The story of W.C. Handy first hearing the blues in Tutwiler, Mississippi, in 1903:

Headed (presumably) to Clarksdale, Handy's train was several hours late. He was trying to catch some shuteye when he noticed that a  "lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plucking a guitar beside me while I slept."

As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of a guitar in a  manner  popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who use steel bars. The effect was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly.

"Goin' where the Southern cross' the Dog"

The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the  guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard. The tune stayed in my mind. When the  singer paused, I leaned over and asked him what the words meant. He rolled his eyes,  showing a trace of mild amusement.

Perhaps I should have known, but he  didn't  mind explaining. At Moorhead, the east and west bound met and crossed the north and south bound trains four times a day. This fellow was going where the Southern railroad crossed the Yazoo Delta railroad, (nicknamed the "Yellow  Dog"), and he didn't care who knew it.

PHOTO: Sandor Guylas (used by kind permission)

In Tutwiler today, a series of murals near the old train station (now called "Railroad Park") depicts scenes from the town's history. The rendering of Handy's meeting with the blues singer is shown in the photo above. The photographer, Sandor Guylas, offers more great shots (and links) at; highly recommended.

Railroad Park:

In Tutwiler... where the Blues was born

In 1903 while touring the Delta and playing musical engagements, W.C. Handy was waiting for a train in Tutwiler.  At the train depot an unknown musician was singing while sliding a knife blade down the strings of his guitar.  The sound and effect were unforgettable to Handy and became the music known worldwide as “The Blues”.

Here some local boys play a game at the site of the foundation where the train depot once stood.  A commemorative mural graces the wall across the tracks.

The photo and text immediately above are from, and are reproduced here, with thanks, in accordance with their guidelines for photo usage. Their website also features numerous excellent shots of Tutwiler and other blues-related images.

Where the Southern cross' the Dog:

PHOTO: Sandor Guylas (used by kind permission)

This photo (from May 2005) shows where the Southern RR actually crossed the Yazoo Delta RR.
Check out Sandor Guylas' additional photos of Tutwiler, Moorhead, and elsewhere.






Presentation of the text is paraphrased from The History of the Blues

by Francis Davis. Used by permission.


Text copyright 1941, renewed 1969, Handy Bros. Music, New York, NY.  Used by permission.

 From "Father of the Blues" by W. C. Handy
Published by DaCapo Press (Harper Collins Publishers) New York, NY

 Copyright Renewed


 Text includes lyrics  from the song

 "Yellow Dog Blues" by W. C. Handy.

 Published by Handy Brothers Music Co., Inc., New York, NY

 International Copyright Secured

 EMI Music Publishing Co., LTD.

 European Representatives


 For further information on W. C. Handy

 contact Handy Brothers Music Co., Inc. New York, NY