years later I heard that rhythm again. By then it had gained respectability in New York and had acquired a name – the Rumba.”
   Handy’s inimitable ear is what enabled him to interpret music in an entirely innovative way.  Although w
e lost Mr. Handy in 1958, his music lives on.  The Music Preservation Society extends, as always, deepest appreciation to the family of William Christopher Handy for the continued support of and participation in the W.C. Handy Music Festival.  We are honored to welcome Dr. Carlos Handy, the grandson of W.C. Handy to the festival this year, and we count it a privilege to celebrate with him and his wife, Maribel, the life and the music left by Florence, Alabama, native William Christopher Handy. (By Tori Bailey, Festival Chair, with contributions by Dr. Carlos Handy, Grandson)



About the W. C. Handy Music Festival & Music Preservation Society
By: Tori Bailey, Festival Chair

   The 36th annual W.C. Handy Music Festival honors the legacy of William Christopher Handy, and pays homage to the incredible range of music that has been and continues to be created in and inspired by the Muscle Shoals area.  The Shoals has been the birthplace of internationally recognized songs - and internationally respected musicians, songwriters, and performers - many of whom have had an enduring influence on generations of artists. 
One who has had such an impact is Sheffield, Alabama native Willie Ruff, a musician, author, educator, lecturer, and fo
unding director of the Duke Ellington Fellowship Program at Yale University.  We are looking forward to welcoming him home to Alabama!  In 1982, it was Dr. Ruff and Dr. David Mussleman of Florence, who had the idea to create the W.C. Handy Music Festival.  Dr. Mussleman then went on to serve as the first president of the Music Preservation Society, Inc. (MPS), a non-profit organization formed to preserve, promote, and present the musical heritage of Northwest Alabama. 
Since then, MPS has presented the W.C. Handy Music Festival, which has become the largest tourism attraction in northwest Alabama with hundreds of events held during ten days (not including “Pre-or Post- Festival events) at the end of the month of July.  The Festival consists of musical performances, plays, shows, athletic events, and exhibits.  Handy events are planned by coordinators, and are supported by tourism, businesses, local and state government, service providers, city and county departments, and the many people who work together to make it happen.  
We particularly thank the Shoals Solid Waste Authority for their commitment to this Festival.  We value that partnership and will continue to encourage recycling, and responsible care of our environment.   Handy Headquarters, open at the Kennedy Douglass Annex from Monday, July 17th until Sunday, July 30th is where concession items are available, along with assistance in planning which activities to attend during your Handy Festival week.  For updates about the Handy Festival, visit, find us on Facebook, or visit our new offices at 409 North Court Street, Suite 11, in Florence, Alabama.  Have a happy Handy!  Tori Bailey, Chair

Music Preservation Society, Inc.
Board of Directors, 2016-2017

Gil Self, President
Tori Bailey, President Elect

Suzanne Bolton, Vice President
Alison Stanfield, Secretary
Tim Leigh, Treasurer
Felice Green, immediate past President
Byron Bower
Dick Cooper
Matt Golley
David Johnson
Jimmy Nutt
Chad Smith
Drew White, Executive Director


W.C. Handy Festival Steering Committee 2017

Tori Bailey, Festival Chair
Gil Self
Alison Stanfield
Tim Leigh
Dr. Felice Green
Dick Cooper
Suzanne Bolton
Chad Smith
Drew White
Trip Bower
Penny Freeman

Britton Watson
Susie Malone

Ed Corrigan


W.C. Handy Festival Music Committee 2017

Suzanne Bolton, Committee Chair
Dick Cooper, Committee Co-Chair
Tori Bailey, Festival Chair
Randy Bruce
Trip Bower
Selwyn Jones
John Aiken
Shawn Patrick

Drew White


The names of our W.C. Handy Festival Event Coordinators are also available upon request by calling 256-766-7642.  The Music Preservation Society, Inc. is a not for profit organization.  Sponsors who wish to may make checks payable to the Music Preservation Society, Inc. will be invoiced through the Handy Festival and provided with our tax identification number.  Messages may be left for the individuals listed above by calling our MPS/Festival office at 256-766-7642.



W.C. Handy Festival Recognition

The first music festival dedicated to W. C. Handy was held in 1982 in the Florence, Ala. (Shoals area). Since then, each year the Festival has attracted a growing number of talented musicians from around the world, who draw increasing numbers of visitors from many states and countries to the Shoals area, providing an economic tourism boost to the state of Alabama. The W. C. Handy Music Festival is recognized as:

  • An Alabama Top 20 Event
  • Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 Events for the months of July, August, September each year since 1986
  • Geotourism MapGuide to Appalachia Featured Site
  • Three time Cultural Olympiad Regional Designee
  • Southeast Tourism Top 21 Event for July
  • "Local Secret, Big Find"
  • Top 100 Event in North America


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