When Honeydripper opens, we see two young boys. One's fingers are pulling away at a string, while the other's are pounding piano keys painted on a piece of wood. While their music echoes only in their minds, their passion is palpable. This sweet scene is, in a way, a perfect metaphor for the work of John Sayles -- his films are, at once, both subdued and sonorous. However, where most of them seek to reveal hidden layers and webs, Honeydripper is a simple and plainly executed ode to the start of rock 'n' roll.
Tyrone "Pine Top" Purvis (Danny Glover) is the proprietor of the Honeydripper -- an ailing club in a town called Harmony, deep in 1950's Alabama. While he offers the stunning voice of Bertha Mae (Mable John), his competition, a hop free of a skip and a jump away, offers a loud and rowdy jukebox that draws in the crowds in droves. Pine Top has one last chance to save his club, or his landlord will rent the building to someone else. The plan -- bring in radio phenomenon Guitar Sam to perform for just one Saturday night. (This is a bit unheard of for the musician-turned-bar owner, as he considers guitar players to be dangerous.)