Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters was a twentieth century African American blues musician. He is deemed the “father of modern Chicago blues” and influenced the 1960s generation of England which resulted in the appearance of British blues.

Born on April 4, 1913, in Issaquena County, Mississippi, Muddy Waters was originally named McKinley Morganfield. He was raised by his grandmother, Della Grant, after the demise of his mother closely following his birth. Mrs. Grant used to call him by his nickname, Muddy, which was given to him based on his habit of playing in the muddy water. In his later life he actually took up the name Muddy Waters permanently. He began to play harmonica in his teenage years and soon after he was playing guitar at parties. In 1932, he got married to Mabel Berry but three years later his wife left him when she discovered about his infidelity and an illegitimate child with a young girl. Over the years he married once gain but left her as he moved to Chicago in 1943.

In 1941, Alan Lomax, one of the great folklorist, ethnomusicologist of American history approached Waters and recorded his music. Waters felt encouraged when he listened himself on the record and realized he could make it as a musician one day. Two years later, he flew to Chicago in hopes of becoming a full-time professional musician. During his early years in Chicago, in order to to make a living he used to drive truck and worked in a factory by day and played music at night. He was eventually given a break by a leading blues musician in Chicago, Big Bill Broonzy to perform at night clubs. By 1946, he gained enough influence to have his music recorded at Columbia but it was not released immediately. He was approached by a newly founded record label Aristocrat Records to record his work.

Waters played guitar with an American blues pianist Sunnyland Slim on the tracks such as “Little Anna Mae” and “Gypsy Woman”. By 1947 he was still struggling as a music artist. However, in 1948, with the release of “I Feel Like Going Home” and “I Can’t Be Satisfied”, Waters’s popularity in the club began to soar. His signature tune “Rollin’ Stone” was critically acclaimed in the music industry. The Aristocrat Records was renamed as Chess Records and Waters recorded his earlier sessions with Ernest “Big” Crawford, Johnny Jones and “Baby Face” Leroy Foster. Early 1950s is marked as the time when Waters had his big break when Chess Records arranged for him to record with the celebrated blues artist, Little Walter Jacobs, Jimmy Rogers, Otis Spann and Elga Edmonds. The band recorded some of the smashing hits of 1950s, such as “I’m Ready” and “Hoochie Coochie Man”.

Waters became a success story and ruled Chicago blues scene in early 1950s. His band developed a long-running, friendly rivalry with another blues band, Wolf. As the band garnered praise from the audience and gained more success, one by one all the members broke away from the band to build their solo career.  As a result, Waters ended up recording under his own name. The hit tracks that he recorded during mid-1950s included “Mannish Boy,” “Don’t Go No Farther,” “Trouble No More” and “Sugar Sweet”. He moved to England in 1958 and took the blues music scene by storm. His first live album, At Newport 1960, turned things around for him. Muddy Waters continued to see ups and downs throughout his career and eventually passed away in his sleep due to heart failure in 1983.

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