William Wise Handy
Born: Birmingham, Alabama
Cousin to the world famous W.C. Handy. His distinguished music career spanned forty five years in Birmingham Schools. In 1957 Handy opened the only music store for "colored people" in Birmingham and operated the store until his death in 1977. One of his prized students was Joe Guy, regarded as one of Birmingham's most prolific trumpeters.
Source: Alabama Music Hall of Fame
Handy was born in Florence, Alabama, to the pastor of a small church in Guntersville, another small town in northeast central Alabama. Handy wrote in his 1941 autobiography, Father of the Blues, that he was born in the log cabin built by his grandfather William Wise Handy, who became an African Methodist Episcopal minister after emancipation. The log cabin of Handy's birth has been saved and preserved in downtown Florence.
Handy's parents and grandparents were among the four million slaves freed by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863. One in a sea of liberated souls, his paternal grandfather, William Wise Handy, became a well-respected citizen of Florence and the Methodist minister of his own church. Handy's father followed in those footsteps, and the same future was planned for the young Handy. It was the boy's maternal grandmother who hit upon his destiny by suggesting that her grandson's big ears symbolized a talent for music.
Frank Adams learned to play the clarinet from his older brother, Oscar Adams, Jr., Alabama's first Black Supreme Court Justice. Their father, Oscar Adams, Sr., played trombone with W. C. Handy, the Father of the Blues, at Alabama A & M in Huntsville.
Adams studied music under Birmingham's Maker of Musicians, John T. "Fess" Whatley and played in Whatley's band for two years.
Then came the giants of jazz: Duke Ellington, Lucky Millinder, Tiny Bradshaw and Sun Ra. On the Birmingham jazz scene, Adams formed his own band that featured his wife Dot as vocalist. He joined the Birmingham Heritage Band in 1976.
A respected clarinet and saxophone soloist, Adams credits his first band instructor, William Wise Handy for developing his love for music. He succeeded Handy at Lincoln Elementary School. Adams is the Program Specialist for Music Instruction for the Birmingham Public School System.
Frank Adams was a Charter Member of the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame in 1978.