Tutwiler in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
W.C. Handy Encounters the Blues
Bandleader W. C. Handy was waiting for a train here at the Tutwiler railway station circa 1903 when he heard a man playing slide guitar with a knife and singing “Goin’ where the Southern cross’ the Dog.” Handy later published an adaptation of this song as “Yellow Dog Blues,” and became known as the “Father of the Blues” after he based many of his popular orchestrations on the sounds he heard in the Delta.
Tutwiler has been celebrated as “the birthplace of the blues” in honor of W. C. Handy’s encounter here with a solitary guitarist who was performing one of the earliest documented blues songs. Handy, who led an orchestra in Clarksdale from 1903 to 1905, traveled throughout the Delta and beyond, playing dances for both white and African American audiences, but he began to incorporate blues into his repertoire only after hearing the Tutwiler guitarist and a string band in Cleveland, Mississippi. Although Handy’s writings never gave a specific date for the Tutwiler event, the U. S. Senate accepted 1903 when it declared 2003 the centennial “Year of the Blues.”
In his 1941 autobiography, Father of the Blues, Handy wrote: “A lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept.
Another pivotal figure in blues history, Sonny Boy Williamson No. 2, lies buried two miles northwest of here beside the old Whitfield M. B. Church site. A world-renowned singer, harmonicist, and songwriter, Williamson played a pioneering role in broadcasting the blues on the Helena,
Other former Tutwiler performers include banjo and fiddle player Tom Dumas, whose music harked back to Handy’s era, and pianist-guitarist Lee Kizart. Both were documented by folklorist Bill Ferris here in 1968 and were featured in the 2009 Ferris book Give My Poor Heart Ease.
Erected 2009 by the Mississippi Blues Commission. (Marker Number 95.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Blues Trail marker series.
Location. 34° 0.871′ N, 90° 25.92′ W. Marker is in Tutwiler, Mississippi, in Tallahatchie County. Marker is at the intersection of 2nd Street and Front Street, on the right when traveling north on 2nd Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 100 2nd Street, Tutwiler MS 38963, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 15 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Legendary Home of the Blues (within shouting distance Emmett Till Murder Trial (approx. 4.7 miles away); Tallahatchie County Confederate Monument (approx. 4.7 miles away); Tallahatchie County (approx. 5½ miles away); Hopson Plantation (approx. 11.9 miles away); Cotton Pickin' Blues (approx. 11.9 miles away); Clarksdale (approx. 14.6 miles away); Clinton Melton (approx. 14.8 miles away).
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker.
Also see . . .
1. W.C. Handy Bio. (Submitted on October 27, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
2. Wikipedia article on W.C. Handy. (Submitted on October 27, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • Entertainment •
Credits. This page was last revised on August 30, 2017. This page originally submitted on October 27, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 200 times since then and 18 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on October 27, 2015, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.