Major Handy’s Comeback

inNewson April 10, 2013


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At MMRF, some artists we partner with have never had a career in music, and have only played for their home communities. For others, their music was their livelihood, derailed by a disaster like Katrina.

We received this note, printed below, from Major Handy’s wife, Frances, showing her appreciation for Music Maker’s help. Frances’ note depicts a story familiar to many musicians who made it through Katrina, only to realize that their lives and livelihoods were forever changed. Major and Frances had a successful career performing on Royal Caribbean Cruises and locally in Louisiana, until Katrina hit and canceled cruises leaving from New Orleans for a long while. When Hurricane Rita hit, any remaining gigs for Major were canceled, and work at his body shop dried up as well. The decrease in income meant they had to drop their health insurance. Only a few months after that, Frances was diagnosed with lymphoma.

Major and Frances struggled on their own for seven years, slipping through the cracks for government assistance and racking up debt and doubt that their lives would ever get back to how they had been. Now, Frances writes, “I wanted you to know our story, since that is what the Music Maker Relief Foundation is all about.  You have been a God send to us and I know that Major and I will be such an asset for MMRF … I am feeling hopeful, encouraged and excited about the future!!!  Thank you Tim.”

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Hi Tim,

I can’t thank you enough for calling me on Easter!!! I was delighted to hear from you and am very excited about  the possibilities with Musicmaker!!!!  Looks like Major’s music career got resurrected on Easter!!!

I know I have shared Major and my story with  you but I thought I would put it down on paper for you.

Major and I married in December 2004 and bought our home in April of 2005.  At the time Major and I had a wonderful deal going with Royal Caribbean.  Major had initially played on one cruise in 2002 along with other Louisiana artists.  The cruise director fell in love with Major and his  music, as did the guests on the ship, and wanted Major as a regular.  However, the cruises standard offer for musicians was not good for us, as Major had his body shop, plus the music gigs and I was working full time, so Major turned the offer down.  Well….Royal Caribbean did not stop until they literally made us an offer we could not refuse!!! We made what we considered very good money with RC and they treated us like stars.  In addition to that Major was able to sell Cd’s that he recorded live on the ship without the cruise ship taking any of the money.  In addition, while we were on the ship we had NO expenses!!!  Also being seen on the ship was wonderful promotion for Major which led to him playing regularly at conventions in NOLA. Guests from the ship hired Major to play a wedding in Hawaii (flew us over for a week!!!)in addition there were parties in San Diego, Seattle, Idaho and LA. One couple that hired us flew us to LaJolla, CA 1st class!!!

In the fall of 2005 we were VERY excited to have been booked in the Superdome for all of the Saints home games.  Unfortunately hurricane Katrina hit the day after the first game.  Katrina brought to a screeching halt all music gigs and therefore all money.  At the time we did not realize just how devastating Katrina would be for us.

We evacuated NOLA bringing with us our friends whose cottage we rented in the lower 9th ward right on the levy.  Our friends lived across the street from the cottage.  They were to be at our home in Lafayette with us for many months after Katrina as their homes were devastated.  Katrina hit the last weekend of August.  All of our NOLA gigs were of course cancelled for Sept. which we expected.  By October we knew that there would be no gigs and no cruise ships sailing from NOLA.  Royal Caribbean sailed from NOLA November through May in order to miss the hurricane season.  Following Katrina they did not return.  In fact, they have only returned in the last 2 years. That  2005 Major was booked for many conventions as the fall is big convention time in NOLA.  Also he was playing the SwampFest and the VooDoo festival.  Then of course there were all of the Saints game gigs that would not happen.

During this time Major did have some gigs in Lafayette and surrounding area.   However…and tragically a few weeks after Katrina, we were slammed with Rita to the west of us.  People do not realize that Rita was a more devastating hurricane than Katrina. What gigs Katrina did not wipe out Rita did.  Rita cancelled Major’s sugarcane festival gig in New Iberia, a convention at the Civic Center in Lake Charles.  Also that fall, Major was scheduled to  play a huge annual home and garden show at the Lafayette convention center.  However, the home and garden show was cancelled as the convention center had become home to so many who were now homeless as a result of Katrina.

After Katrina, Major literally busted his butt working in his shop to make ends meet.Because we had planned on being in NOLA until the following spring he had closed the body shop down so there was no business.  So he hustled some!!!!

We literally had NO income after the hurricanes.  We fell through all of the cracks when it came to getting any kind of assistance, so we got none.  We used all of our savings and maxed out credit cards (which to this day are unpaid)  to make ends meet. By the end of 2006 we could no longer make the payments for our health insurance.  I had always had health insurance with my job. Once I left my job and had to buy insurance on my own I was surprised at how expensive it was and what a high deductible there was, but felt so good about our music career and the money we were making that I chose to be happy that we could afford it.  However, when it came to  choosing between paying for our home, food or  electricity the insurance was the thing we had to cut.  Major and I had always been soooooo healthy and the insurance was of no help to us unless one of us had a catastrophic illness.  Well…..who knew!!!!  I had a catastrophic illness!!!!  I did not realize I had the cancer until the spring of 2007, about 6 months after I stopped paying my premium. Really sucks huh!!!!

Well, you know the rest.  We did survive!!!  I learned so much about myself and Major.  Through all of the hard times Major’s cheerfulness and sureness that everything was going to be okay kept me going.  In fact, he kept me happy!!

And now, here comes MusicMaker!!!!!

Major and I are back on our feet, although still in debt with no savings or heath insurance (Major had his medicare birthday last year!).  I am very careful with money and so grateful for every penny we have and for every opportunity we have.  I wanted you to know our story, since that is what the MusicMaker Relief Foundation is all about.  You have been a God send to us and I know that Major and I will be such an asset for MMRF.  You could look the world over and not find someone more cheerful, talented or hard working than Major.

I literally can not wait to get up there to visit all of you at MMRF.  I can’t wait for Major to get home to hear all about his trip. I am feeling hopeful, encouraged and excited about the future!!!  Thank you Tim.

Much love,


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Showing 2 comments
  • Polly

    Dear Frances and Major,
    After I left the wonderful party,I went to the Music Maker’s website to find out more about you and your music.
    Then I found this letter which moved me to speechless. The joyful energy that I felt with both of you,individually and as a couple was so inspiring;now, having read about the “challenges” that unexpectedly derailed your professional work, I am even more so impressed and grateful to have met you. Whether it is true love of each other and music,or the pursuit and realization of what is genuine, you convey the spirit of joy.I am so grateful to have met you,spent hours in your company and hearing your music.
    Thank you! I will see you in August!
    With warm regards and wishes for a safe trip home.

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