Henderson County, Kentucky



The silver trumpet resting in its hard worn case proves that the old story is much more than hot air blown from a horn. The rumors are true. Famed musician W. C. HANDY did give his own polished instrument to a Henderson youth almost 50 years ago.

"W. C. HANDY gave me the trumpet. It was his trumpet, a King trumpet, silver with a gold bell," former Henderson resident Bobby Gayle WINSTEAD said. "I thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened."

The auspicious event occurred when HANDY returned to Henderson in October of 1953 for a series of programs designed to raise money for a black swimming pool named in his honor.

"The 79-year-old artist was met by a delegation as he stepped from a train that brought him from New York and was taken to the home of Dr. and Mrs. J. G. GLASS, 836 Clay Street," the Henderson Morning Gleaner reported.

"HANDY expressed pleasure in coming back to the city he always called his home and spent hours recalling the friends he knew. It was here that he met and married his wife (Elizabeth PRICE), who died years ago."

Special events during his visit included a concert at Barret High School and a banquet at the Soaper Hotel. In addition to HANDY, Hugh E. SANDEFUR, Roy TWOMBLEY, Virgil DIEM, Frances ARMSTRONG and the Barret concert choir also appeared on the banquet program.

"TWOMBLEY predicted that HANDY'S name will remain in the gallery of fame with other great artists because he, like they, has given the world something which spawns human hopes and aspirations," according to the newspaper.

The day's events were capped off with HANDY'S performance at the Kraver Theater. The evening's events also included Governor A. B. "Happy" CHANDLER'S rendition of HANDY'S popular spiritual, "Steal Away to Jesus."

A musician, composer and publisher, HANDY traced the beginning of his career to Henderson. The Alabama-born artist listed here for about a decade around the turn of the century, with his residence on South Ingram Street.

"I didn't write any songs in Henderson but it was there I realized that experiences I had, things I had seen and heard could be set down in a kind of music characteristic of my race," HANDY wrote in his autobiography.

It was during the local celebration of "W. C. HANDY Day" -- following the Barret concert -- that a young Bobby Gayle WINSTEAD met the man recognized as the "father of the blues."

HANDY'S appearance in the school's gymnasium included a performance of his celebrated "St. Louis Blues" as well as a "pep-talk to do what we wanted to do in life," WINSTEAD said, recalling that he was most likely a freshman in high school that year. The two were standing outside the school's band room when they struck up a conversation.

"I was talking to him and I played trumpet in the high school band," said WINSTEAD, who recently moved to Dawson Springs. "We got to talking about the history of Henderson, and I had learned a lot about Henderson, and he handed me the trumpet and said: 'Good Luck, I hope you have as good luck as I had with it.'"

He played HANDY'S trumpet for about three years. "It had a great sound," WINSTEAD noted. "It had a higher pitch than a coronet." He gave the instrument away after his father bought him a new coronet for Christmas during his senior year.

"Dr. VEAL was my mother's doctor and he was so good to her," WINSTEAD recalled. "At one time Dr. VEAL had the German Band that played in Central Park. Mother said, 'Son, you don't play the trumpet anymore, why don't you give that to Dr. Veal.'" So he did. WINSTEAD presented the trumpet to local internist Mal VEAL, who was also his, his father's and his grandmother's physician.

"I remember it," said Martha VEAL, the doctor's widow. "And I still have the trumpet. He thought my husband would appreciate it, and he did, and he played on it."

In addition to playing in the German Band, VEAL played with Benny GOODMAN as well as Doc STOCKER and Hugh SANDEFUR.

"He started playing when he was 14 and played his first professional job when he was 16," the Henderson resident said. "He played at the Trocadero here and just every place you can think of. He was a good musician."

Skipping a generation, Garrett VEAL, 12, son of Murray and Joni VEAL of Henderson, has now expressed an interest in the famous horn. "My grandson's been playing on it a little bit," Mrs. VEAL said. "And he's hoping to take lessons."

by Libby Keeling
Reprinted with permission from The Gleaner, Thursday, 15 Jun 2000

Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS