McKinley Morganfield (born April 4, 1913, Issaquena County, Mississippi; died April 30, 1983, Westmont, Illinois), better known as Muddy Waters, was an American blues musician and is generally considered "the Father of Chicago blues". He is also the actual father of blues musicians Big Bill Morganfield and Larry 'Muddy Junior' Williams.
Considered one of the greatest bluesmen of all time, Muddy Waters was a huge inspiration for the British beat explosion in the 1960s and considered by many to be one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century.
In 2004 Waters was ranked #17 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Waters usually said that he was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in 1915. He was actually born in neighbouring Issaquena County, Mississippi in 1913. (For many years a birth year of 1915 was reported; recent research uncovered documentation showing that in the 1930s and 1940s he reported his birth year as 1913 on both his marriage license and musicians union card; a 1955 interview in the Chicago Defender is the earliest documentation of him shaving off a couple of years and giving 1915 as his year of birth, and which he continued to use in interviews from that point onward.) His grandmother Della Grant raised him after his mother died in 1918. His fondness for playing in mud earned him the nickname "Muddy" at an early age. He later changed it to "Muddy Water" and finally "Muddy Waters". Waters started out on harmonica but by age seventeen he was playing the guitar at parties emulating two blues artists who were extremely popular in the south, Son House and Robert Johnson. "His thick heavy voice, the dark coloration of his tone and his firm almost solid personality were all clearly derived from House," wrote Peter 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 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, one of the leading bluesmen in Chicago at the time, helped Muddy break into the very competitive market by allowing him to open for his shows 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 weren't released at the time. 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' "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' signature tune, "Rollin' Stone", became a smash hit.
Waters, along with his former harmonica player Little Walter Jacobs and recent southern transplant Howling Wolf, reigned over the early 1950s Chicago blues scene; Waters' band became a proving ground for some of the city's best blues talent. While Waters and Jacobs continued a collaborative relationship long after Jacobs left Muddy's band in 1952, with Jacobs appearing on most of Muddy's classic recordings throughout the 1950s, Muddy developed a long-running but generally good-natured rivalry with the gravel-voiced singer Howlin' Wolf, who had moved to Chicago from Memphis by 1954. Wolf's band, like Muddy's, featured an all-star lineup, notably featuring the now-legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin. Wolf also competed with Waters for the songwriting attention of Willie Dixon and recorded a number of Dixon tunes. Nonetheless, Waters consistently retained an edge over Wolf in popularity and esteem. Both Waters and Wolf are held in immense regard by modern rock and blues aficionados, but Waters scored far more chart hits and is generally considered to be the more commercially successful and the better known of the two; especially to the casual listener.
By 1954, Waters was at the height of his career. "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 music critic Peter Guralnick in his book The Listener's Guide to The Blues.
The success of Waters's ensemble paved the way for others in his group to break away and enjoy their own solo careers. In 1952 Little Walter left when his single "Juke" became a hit, and in 1955 Rogers quit to work exclusively with his own band, which had been a sideline until that time. Although he continued working with Waters' band, Otis Spann enjoyed a solo career and many releases under his own name beginning in the mid-1950s. 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 thereafter.
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 recorded albums with various "popular" themes: Brass And The Blues, Electric Mud, etc. In 1967, he joined forces with Bo Diddley, Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf to record the Super Blues and The Super Super Blues Band pair of albums of Chess blues standards. 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 was not 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."
Waters's 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."
The Muddy Waters Blues Band was one of the crack outfits on the scene at the time and included guitarist Bob Margolin, pianist Pinetop Perkins, and drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, and all were on this session. Winter played guitar in addition to producing. Waters asked James Cotton to play harp on the session, and Cotton brought his bassist Charles Calmese. According to Margolin's warm and informative anecdotal liner notes, Waters never picked up his guitar during these sessions. It hardly matters. From the opening roar of "Mannish Boy," with shouts and hollers throughout, with incendiary guitars to the old-style Delta blues of "I Can't Be Satisfied", with a National Steel solo by Winter, to Cotton's screeching intro to "The Blues Had a Baby", to the moaning closer "Little Girl", Hard Again is rock solid. Its live feel heralds back to the Chess Records days, and its cooperative musicianship and intimate, good time vibe have rarely been replicated since that time -- and never on a major label. The expanded reissue includes one bonus track, a remake of his 1950s single "Walking Through the Park," that could have been part of the original album without a problem -- the other outtakes ended up on King Bee. Margolin's notes state that while the album has been remastered, it was not remixed because its sound holds up. Hard Again showcased Waters as a blues lion, and in its grooves lies all the evidence for the legend he remains. It was the first studio collaboration between Waters and Winter, who produced his final four albums, the others being I'm Ready, King Bee, and Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live, for Blue Sky, a Columbia Records subsidiary.
In 1978 Winter recruited two of Waters' cohorts from the early '50s, Big Walter Horton and Jimmy Rogers, and brought in the rest of Waters' touring band at the time (harmonica player Jerry Portnoy, guitarist Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, and bassist Calvin Jones) to record Waters' I'm Ready LP, which came close to the critical and commercial success of Hard Again.
The comeback continued in 1979 with the lauded LP 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." Accompanied by his touring band, augmented by Johnny Winter on guitar, Muddy turns in an enthusiastic performance. The set list contains most of his biggest hits, and the sound quality and performances are energetic. King Bee the following year concluded Water's reign at Blue Sky, and these last four LPs turned out to be his biggest-selling albums ever. King Bee was the last album Muddy Waters recorded. Coming last in a trio of triumphant studio outings produced by Johnny Winter, it is also a mixed bag. During the sessions for King Bee, Waters, his manager, and his band were involved in a dispute over money. According to the liner notes by Bob Margolin, the conflict arose from Waters' health being on the wane and him playing fewer engagements. The bandmembers wanted more money for each of the fewer gigs they did play in order to make ends meet. Ultimately a split occurred and the entire band quit. Because of the tensions in the studio preceding the split, Winter felt the sessions had not produced enough solid material to yield an entire album. He subsequently filled out King Bee with outtakes from earlier Blue Sky sessions and the cover photograph was by David Michael Kennedy. For the listener, King Bee is a leaner and meaner record. Less of the good-time exuberance present on the previous two outings is present here. The title track, "Mean Old Frisco", "Sad Sad Day", and "I Feel Like Going Home", are all blues with ensemble work. The Sony Legacy issue features completely remastered sound and Margolin's notes, and also hosts two bonus tracks from the King Bee sessions that Winter didn't see fit to release the first time.
In 1982, declining health dramatically curtailed Waters' performance schedule. Muddy Waters' last public performance took place when he sat in with Eric Clapton's band at a Clapton concert in Florida in autumn of 1982.
His 1958 tour of England marked possibly the first time amplified, modern urban blues was heard there, although on his first tour he was the only one amplified. His backing was provided by Englishman Chris Barber's trad jazz group. (One critic retreated to the toilets to write his review because he found the band so loud.)
The Rolling Stones named themselves after Waters' 1950 song "Rollin' Stone", (also known as "Catfish Blues", which Jimi Hendrix covered as well). Cream covered his song "Rollin' and Tumblin'" on their 1966 debut album Fresh Cream, as Eric Clapton was a big fan of Muddy Waters when he was growing up, and Waters' music influenced Clapton's music career. The song was also covered by Canned Heat at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival and later adapted by Bob Dylan on the album Modern Times. One of Led Zeppelin's biggest hits, "Whole Lotta Love", is lyrically based upon the Waters hit "You Need Love", written by Willie Dixon. Dixon wrote some of Muddy Waters' most famous songs, including "I Just Want to Make Love to You" (a big radio hit for the 1970s rock band Foghat), "Hoochie Coochie Man," which The Allman Brothers Band famously covered, and "I'm Ready", which was covered by Humble Pie. In 1993, Paul Rodgers released the album Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters, on which he covered a number of Muddy Waters songs, including "Louisiana Blues", "Rollin' Stone", "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "I'm Ready" (among others) in collaboration with a number of famous guitarists such as Brian May and Jeff Beck.
Angus Young of the rock group AC/DC has cited Waters as one of his influences. The song title "You Shook Me All Night Long" came from lyrics of the Muddy Waters song "You Shook Me", written by Willie Dixon and J. B. Lenoir. Earl Hooker first recorded it as an instrumental which was then overdubbed with vocals by Muddy Waters in 1962.
Waters' songs have been featured in long-time fan Martin Scorsese's movies, including The Color of Money, Casino and Goodfellas. Waters' 1970s recording of his mid-'50s hit "Mannish Boy" (a.k.a. "I'm A Man") was used in the hit film Risky Business.
Other songs for which Muddy Waters is known include "Long Distance Call", "Rock Me", and "Got My Mojo Working".
Screenwriter David Simon has written an unproduced teleplay about Waters' life.
The 2006 Family Guy episode "Saving Private Brian" includes a parody of Muddy Waters trying to pass a kidney stone; his screams of pain form a call and response with the Chicago blues band in his bathroom.
Attesting to the historic place of Muddy Waters in the development of the blues in Mississippi, a Mississippi Blues Trail marker has been placed in Clarksdale by the Mississippi Blues Commission designating the site of Muddy Waters' cabin to commemorate his importance.
|Muddy Waters Grammy Award History|
|1971||Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording||They Call Me Muddy Waters||folk||MCA/Chess||winner|
|1972||Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording||The London Muddy Waters Session||folk||MCA/Chess||winner|
|1975||Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording||The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album||folk||MCA/Chess||winner|
|1977||Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording||Hard Again||folk||Blue Sky||winner|
|1978||Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording||I'm Ready||folk||Blue Sky||winner|
|1979||Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording||Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live||folk||Blue Sky||winner|
Recordings of Muddy Waters were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."
|Muddy Waters: Grammy Hall of Fame Awards|
|Year Recorded||Title||Genre||Label||Year Inducted||Notes|
|1950||"Rollin' Stone"||Blues (single)||Chess||2000|
|1957||"Got My Mojo Working"||Blues (Single)||Chess||1999|
|1954||"Hoochie Coochie Man"||Blues (Single)||Chess||1998|| Listed in the National Recording Registry|
by the Library of Congress in 2004.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame listed four songs of Muddy Waters of the 500 songs that shaped rock.
|1954||Hoochie Coochie Man|
|1957||Got My Mojo Working|
|Muddy Waters: Blues Music Awards|
|1994||Reissue Album of the Year||The Complete Plantation Recordings||Winner|
|1995||Reissue Album of the Year||One More Mile||Winner|
|2000||Traditional Blues Album of the Year||The Lost Tapes of Muddy Waters||Winner|
|2002||Historical Blues Album of the Year||Fathers and Sons||Winner|
|2006||Historical Album of the Year||Hoochie Coochie Man: Complete Chess Recordings, Volume 2, 1952-1958||Winner|
|1980||Blues Foundation Hall of Fame|
|1987||Rock and Roll Hall of Fame|
|1992||Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award|
U.S. Postage Stamp
|1994||29 cents Commemorative stamp||U.S. Postal Service||Photo|