NPR logo

'St. Louis Blues'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1069234/18712551" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
'St. Louis Blues'

'St. Louis Blues'

'St. Louis Blues'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1069234/18712551" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

NPR 100 Fact Sheet

Title: The St. Loius Blues

Artist: Words/music W.C. Handy

As performed by Bessie Smith

Reporter: Margaret Howze

Producer:

Editor:

Length: 15:30

Interviewees: Elliot Hurwitt, musicologist

Edwina Handy Da Costa, great granddaughter

Odetta, Singer

Recordings Used: St. Louis Blues

American singer Bessie Smith, known as the Empress of the Blues, circa 1935. i

American singer Bessie Smith, known as the Empress of the Blues, circa 1935. Three Lions/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Three Lions/Getty Images
American singer Bessie Smith, known as the Empress of the Blues, circa 1935.

American singer Bessie Smith, known as the Empress of the Blues, circa 1935.

Three Lions/Getty Images

In 1914, W.C. Handy, a middle-class African American, wrote "St. Louis Blues." It came at a time when Tin Pan Alley's popular songs began to fuse with folklore to explore the blues, the form that led to the full-fledged birth of American jazz.

NPR's Margaret Howze reports on the song's background and its definitive 1925 recording by Bessie Smith, with cornet accompaniment by Louis Armstrong.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.