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Waters, Muddy

Muddy Waters

Blues slide guitarist, harmonica player

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

How many blues artists could boast of an alumni of band members that includes Otis Spann, Little Walter, Junior Wells, Fred Below, Walter Morton, Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton, Leroy Foster, Buddy Guy, Luther Johnson, Willie Dixon, Hubert Sumlin, and Earl Hooker, just to name a few? Muddy Waters gave these and many more their first big break in music while creating a style known now as Chicago blues (guitar, piano, bass, drums, and harmonica).

Contemporary Chicago blues starts, and in some ways may very well end, with Muddy Waters, wrote Peter Guralnick in Listeners Guide To The Blues. From the 1950s until his death in 1983, Waters literally ruled the Windy City with a commanding stage presence that combined both dignity and raw sexual appeal with a fierce and emotional style of slide guitar playing.

Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, in 1915 but grew up in Clarksdale, where his grandmother raised him after his mother died in 1918. His fondness for playing in mud earned him his nickname at an early age. Waters started out on harmonica but by age seventeen he was playing the guitar at parties and fish fries, emulating two blues artists who were extremely popular in the south, Son House and Robert Johnson. His thick heavy tone, the dark coloration of his voice and his firm almost stolid manner were all clearly derived from House, wrote Guralnick in Feel Like Going Home, but the embellishments which he added, the imaginative slide technique and more agile rhythms, were closer to Johnson.

In 1940 Waters moved to St. Louis before playing with Silas Green a year later and returning back to Mississippi. In the early part of the decade he ran a juke house, complete with gambling, moonshine, a jukebox, and live music courtesy of Muddy himself. In the summer of 1941 Alan Lomax came to Stovall, Mississippi, on behalf of the Library of Congress to record various country blues musicians. He brought his stuff down and recorded me right in my house, Waters recalled in Rolling Stone, and when he played back the first song I sounded just like anybodys records. Man, you dont know how I felt that Saturday afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice. Later on he sent me two copies of the pressing and a check for twenty bucks, and I carried that record up to the corner and put it on the jukebox. Just played it and played it and said, I can do it, I can do it. Lomax came back again in July of 1942 to record Waters again. Both sessions were eventually released as Down On Stovalls Plantation on the Testament label.

In 1943 Waters headed north to Chicago in hopes of becoming a full-time professional. He lived with a relative for a short period while driving a truck and

For the Record

Real name, McKinley Morganfield; born April 4, 1915, in Rolling Fork, Miss.; died April 30, 1983; son of Ollie Morganfield (a farmer) and Bertha Jones; married first wife, Geneva, 1940 (died, 1973), married Marva Jean King, 1978; children: one son, three daughters, one stepson.

Began playing guitar at parties and fish fries by age 17; ran a juke house during early 1940s; moved to Chicago in 1943, playing guitar in clubs at night while working in factories and driving a truck during the day; signed with Chess Records, 1946; leader of his own rhythm and blues/blues band, 1950-56; featured headline guitarist, 1956-83.

Awards: Winner of down beat Critics Poll as male singer deserving wider recognition, 1964, and down beats International Critics Award for best best rock-pop-blues group, 1968 and 1969; Grammy Award for best ethnic/traditional recording, 1971, for They Call Me Muddy Waters, 1972, for The London Muddy Waters Sessions, and 1975, for Muddy Waters at Woodstock; Billboard magazines Trendsetter Award, 1971; recipient of Ebony Readers Poll Black Hall of Fame Award, 1973.

working in a factory by day and playing at night. Big Bill Broonzy was the top cat in Chicago until his death in 1958 and the city was a very competitive market for a newcomer to become established. Broonzy helped Waters out by letting him open for the star in the rowdy clubs. In 1945 Waterss uncle gave him his first electric guitar, which enabled him to be heard above the noisy crowds.

In 1946 Waters recorded some tunes for Mayo Williams at Columbia but they were never released. Later that year he began recording for Aristocrat, a newly-formed label run by two brothers, Leonard and Phil Chess. In 1947 Waters played guitar with Sunnyland Slim on piano on the cuts Gypsy Woman and Little Anna Mae. These were also shelved, but in 1948 Waterss I Cant Be Satisfied and I Feel Like Going Home became big and his popularity in clubs began to take off. Soon after, Aristocrat changed their name to Chess and Waterss signature tune, Rollirï Stone, became a smash hit.

The Chess brothers would not allow Waters to use his own musicians (Jimmy Rogers and Blue Smitty) in the studio; instead he was only provided with a backing bass by Big Crawford. However, by 1950 Waters was recording with perhaps the hottest blues group ever: Little Walter Jacobs on harp; Jimmy Rogers on guitar; Elgin Evans on drums; Otis Spann on piano; Big Crawford on bass; and Waters handling vocals and slide guitar. The band recorded a string of great blues classics during the early 1950s with the help of bassist/songwriter Willie Dixons pen. Hoochie Coochie Man (Number 8 on the R & B charts), I Just Want To Make Love To You (Number 4), and Im Ready. These three were the most macho songs in his repertoire, wrote Robert Palmer in Rolling Stone. Muddy would never have composed anything so unsubtle. But they gave him a succession of showstoppers and anmage, which were important for a bluesman trying to break out of the grind of local gigs into national prominence.

Waters was at the height of his career and his band steamed like a high-powered locomotive, cruising form club to club as the Headhunters, crushing any other blues band that challenged their musical authority. By the time he achieved his popular peak, Muddy Waters had become a shouting, declamatory kind of singer who had forsaken his guitar as a kind of anachronism and whose band played with a single pulsating rhythm, wrote Guralnick in his Listeners Guide.

Unfortunately, Waterss success as the frontman led others in his group to seek the same recognition. In 1953 Little Walter left when his Juke became a hit and in 1955 Rogers quit to form his own band. Waters could never recapture the glory of his pre-1956 years as the pressures of being a leader led him to use various studio musicians for quite a few years following.

He headed to England in 1958 and shocked his overseas audiences with loud, amplified electric guitar and a thunderous beat. When R & B began to die down shortly after, Waters switched back to his older style of country blues. His gig at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960 turned on a whole new generation to Waterss Delta sound. As English rockers like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones got hip to the blues, Waters switched back to electric circa 1964. He expressed anger when he realized that members of his own race were turning their backs to the genre while the white kids were showing respect and love for it.

However, for the better part of twenty years (since his last big hit in 1956, Im Ready) Waters was put on the back shelf by the Chess label and subjected to all sorts of ridiculous album themes:Brass And The Blues, Electric Mud, etc. In 1972 he went back to England to record The London Muddy Waters Sessions with four hotshot rockersRory Gallagher, Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, and Mitch Mitchellbut their playing wasnt up to his standards. These boys are top musicians, they can play with me, put the book before em and play it, you know, he told Guralnick. But that aint what I need to sell my people, it aint the Muddy Waters sound. An if you change my sound, then you gonna change the whole man.

Waters sound was basically Delta country blues electrified, but his use of microtones, in both his vocals and slide playing, made it extremely difficult to duplicate and follow correctly. When I plays onstage with my band, I have to get in there with my guitar and try to bring the sound down to me, he said in Rolling Stone. But no sooner than I quit playing, it goes back to another, different sound. My blues look so simple, so easy to do, but its not. They say my blues is the hardest blues in the world to play.

Fortunately for Waters and his fans there was one man who understood the feeling he was trying to convey: Johnny Winter, an albino Texan who could play some of the nastiest guitar east or west of the Mississippi. In 1976 Winter convinced his label, Blue Sky, to sign Waters and the beginning of a fruitful partnership was begun. Waterss comeback LP, Hard Again, was recorded in just two days and was as close to the original Chicago sound he had created as anyone could ever hope for. Winter produced/played and pushed the master to the limit. Former Waters sideman James Cotton kicked in on harp on the Grammy Award winning album and a brief but incredible tour followed. He sounds happy, energetic and out for business, stated Dan Oppenheimer in Rolling Stone. In short, Muddy Waters is kicking in another mules stall.

In 1978 Winter recruited Walter Horton and Jimmy Rogers to help out on Waterss Im Ready LP and another impressive outing was in the can. The roll continued in 1979 with the blistering Muddy Mississippi Waters Live. Muddy was loose for this one, wrote Jas Obrecht in Guitar Player, and the result is the next best thing to being ringside at one of his foot-thumping, head-nodding, downhome blues shows. King Seethe following year concluded Waters reign at Blue Sky and all four LPs turned out to be his biggest-selling albums ever.

In 1983 Muddy Waters passed away in his sleep. At his funeral, throngs of blues musicians showed up to pay tribute to one of the true originals of the art form. Muddy was a master of just the right notes, John Hammond, Jr., told Guitar World. It was profound guitar playing, deep and simple more country blues transposed to the electric guitar, the kind of playing that enhanced the lyrics, gave profundity to the words themselves. Two years after his death, the city that made Muddy Waters (and vice versa) honored their father by changing the name of 43rd Street to Muddy Waters Drive. Following Waterss death, B.B. King told Guitar World, Its going to be years and years before most people realize how great he was to American music.

Selected discography

Released on Chess

Muddy Waters at Newport, 1960;reissued, 1987.

Folk Singer, 1964; reissued, 1987.

Muddy Waters, 1964.

Brass and the Blues, 1966.

The Real Folk Blues, 1966; reissued, 1988.

Electric Mud, 1968.

After the Rain, 1969.

Fathers and Sons, 1969.

They Call Me Muddy Waters, c. 1969.

The London Muddy Waters Sessions, 1972; reissued, 1989.

McKinley Morganfield, 1972.

Muddy Waters Live, 1972.

Cant Get No Grindin, 1973.

Unk in Funk, 1974.

Muddy Waters at Woodstock, 1975.

The Best of Muddy Waters (1948-1954), 1987.

Muddy Waters Sings Big Bill Broonzy, 1960; reissued, 1987.

Troubles No More: Singles, 1955-1959, 1989.

Released on Blue Sky

Hard Again, 1977.

Im Ready, 1978.

Muddy Mississippi Waters Live, 1979.

King Bee, 1981.

Released on other labels

Afro-American Blues and Game Songs, Library of Congress, c. 1942.

Down on Stovalls Plantation, Testament, c. 1942. Chicago Blues: The Beginning, Testament, 1971.

Muddy Waters: The Chess Box, Chess/MCA, 1989.

Sources

Books

Christgau, Robert, Christgaus Record Guide, Ticknor & Fields, 1981.

Guralnick, Peter, Feel Like Going Home, Vintage Books, 1981.

Guralnick, Peter, The Listeners Guide to the Blues, Facts on File, 1982.

Harris, Sheldon, Blues Whos Who, Da Capo, 1979.

Kozinn, Allan, Pete Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar: The History The Music The Players, Quill, 1984.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh with John Swenson, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979.

Periodicals

Guitar Player, July 1979; July 1983; August 1983.

Guitar World, September 1983; January 1986; March 1989; March 1990.

Living Blues, September-October 1989.

Rolling Stone, March 24, 1977; October 5, 1978.

Calen D. Stone

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Waters, Muddy 1915–1983

Muddy Waters 19151983

blues singer

At a Glance

Selected discography

Sources

Born in the area of rural Mississippi that spawned the first and greatest recorded bluesmanCharley Patton, Son House and Robert JohnsonMuddy Waters electrified the sounds of rural blues and brought them to Chicago. At his peak in the 1950s, he was the undisputed King of the Blues, a moniker he went so far as to have printed on his calling cards. His name eventually became synonymous with the Chicago blues, and by the time of his death he was the most famous and beloved bluesman in the world.

Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1915 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, deep within cotton country. Sometime as a boy he was given the nickname Muddy Waters, for reasons no longer known. His sharecropper father, Ollie, played guitar but Muddy never had the chance to learn anything from him. After his mothers early death, he was sent away to be raised by his grandmother in Clarksdale. Waters worked the farm as a boy, but music was his real interest. I always thought of myself as a musician, he said. If I wasnt a good musician then, I felt that sooner or later I would be a good musician. I felt it in me.

Waterss first instrument was the harmonica, which he began learning when he was around 13. He played country suppers for tips and food with a guitarist friend. Guitars were all around him in the Mississippi Delta country, however, and while still a teenager Waters saw greats Charley Patton and Son House perform. House was an especially strong influence on Waterss playing. He showed the youngster the rudiments of playing slide guitar with a bottleneck and impressed young Waters with his powerful, emotional singing. Waters began playing guitar when he was 17.

Waters was soon playing local events. In the early 1940s he joined a group that included the singer Big Joe Williams that played around town. Muddy Waters encounter with destiny took place in the summer of 1941 when Alan Lomax and John Work, two folklorists from the Library of Congress came to Clarksdale. The two men were looking for the legendary blues guitarist, Robert Johnson. Johnson, however, was dead, murdered years before. Instead, on Son Houses recommendation, they found Muddy Waters at Stovalls plantation. Waters recorded two songs for the Library of Congress, I Bes Troubled and Country Blues.

The songs impressed Lomax and Work enough that they returned to Stovalls two years later and recorded

At a Glance

Born McKinley Morganfield, April 4, 1915, Rolling Fork, MS; died April 30, 1983, Chicago, IL.

Career: Performed with Big Joe Williams, Buddy Bradey, Louis Ford, Son Sims and Percy Thomas in Clarksdale, Mississippi in early 1940s; recorded for Library of Congress, 1941 and 1943; played first Chicago club gigs with Jimmy Rodgers 1943-44; first record, I Cant Be Satisfied released April 1948; appeared at Newport Folk Festival 1960.

Awards: Inducted to Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, 1980; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1987.

Waters again. His ambition and perhaps his confidence spurred by his two recording experiences, Waters got his first job as a professional musician, playing harmonica in the Silas Green Carnival for a short time. Clarksdale couldnt satisfy the Waterss needs though, and in May of 1943 he packed his bags and took the train north to Chicago.

Times were good in Chicago and Waters quickly found work and an apartment. Big Bill Broonzy, who had been part of the Chicago music scene for years, introduced him around. With Jimmy Rodgers, a guitarist and harp player, he began playing house parties around the South Side. Little Walter, Jimmy Rodgers and myself, Waters later recalled, we would go around looking for bands that were playing. We called ourselves The Headhunters, cause wed go in and if we got a chance we were gonna burn em.

It was three years before Waters was finally able to record in Chicago. But the results of the sessions were just warmed over versions of the urban jump blues that were already a decade old and the record companies, 20th Century and Columbia, did not release any as records. Waters got another chance when pianist Sunnyland Slim, with whom he had been performing around Chicago, was offered a session with Leonard Chess Aristocrat Records. According to legend, Waters was delivering Venetian blinds when he heard that Slim wanted him to play the session. Waters is said to have told his boss that he needed the rest of the day offhis cousin had been found dead in an alley. Slim and Waters recorded two numbers each.

The music wouldnt have gone anywhere, except for the presence of a black music scout who arranged f.Entity r another session, which resulted in a record for Waters, I Cant Be Satisfied and I Feel Like Going Home.

The songs were nothing like the smooth blues that had been popular in Chicago. Backed only by Waterss electric bottleneck guitar and Big Crawfords bass, they were raw, the delta blues transplanted to the city. Leonard Chess didnt like it. I cant understand what hes singing, he complained to his partner. She insisted that the music had some indefinable something and pushed for its release.

The single, Aristocrat 1305, came out on a Saturday in April of 1948. It was a smash hit. By two oclock in the afternoon the first pressing had sold out completely. Muddy Waters went down to a record store on Chicagos Maxwell Street, he found his record being sold for $1.10 instead of the listprice 79%. To make matters worse, the record was so popular the store would only sell customers one copy, despite Waterss protestation But Im the man who made it!

The unexpected success of the record forced Len Chess to reconsider his opinion of Waterss music. Waters was playing Chicago clubs regularly with Jimmy Rodgers and Baby Face Leroy. Chess did not want to give up a good thing. When new sessions were arranged, they were with Waters and Big Crawford again. They produced a string of classics nonetheless, including Youre Gonna Miss Me, Little Geneva, and Rollin Stone. When Waters recorded with groups it was on the records others were making. He played on Baby Face Leroys popular Rollin And Tumblin for example. When Leonard Chess found out he was incensedhe had hoped to keep Waterss trademark slide sound restricted to Aristocrat Records. He responded by having Waters record his own version of the song.

In 1950 Aristocrat Records became Chess Records, and Little Walter, perhaps the greatest blues harp player in history, joined the Muddy Waters band. Mike Rowe, in his history of the Chicago blues, Chicago Breakdown, wrote The Muddy Waters records of 1950 and 1951 represent the purest and most successful strain of the new country blues. The songs they made include Louisiana Blues, Early Morning Blues, Sad Letter Blues, and Long Distance Call. Waterss sound continued to evolve, however. He and Rodgers refined the interaction of their two guitars, Junior Wells replaced Little Walter on harp, Otis Spann came in to play piano. By the middle 1950s, he had all but abandoned the spare instrumentation of his earlier hits and replaced it with the rollicking sound of the songs that would come to be most closely associated with Waters: Hootchie Cootchie Man, Mannish Boy, and I Got My Mojo Workin. The first record sold 4,000 copies in its first week in stores and stayed at the top of the charts for most of summer of 1954.

The middle 1950s represented Muddy Waters peak as a recording artist. The musicians he recorded with during that period are a roster of the greats of the Chicago blues: harp players Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells, and James Cotton, guitarists Buddy Guy and Matt Murphy, pianists Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins, drummer Fred Below and bass player Willie Dixon. Dixon was responsible for composing many of the songs Waters recorded in the latter half of the fifties.

With the rise of rock and roll, Waterss musicand blues music in generalentered a period of decline that would last until the end of his life. He continued to perform and make records during the 1960s. His performance at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival was electrifying and showed off his music to a whole new audience of young, white fans. He would continue to direct his music at this new audience and his 1960s albums, like The London Sessions which saw him team up with British rock musicians, like Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, and Fathers and Sons, with Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, reflected his new focus.

Waterss career experienced a kind of renaissance in the 1970, when blues-rock guitarist Johnny Winter became his manager. Recording and touring with Winter, Waters cut four albums that recaptured some of the old excitement, in particular a live effort, Muddy Mississippi Waters, mostly on the Columbia label. When Muddy Waters died suddenly of a heart attack in Chicago on April 30, 1983 an era in the blues came to an end forever. Waters was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980 and into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1987. Many compilations and reissues have been released since his death. Waterss son, Big Bill Morganfield, has followed in his footsteps as a blues guitarist.

Selected discography

Muddy Waters at Newport, MCA/Chess, 1960.

The Real Folk Blues, MCA/Chess, 1965.

More Real Folk Blues, MCA/Chess, 1967.

Hard Again, Blue Sky, 1977.

Muddy Mississippi Waters, Blue Sky, 1979.

The Chess Box, MCA/Chess, 1990.

Sources

Books

Erlewene, Michael, Vladimir Bogdana, Chris Woodstra, and Cub Koda. All Music Guide to the Blues, Freeman Books, 1996.

Contemporary Musicians, Volume 24. Gale Group, 1999.

Herzhaft, Gérard. Encyclopedia of the Blues, 2nd edition. University of Arkansas Press, 1997.

Rowe, Mike. Chicago Breakdown, Da Capo, 1979.

Gerald Brennan

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Waters, Muddy

Muddy Waters

Blues singer

For the Record

Muddys New Sound

Got Mojo Workin

New Audiences, New Sidemen

Selected discography

Sources

Born in the area of rural Mississippi that spawned the first and greatest recorded bluesmenCharley Patton, Son House and Robert JohnsonMuddy Waters electrified the sounds of rural blues and brought them to Chicago. At his peak in the 1950s, he was the undisputed King of the Blues, a moniker he went so far as to have printed on his calling cards. His name eventually became synonymous with the Chicago blues, and by the time of his death he was the most famous and beloved bluesman in the world.

Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1915 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, deep within cotton country. Sometime as a boy he was given the nickname Muddy Waters, for reasons no longer known. His sharecropper father, Ollie, played guitar but Muddy never had the chance to learn anything from him. After his mothers early death, he was sent away to be raised by his grandmother in Clarksdale. Muddy worked the farm as a boy, but music was his real interest. I always thought of myself as a musician, he said. If I wasnt a good musician then, I felt that sooner or later I would be a good musician. I felt it in me.

Muddys first instrument was the harmonica, which he took up when he was around 13. He played country suppers for tips and food with a guitarist friend. Guitars were all around him in the Mississippi Delta country, however, and while still a teenager Muddy saw greats Charley Patton and Son House perform. House was an especially strong influence on Muddys playing. He showed the youngster the rudiments of playing slide guitar with a bottleneck and impressed young Muddy with his powerful, emotional singing. Muddy began playing guitar when he was 17.

He learned quickly and was soon playing local events. In the early 1940s, he joined a group that included the singer Big Joe Williams that played around town. Muddy Waters encounter with destiny took place in summer 1941 when Alan Lomax and John Work, two folklorists from the Library of Congress came to Clarksdale. The two men were looking for the legendary blues guitarist, Robert Johnson. Johnson, however, was dead, murdered years before. Instead, on Son Houses recommendation, they found Muddy Waters at Stovalls plantation. Muddy recorded two songs for the Library of Congress, I Bes Troubled and Country Blues.

The songs impressed Lomax and Work enough that they returned to Stovalls two years later and recorded Muddy again. His ambition and perhaps his confidence spurred by his two recording experiences, Muddy got his first job as a professional musician, playing harmonica in the Silas Green Carnival for a short time. Clarksdale

For the Record

Born McKinley Morganfield, April 4, 1915, Rolling Fork, MS; died April 30, 1983, Chicago, IL.

Performed with Big Joe Williams, Buddy Bradey, Louis Ford, Son Sims and Percy Thomas in Clarksdale, Mississippi in early 1940s; recorded for Library of Congress, 1941 and 1943; played first Chicago club gigs with Jimmy Rodgers 1943-44; first record, I Cant Be Satisfied, released April 1948; appeared at Newport Folk Festival 1960.

Awards: Inducted to Blues Foundation Hall of Fame, 1980; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1987.

couldnt satisfy the Muddys needs though, and in May 1943 he packed his bags and took the train north to Chicago.

Times were good in Chicago and Muddy quickly found work and an apartment. Big Bill Broonzy, who had been part of the Chicago music scene for years, introduced him around. With Jimmy Rodgers, a guitarist and harp player, he began playing house parties around the South Side. Little Walter, Jimmy Rodgers and myself, Muddy later recalled, we would go around looking for bands that were playing. We called ourselves The Headhunters, cause wed go in and if we got a chance we were gonna burn em.

Muddys New Sound

It was three years before Muddy was finally able to record in Chicago. But the results of the sessions were just warmed over versions of the urban jump blues that were already a decade old and the record companies, 20th Century and Columbia, did not release any as records. Muddy got another chance when pianist Sunnyland Slim, with whom he had been performing around Chicago, was offered a session with Leonard Chess Aristocrat Records. According to legend, Muddy was delivering venetian blinds when he heard that Slim wanted him to play the session. Muddy is said to have told his boss that he needed the rest of the day offhis cousin had been found dead in an alley. Slim and Muddy recorded two numbers each.

The music wouldnt have gone anywhere, except for the presence of a black music scout who arranged for another session, which resulted in a record for Muddy, I Cant Be Satisfied and I Feel Like Going Home. The songs were nothing like the smooth blues that had been popular in Chicago. Backed only by Muddys electric bottleneck guitar and Big Crawfords bass, they were raw, the delta blues transplanted to the city. Leonard Chess didnt like it. I cant understand what hes singing, he complained to his partner. She insisted that the music had some indefinable something and pushed for its release.

The single, Aristocrat 1305, came out on a Saturday in April 1948. It was a smash hit. By 2 oclock in the afternoon the first pressing had sold out completely. Muddy Waters went down to a record store on Chicagos Maxwell Street, he found his record being sold for $1.10 instead of the list price 79¢. To make matters worse, the record was so popular the store would only sell customers one copy, despite Muddys protestation But Im the man who made it!

The unexpected success of the record forced Len Chess to reconsider his opinion of Muddys music. Muddy was playing Chicagoclubs regularly with Jimmy Rodgers and Baby Face Leroy. Chess did not want to give up a good thing. When new sessions were arranged, they were with Muddy and Big Crawford again. They produced a string of classics nonetheless, including Youre Gonna Miss Me, Little Geneva, and Rollin Stone. When Muddy recorded with groups it was on the records others were making. He played on Baby Face Leroys popular Rollin And Tumblin for example. When Leonard Chess found out he was incensedhe had hoped to keep Muddys trademark slide sound restricted to Aristocrat Records. He responded by having Muddy record his own version of the song.

Got Mojo Workin

In 1950 Aristocrat Records became Chess Records, and Little Walter, perhaps the greatest blues harp player in history, joined the Muddy Waters band. Mike Rowe, in his history of the Chicago blues, Chicago Breakdown, wrote The Muddy Waters records of 1950 and 1951 represent the purest and most successful strain of the new country blues. The songs they made include Louisiana Blues, Early Morning Blues, Sad Letter Blues, and Long Distance Call. Muddys sound continued to evolve, however. He and Rodgers refined the interaction of their twoguitars, Junior Wells replaced Little Walter on harp, Otis Spann came in to play piano.

By the middle 1950s, he had all but abandoned the spare instrumentation of his earlier hits and replaced it with the rollicking sound of the songs that would come to be most closely associated with Muddy: Hootchie Cootchie Man, Mannish Boy, and I Got My Mojo Workin. The first record sold 4000 copies in its first week in stores and stayed at the top of the charts for most of summer 1954.

The middle 1950s represented Muddy Waters peak as a recording artist. The musicians he recorded with during that period are a roster of the greats of the Chicago blues: harp players Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells, and James Cotton, guitarists Buddy Guy and Matt Murphy, pianists Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins, drummer Fred Below and bass player Willie Dixon. Dixon was responsible for composing many of the songs Muddy recorded in the latter half of the fifties.

New Audiences, New Sidemen

With the rise of rock and roll, Muddys musicand blues music in generalentered a period of decline that would last until the end of his life. He continued to perform and make records during the 1960s. His performance at the 1960 Newport Folk Festival was electrifying and showed off his music to a whole new audience of young, white fans. He would continue to direct his music at this new audience and his 1960s albums, like The London Sessions which saw him team up with British rock musicians, like Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, and Fathers and Sons, with Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield, reflected his new focus.

Muddys career experienced a kind of renaissance in the 1970, when blues-rock guitarist Johnny Winter became his manager. Recording and touring with Winter, Muddy cut four albums that recaptured some of the old excitement, in particular a live effort, Muddy Missis-sippi Waters, mostly on the Columbia label. When Muddy Waters died suddenly of a heart attack in Chicago on April 30, 1983 an era in the blues came to an end forever. Muddy was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980 and into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1987

Selected discography

Muddy Waters at Newport, MCA/Chess, 1960

The Real Folk Blues, MCA/Chess, 1965

More Real Folk Blues, MCA/Chess, 1967

Hard Again, Blue Sky, 1977

Muddy Mississippi Waters, Blue Sky, 1979

The Chess Box, MCA/Chess, 1990

Sources

Erlewene, Michael, Vladimir Bogdana, Chris Woodstra, and Cub Koda. All Music Guide to the Blues, San Francisco: Freeman Books, 1996

Herzhaft, Gerard. Encyclopedia of the Blues, 2nd edition, Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1997

Rowe, Mike. Chicago Breakdown, New York: Da Capo, 1979

Gerald Brennan

Cite this article
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  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Waters, Muddy." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Nov. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Waters, Muddy." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/waters-muddy

"Waters, Muddy." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved November 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/waters-muddy

Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters

From the 1950s until his death, Muddy Waters (1915-1983) literally ruled Chicago with a commanding stage presence that combined both dignity and raw sexual appeal with a fierce and emotional style of slide guitar playing.

How many blues artists could boast of an alumni of band members that includes Otis Spann, Little Walter, Junior Wells, Fred Below, Walter Horton, Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton, Leroy Foster, Buddy Guy, Luther Johnson, Willie Dixon, Hubert Sumlin and Earl Hooker, just to name a few? Muddy Waters gave these and many more their first big break in music while creating a style known now as Chicago blues (guitar, piano, bass, drums, and harmonica). "Contemporary Chicago blues starts, and in some ways may very well end, with Muddy Waters, " wrote Peter Guralnick in Listener's Guide To The Blues.

Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, in 1915 but grew up in Clarksdale, where his grandmother raised him after his mother died in 1918. His fondness for playing in mud earned him his nickname at an early age. Waters started out on harmonica but by age seventeen he was playing the guitar at parties and fish fries, emulating two blues artists who were extremely popular in the south, Son House and Robert Johnson. "His thick heavy tone, the dark coloration of his voice and his firm almost stolid manner were all clearly derived from House, " wrote Guralnick in Feel Like Going Home, "but the embellishments which he added, the imaginative slide technique and more agile rhythms, were closer to Johnson."

In 1940 Waters moved to St. Louis before playing with Silas Green a year later and returning back to Mississippi. In the early part of the decade he ran a juke house, complete with gambling, moonshine, a jukebox and live music courtesy of Muddy himself. In the summer of 1941 Alan Lomax came to Stovall, Mississippi, on behalf of the Library of Congress to record various country blues musicians. "He brought his stuff down and recorded me right in my house, " Waters recalled in Rolling Stone, "and when he played back the first song I sounded just like anybody's records. Man, you don't know how I felt that Saturday afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice. Later on he sent me two copies of the pressing and a check for twenty bucks, and I carried that record up to the corner and put it on the jukebox. Just played it and played it and said, 'I can do it, I can do it."' Lomax came back again in July of 1942 to record Waters again. Both sessions were eventually released as Down On Stovall's Plantation on the Testament label.

In 1943 Waters headed north to Chicago in hopes of becoming a full-time professional. He lived with a relative for a short period while driving a truck and working in a factory by day and playing at night. Big Bill Broonzy was the top cat in Chicago until his death in 1958 and the city was a very competitive market for a newcomer to become established. Broonzy helped Waters out by letting him open for the star in the rowdy clubs. In 1945 Waters's uncle gave him his first electric guitar, which enabled him to be heard above the noisy crowds.

In 1946 Waters recorded some tunes for Mayo Williams at Columbia but they were never released. Later that year he began recording for Aristocrat, a newly-formed label run by two brothers, Leonard and Phil Chess. In 1947 Waters played guitar with Sunnyland Slim on piano on the cuts "Gypsy Woman" and "Little Anna Mae." These were also shelved, but in 1948 Waters's "I Can't Be Satisfied" and "I Feel Like Going Home" became big and his popularity in clubs began to take off. Soon after, Aristocrat changed their name to Chess and Waters's signature tune, "Rollin' Stone, " became a smash hit.

The Chess brothers would not allow Waters to use his own musicians (Jimmy Rogers and Blue Smitty) in the studio; instead he was only provided with a backing bass by Big Crawford. However, by 1950 Waters was recording with perhaps the hottest blues group ever: Little Walter Jacobs on harp; Jimmy Rogers on guitar; Elgin Evans on drums; Otis Spann on piano; Big Crawford on bass; and Waters handling vocals and slide guitar. The band recorded a string of great blues classics during the early 1950's with the help of bassist/songwriter Willie Dixon's pen. "Hoochie Coochie Man" (Number 8 on the R & B charts), "I Just Want To Make Love To You" (Number 4), and "I'm Ready." These three were "the most macho songs in his repertoire, " wrote Robert Palmer in Rolling Stone. "Muddy would never have composed anything so unsubtle. But they gave him a succession of showstoppers and an image, which were important for a bluesman trying to break out of the grind of local gigs into national prominence."

Waters was at the height of his career and his band steamed like a high-powered locomotive, cruising form club to club as the Headhunters, crushing any other blues band that challenged their musical authority. "By the time he achieved his popular peak, Muddy Waters had become a shouting, declamatory kind of singer who had forsaken his guitar as a kind of anachronism and whose band played with a single pulsating rhythm, " wrote Guralnick in his Listener's Guide.

Unfortunately, Waters's success as the frontman led others in his group to seek the same recognition. In 1953 Little Walter left when his "Juke" became a hit and in 1955 Rogers quit to form his own band. Waters could never recapture the glory of his pre-1956 years as the pressures of being a leader led him to use various studio musicians for quite a few years following.

He headed to England in 1958 and shocked his overseas audiences with loud, amplified electric guitar and a thunderous beat. When R & B began to die down shortly after, Waters switched back to his older style of country blues. His gig at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960 turned on a whole new generation to Waters's Delta sound. As English rockers like Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones got hip to the blues, Waters switched back to electric circa 1964. He expressed anger when he realized that members of his own race were turning their backs to the genre while the white kids were showing respect and love for it.

However, for the better part of twenty years (since his last big hit in 1956, "I'm Ready") Waters was put on the back shelf by the Chess label and subjected to all sorts of ridiculous album themes: Brass And The Blues, Electric Mud, etc. In 1972 he went back to England to record The London Muddy Waters Sessions with four hotshot rockers— Rory Gallagher, Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, and Mitch Mitchell—but their playing wasn't up to his standards. "These boys are top musicians, they can play with me, put the book before 'em and play it, you know, " he told Guralnick. "But that ain't what I need to sell my people, it ain't the Muddy Waters sound. An if you change my sound, then you gonna change the whole man."

The Waters sound was basically Delta country blues electrified, but his use of microtones, in both his vocals and slide playing, made it extremely difficult to duplicate and follow correctly. "When I plays onstage with my band, I have to get in there with my guitar and try to bring the sound down to me, " he said in Rolling Stone. "But no sooner than I quit playing, it goes back to another, different sound. My blues look so simple, so easy to do, but it's not. They say my blues is the hardest blues in the world to play."

Fortunately for Waters and his fans there was one man who understood the feeling he was trying to convey: Johnny Winter, an albino Texan who could play some of the nastiest guitar east or west of the Mississippi. In 1976 Winter convinced his label, Blue Sky, to sign Waters and the beginning of a fruitful partnership was begun. Waters's "comeback" LP, Hard Again, was recorded in just two days and was as close to the original Chicago sound he had created as anyone could ever hope for. Winter produced/ played and pushed the master to the limit. Former Waters sideman James Cotton kicked in on harp on the Grammy Award-winning album and a brief but incredible tour followed. "He sounds happy, energetic and out for business, " stated Dan Oppenheimer in Rolling Stone. "In short, Muddy Waters is kicking in another mule's stall."

In 1978 Winter recruited Walter Horton and Jimmy Rogers to help out on Waters's I'm Ready LP and another impressive outing was in the can. The roll continued in 1979 with the blistering Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live. "Muddy was loose for this one, " wrote Jas Obrecht in Guitar Player, "and the result is the next best thing to being ringside at one of his foot-thumping, head-nodding, downhome blues shows." King Bee the following year concluded Water's reign at Blue Sky and all four LP's turned out to be his biggest-selling albums ever.

In 1983 Muddy Waters passed away in his sleep. At his funeral, throngs of blues musicians showed up to pay tribute to one of the true originals of the art form. "Muddy was a master of just the right notes, " John Hammond, Jr., told Guitar World. "It was profound guitar playing, deep and simple…. more country blues transposed to the electric guitar, the kind of playing that enhanced the lyrics, gave profundity to the words themselves." Two years after his death, the city that made Muddy Waters (and vice versa) honored their father by changing the name of 43rd Street to Muddy Waters Drive. Following Waters's death, B.B. King told Guitar World, "It's going to be years and years before most people realize how great he was to American music."

Further Reading

Christgau, Robert, Christgau's Record Guide Ticknor & Fields, 1981.

Guralnick, Peter, Feel Like Going Home, Vintage Books, 1981.

Guralnick, Peter, The Listener's Guide to the Blues, Facts on File, 1982.

Harris, Sheldon, Blues Who's Who, Da Capo, 1979.

Kozinn, Allan, Pete Welding, Dan Forte, and Gene Santoro, The Guitar: The History The Music The Players, Quill, 1984.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh with John Swenson, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979.

Guitar Player, July 1979; July 1983; August 1983.

Guitar World, September 1983; January 1986; March 1989; March 1990.

Living Blues, September-October 1989.

Rolling Stone, March 24, 1977; October 5, 1978. □

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Waters, Muddy

Muddy Waters, 1915–83, African-American blues singer and guitarist, b. Rolling Fork, Miss., as McKinley Morganfield. As a teenager he began singing and playing traditional country blues on harmonica and guitar, and in 1941 he was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. Two years later he settled in Chicago, where he switched from Delta blues to a more sophisticated urban rhythm and blues, using an electric guitar backed by other amplified instruments. He soon became known for his driving slide guitar technique and darkly expressive vocal style. From the 1950s on Waters recorded, toured, and played various music festivals. His electric blues influenced such American musicians as Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan and such British rockers as the Rolling Stones, who took their name from a Waters song, and Eric Clapton, who recorded with him.

See J. Rooney, Bossmen: Bill Monroe and Muddy Waters (1991); S. B. Tooze, Muddy Waters (1997); R. Gordon, Can't Be Satisfied (2002).

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