A brief history of Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters is considered by most people to be the king of Chicago Blues. For me, the King is Howlin Wolf but I do absolutely love Muddy mainly for his massive warm voice, demeanour and catchy song writing. He has been more of an influence on my music than I realise sometimes. His blues was soulful and makes you feel really good! The way I see it, Robert Johnson took the blues and put it a more standardised format, but he was a virtuoso. Muddy took what Johnson did and simplified it, slowed it down and electrified it. When Elvis was still using double bass, Muddy had electric bass in his band. He took that delta music and put it together in a band format that went on to be the standard in rock music.
He was born McKinley Morganfield but was given the nick name Muddy Waters because he was always playing in the muddy puddles around his house. His Dad left when he was first born and his mother died when he was just 3 years old which is when he was sent to Clarksdale to live with his Grandma.
He was given a guitar at 17 and learned to play by playing along to blues legends such as Charlie Patton who was the forefather of blues. Muddy worked as a share cropper but started playing to the local people around town. He was recruited by a local travelling tent show and began to gain recognition. He then met Alan Lomax and he recorded his first album as more of an anthropological document of the local culture as expressed in the “folk” music of the region. I don’t think in their wildest dreams, either Alan Lomax or Muddy new that he was to become the kind of Chicago Blues and become a household name across the whole world.
He moved to Chicago in 1943 and quickly became a sensation. His style of blues was more “up” and in a sense he standardised blues a little. His characteristic 12 bars and 'simple but catchy riffs and hooks made the blues more listenable to a general and much wider audience. Songs like “Hoochie Coochie Man” or “Got My Mojo Working” are real sing-a-long singles. They are just fun. He was venerated by Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the list really does go on extending out to pretty much all rock music. I don’t think I have heard anyone say “I hate Muddy Waters” in my whole entire life. Most bands that play covers of Muddy Waters songs never manage to play them like Muddy, myself included. His music is simple but like all blues full of nuance and it’s those little things, those little bits of swagger here, or soulfulness there, the different inflections that makes for truly great blues music.
To this day Muddy stands as an unsurpassed giant in the blues world.
I will be playing a few Muddy songs that have influenced me at my live online show on July 18th 2020.
Click here to book a ticket.