Capt. John Handy Day

June 24, 1900 – January 12, 1971

A tribute to the great New Orleans altoist

Alto-saxophonist John Handy was born June 24, 1900 in Pass Christian, Mississippi.

Handy played clarinet during his early days, switching to alto-sax in 1928.

While active in New Orleans for decades, he was obscure outside of the city until he made his recording debut in 1960.

Playing alto in a colorful and forceful manner, Handy paved the way for the instrument in New Orleans jazz.

He recorded with Punch Miller, Paul Barnes, the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, Kid Sheik Cola, Kid Howard, the December Band (an all-star New Orleans jazz band), the Eagle Brass Band, Keith Smith, Kid Thomas Valentine, and his own combos during the final decade of his life before his passing in 1971 at the age of 70.

On these two film clips, Capt. John Handy takes a brilliant solo on 1965’s “Blues In C” and tears apart “Ice Cream,” both from 1965.


Captain John Handy, alto sax
Kid Thomas Valentine, trumpet
Jim Robinson, trombone
Sammy Rimington, clarinet
Bill Sinclair, piano
Dick Griffith, banjo
Mouldy Dick McCarthy, bass
Sammy Penn, drums, vocals

-Scott Yanow