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In 1903, W.C. Handy was waiting for a train in the town of Tutwiler, Mississippi. The train was late and so he fell asleep on the hard wooden bench of the station. He was awakened by an old raggedy man scratching the strings of an old guitar. He was singing about “goin’ to where the Southern cross the dog.”

Handy asked him what the song meant and was told that it was about the tracks of the Yahoo and Mississippi Railroad (which the locals called the yellow dog) where it crossed the tracks of the Southern Railroad in Moorehead, Mississippi. Handy thought this was the weirdest song he had ever heard, but he put it to music and the blues was born.

Handy has been called the “Father of the Blues” although he said that he didn’t invent them, but only presented them to the world.

The blues, as a musical style, is the foundation for most 20th century music including rock and roll, jazz, and even hip-hop. In 1909, Handy moved his band to Memphis and settled on Beale Street, the area which today is known as W.C. Handy Park. It was there in Memphis where he composed his two most famous...

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