Focused on Mississippi: Where the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog

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We’re making a stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail in the middle of the Delta where two railroads crossed. That intersection is important to blues music. It’s where the Southern crossed the Yellow Dog. If passenger trains still ran today like they did in the early 20th Century we’d know exactly where that is. But even if you don’t know, you’re about to find out.

George Holland the Mayor of Moorhead tells us, “Soldiers were in Germany years ago. And one way to find out whether they had any home boys there, people from the South, they would ask, ‘Does anybody know where the Southern crossed the Yellow Dog?’ ”

Mayor Holland has such an interest in that bit of history because his town, Moorhead, is the town where that famous railroad intersection is located. There is a Blues Trail marker and a Historical Marker that attests to the fact that the right-angle section of railroad track is more than just so much iron.

Why is it important? The gist of it is, Memphis bandleader, the Father of the Blues, W.C. Handy, got his introduction blues in 1903 while he was waiting on a train up the track in Tutwiler, and was fascinated by an old black man singing and playing a guitar on the depot’s loading dock.

Mayor Holland picks up the story. “And he was picking a tune and singing a song, ‘I’m going were the Southern crosses the Yellow Dog.’ And W. C Handy took that and he made the Yellow Dog Rag.”

Quick explanation, the “Southern” was the east-west rail line that crossed the “Yazoo-Delta” rail line at Moorhead. Yazoo-Delta picked up the name “Yellow Dog” because its rolling stock was painted yellow with the railroad’s trademark “YD” on the side.

And folks like Jimmie Rodgers from Meridian and Elvis from Tupelo made blues the foundation for country music and rock-and-roll, hence, the reason for our Blues Trail; to show where America’s music came from.

So, has being on the Blues Trail helped Moorhead? Mayor Holland says, “Believe it or not we have so many visitors from all across the world, the globe that actually come through Moorhead following the Blues Trail. We’re able now to give ‘em a little history lesson and maybe even leave with a T-shirt.”

A T-shirt is better than nothin’. The Blues Trail is a giant leap for Mississippi, educating the world about our music. And this particular spot in Moorhead tells where Blues first caught a ride up out of the Delta when W.C. Handy wrote about the Southern and the Yellow Dog.

To listen to the famous W.C. Handy tune, Yellow Dog Rag, or as it was later renamed, The Southern Dog Blues, click below.

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