In his autobiography W.C. Handy recalled that one of his early inspirations for becoming a blues composer took place in 1903 while he was waiting on a train in Tutwiler. At the station was a guitarist who used a knife for a slide and sang of “Goin’ where the Southern cross’ the Dog.” The line referred to a railway crossing in Moorhead, about forty miles to the South, where the east-west line of The Southern Railway in Mississippi intersected with the north-south line of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad; it had recently incorporated the Yazoo-Delta Railway, which was known to locals as the “Yellow Dog.”
In 1914 Handy published the song “Yellow Dog Rag,” which as “Yellow Dog Blues” was later recorded by artists including Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and Fats Waller. The phrase about where the “Southern cross’ the dog” also appeared in numerous other blues songs, including Big Bill Broonzy’s “Southern Blues” and Charley Patton’s “Green River Blues,” while bluesman Sam Collins recorded a different song called “Yellow Dog Blues.” The railway crossing and the “Yellow Dog” train became iconic images of the Mississippi, and appear in art works including Eudora Welty’s novel “Delta Wedding,” August Wilson's play "The Piano Lesson," and Memphis painter Carroll Cloar's "Where the Southern Cross the Yellow Dog."
There's already a state historical marker at the crossing in Moorhead, and the new MBT marker will be placed next to the former depot for the Yazoo & Mississippi Delta Railroad.
For more information on the Mississippi Blues Trail go here.
|Carroll Cloar, Where the Southern Cross the Dog, 1965.|
Copyright estate of Carroll Cloar