Lightning in a Bottle(7/10)

by Tony Medley

In 1903, dance bandleader W.C. Handy fell asleep in the station while waiting for a train in Tutwiler, Mississippi. He was awakened by a black man sitting next to him singing about “goin’ where the Southern cross the Dog,” and playing his guitar with a knife. He repeated the lines three times and three times his guitar answered. When asked, the man explained that the tracks of the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad, called the Yellow Dog by locals, crossed the tracks of the Southern Railroad in the town of Moorehead, and he’d just put it in a song. Handy thought it the “weirdest music” he had ever heard.

This was Handy’s introduction to the Blues and nine years later he published The St. Louis Blues, the first blues song ever published (coincidentally this was only one year after Irving Berlin published Alexander’s Ragtime Band, which revolutionized popular music). Eight years later Crazy Blues by Mamie Smith sold more than a million copies. The Blues had arrived.

I admit that I’m not a fan. But if you are a fan, this is the movie for you because this is a documentary about a concert on February 7, 2003 at New York’s Radio City Music Hall by the greatest names in the blues, from B.B. King and Buddy Guy to John Fogerty and Bonnie Raitt. Directed by Antoine Fuqua, this is an evening made in heaven for a Blues fan. It’s 106 minutes of Blues sung by just about every living great extant. Also included are backstage interviews and clips of the week leading up to the concert. But the bulk of the film is the concert.

October 27, 2004

The End