Muddy Waters (Morganfield, McKinley)

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Muddy Waters (Morganfield, McKinley)

April 4, 1915
April 30, 1983

The blues singer and guitarist McKinley Morganfield, commonly known as Muddy Waters, grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and took up the harmonica at age seven. He switched to the guitar at seventeen and soon began playing at local gatherings. He recorded both as a soloist and with a string band in 1941-1942 for a Library of Congress field-recording project. After moving to Chicago in 1943, he began playing the electric guitar, and by 1947 he was recording for the Aristocrat label (later Chess Records) under the name Muddy Waters. He began performing with a band that featured the harmonica player Little Walter; their recording "Louisiana Blues," made late in 1950, became a nationwide hit, entering the rhythm-and-blues Top Ten. The band, which also included Otis Spencer (pianist) and Jimmy Rogers (guitar), had many Top Ten hits in the 1950s, including "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man" (1953) and "I'm Ready" (1954). Muddy Waters continued to tour throughout the United States and Europe in the 1960s and received much acclaim as a primary influence on many "British Invasion" musicians. He remained active as a performer for the rest of his life, winning Grammy awards for several later recordings. He was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Muddy Waters retained a style that evoked the sound of the Delta blues. His Library of Congress recordings illustrate the influence of Son House through their searing slide guitar playing, which he maintained throughout his band recordings in the 1950s. In contrast to the smoother Chicago blues of Big Bill Broonzy (18931958), Muddy Waters brought a tough, aggressive edge to the urban blues, making him a seminal figure in the development of the style and establishing him among the most important postWorld War II blues singers.

See also Blues, The


Gordon, Robert. Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters. Boston: Little, Brown, 2002.

Obrecht, Jas. "Biography of a Bluesman." Guitar Player 17, no. 8 (August 1983): 4857.

Oliver, Paul. Muddy Waters. Bexhill-on-Sea, England, 1964.

Tooze, Sandra B. Muddy Waters: The Mojo Man. Toronto: ECW Press, 1997.

Waters, Muddy. Muddy Waters: The Anthology, 19471972. Compact disc. MCA Records, 2000.

daniel thom (1996)
Updated bibliography