Learn to Play the Traditional Tune "St. Louis Blues"

Posted by Orville Johnson

“St. Louis Blues” was written and published by W.C. Handy in 1914. Handy’s biggest claim to fame was publishing 1912’s “Memphis Blues,” the first blues to be committed to sheet music, but “St. Louis Blues” would introduce blues to the pop music of the era and go on to become his most recorded and most popular number.

St. Louis Blues Excerpt: Arranging Folk and Blues Songs
Click to enlarge.

Handy claimed that the inspiration for it came from a conversation with a woman he met in St. Louis who, speaking about her husband, said, “That man’s got a heart like a rock cast in the sea,” which became an important line in the song. Here’s an eight-measure excerpt of an arrangement from Acoustic Guitar contributing editor Orville Johnson.

Excerpted from Arranging Folk and Blues Songs

Receive lessons, songs, advice, and news like this straight to your inbox

Join the Learn to Play the Traditional Tune "St. Louis Blues" discussion

Get all things acoustic guitar in your inbox with our free newsletters. Your E-mail: