1903. The place: Tutwiler, a tiny town in the Mississippi Delta, halfway between Greenwood and Clarksdale. It is dusk and the sky is rich in summer color. The slight breeze, when it visits, is warm and wet with humidity.
The train is late, so W.C. Handy does the only thing he can do: he waits patiently, trying to stay cool, passing the time with idle thoughts, and scanning the scenery for anything that might prove the least bit interesting. Finally succumbing to boredom, Handy dozes off…
“… Life suddenly took me by the shoulder and wakened me with a start. A lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me as I slept. His clothes were rags; his feet peeped out of his shoes. His face had on it some of the sadness of the ages. As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar… The effect was unforgettable… The singer repeated the line, Goin’ where the Southern cross the Dog three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard.”
– W.C. Handy
Dark Was the Night (Cold Was the Ground)
“Suffering and hard luck were the midwives that birthed these songs. The blues were conceived in aching hearts.”
– W.C. Handy
[Excerpts taken from A Century of the Blues by Robert Santelli, Martin Scorsese Presents: The Blues]