June 24, 1900 – Jan 12, 1971
and Jazz Funeral
May 4, 2004
Live Oak Cemetery
Pass Christian, MS
Captain John Handy, internationally famous alto sax player, Negro jazz musician, composer, and recording artist — inducted posthumously into the Mississippi Coast Jazz Society’s Hall of Fame. He died in 1971 at his Pass Christian home shortly after his celebrity appearance at the first New Orleans Jazz Fest. At his death, he was honored with two funerals, one in New Orleans, and one in Pass Christian where the first New Orleans style funeral procession on the Gulf Coast was held, having gathered more than 4,000 mourners and participants to “send him home.” The jazz great was even greater than he could imagine as he was eulogized in Life Magazine and a special television documentary produced by TV Channel 13 called “Last Journey of a Jazz Man.”
During the 1930s to 1960s, Handy’s band was known as the Louisiana Shakers, but like many musicians of his time, he sat in with many other famous groups. His father and mother taught their children how to play instruments, with young John Handy mastering the drums at 12, and moved onto a violin, the clarinet and eventually his own version of an alto sax. However, it was late in life, during the 1960s, when he made most of his recordings famous and while making appearances and recording tours to the Far East and to Europe.
Some of his best friends were Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Papa Celestin, as well as others.
His unique musical style was a great influence on New Orleans Revival Jazz and as a trendsetter for Rhythm and Blues. Famed Handy tradition numbers such as Handy’s Gulf Coast Boogie and Cap’n’s Blues are still played ‘round the jazz-world.
Captain Handy’s final public appearance, just several months prior to his death, was at the New Orleans Jazz Fest in April 1970 where he shared top billing with Mahalia Jackson. He has been remembered in tribute each year since 1999 for being one of the local musicians who became a living spirit of traditional jazz and blues as celebrated by the Jazz In The Pass annual JazzFest.
Remembering John Handy's 1971 funeral procession in Pass Christian where more than 4000 friends, family, fans, and the curious attended.