W. C. HANDY 2363 Park Av


Opened 1947  .  Seats 1102.  Closed 1955  .  Demolished 2012

Chalmers Cullins, Edward Cullins, Nate Evans, Kemmons Wilson and Bob Bostwick were all partners in the W. C. Handy Theatre.  The Handy featured top live entertainment and movies - along with late shows "for Whites".  After years of sitting idle, the historic Handy was demolished in 2012.

The HANDY is listed in the 1948 through 1958 Memphis Directories.


The Handy hosted the finest in African-American entertainment, and did so on a weekly basis.  In early 1953 alone, Little Esther Phillips, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, Lloyd Price, and Ivory Joe Hunter played the Handy.


W. C. Handy - boarded up Marquee W. C. Handy ... Very sad...

Demo has begun 2012


Demolition 2012

Handy Sign

Handy Auditorium



    W. C. Handy Marquee

Handy Opens - 1947

1947 Opening Ad

1951 Ad

          1954 Ad



    Architects Drawing 1946 "Intent to Build" 1946  

Handy "Opening"

Vintage Ad  


Roy Johnson, Memphis 10-21-2016:  "...How many of you ever went to the Midnight Rambles at the W. C. Handy Theatre on Park Ave, just east of Airways?  I recall that in 1952 and 1953 my old Tech High buddy, Joe Black and I went several times.  If my memory is correct, the shows were held on Sunday nights starting at midnight.  I remember seeing such performers as Lionel Hampton, Savannah Churchill, Peg Leg Bates, and Wynonie Harris.  I believe that Wynonie performed the first time Joe and I went t the Rambles and that Red Boren (Tech 1952) was with us.  In his act Wynonie was moving all over the stage while singing.  It has been reported that Elvis said that he got some ideas from Wynonie's performances.

Donald Canestrari, Memphis:  "...During the late 1940s, the W.C.Handy Theater would have a "Midnight Ramble".  This was a black only theater at the time, but when the prime time show was over, a white only crowd would come in about 11:00 or 12:00 p.m. to see a top name orchestra.  I remember very well seeing the Count Basie Band, the Lionel Hampton Band,  and Lucky Millinder Band.  Those musicians would play their hearts out to a packed house.  I remember how entertaining Lionel Hampton was."

Julie Best Erwin , 10/2011:  "The Handy featured live music as well as movies" - Grand-daughter, Chalmers Cullins

Gail Collins, 10/2011:  "...My grandfather...Chalmers Cullins, his brother, Edward, Nate Evans, Kemmons Wilson and his partner were all partners in the WC Handy. WC Handy opened the first night and many top bands played there. There was also a Saturday night Talent Show. The Handy was built after several black leaders in the community asked for a large nice theater to bring their out of town friends to....desegregation made the need for such a theater fade away..." 



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