The story goes that up-and-coming composer W.C. Handy, an admirer of Scott Joplin and John Philip Sousa, was waiting at a small-town train station somewhere in the Mississippi Delta in 1903 when he happened to overhear a man playing the guitar. The man stroked his knife against the strings, creating a ghostly, keening sound unlike anything Handy had encountered ever before. That music was an early incarnation of the blues, the genre at the root of all the uniquely American music that came after it. W.C. Handy was a vital part of that genesis. Handy, who later dubbed himself ‘The Father of the Blues,’ wrote his hugely popular, brassy tune “Memphis Blues” as an homage to the 12-bar melody he had heard at that Southern train station.