Known as the father of the blues, W.C. Handy (1873–1958) began his career as a minstrel, and ended it as a revered Memphis bandleader, composer, and entrepreneurial visionary who brought the blues into mainstream society and commercial viability. He is credited with transforming African American folk music that was handed down only through oral tradition into a purely American genre of music. Against all odds Handy forged a successful career in the post Civil War South; he was the first African American to publish his own music, and in 1914 wrote “St. Louis Blues,” the most recorded song in the first half of the 20th century.