McKingley Morganfield (1913 or 1914 or 1915-Forever)
“Tum-Tum-Tudu-Tum, The Gypsy Woman Told My Mother, Tum-Tum-Tudu-Tum”
Muddy Waters… No Blues should be mentioned without giving credit, love and appreciation to Muddy Waters.
The man was a bridge between the Delta and the Radio. The man had taught himself and many others to be remembered for the ages to come.
At times there are claims that Willie Dixon wrote his songs, Little Walter played his harp, many others did the work around him and Muddy was only a brand. Well, Muddy was a great brand surrounded by a great team in their prime and all great factors fell together to make the man who he was and is now considered. I do not feel that it would be fair to degrade any of it, since much of Muddy’s luck walked toe to toe with his genuine work and effort. He himself had put a great effort into raising “brands” and teaching them all he knew.
Born in Mississippi with a large family out in a country, life was rough. Muddy lost his mother early and his grandmother raised him for the most part. Everybody had to work on the farm and most time it was hard labor and no schooling.
At 9 years old Muddy started playing Harmonica and by 13 he recalls getting pretty good at it and performing in the area. By the age 17-18 Muddy switched to guitar and caught eye of a Library of Congress researcher who was recording different Folk and Delta Blues Musicians at the time. After hearing his own voice, Muddy realized that it was something he could do, something he wanted to do and moved to Chicago in 1943 to make everybody else hear that voice.
There it was some time since Mud had caught the eye of anyone. He played on Maxwell street as much as many other places while working hard labor of various nature.
By early 50’s Chess Records managed by Leonard and Phil Chess signed Muddy and began recording him alongside Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy and many others. Chess had a great taste for musicians and most of them had gone to achieve popularity beyond expectations. Muddy was the boss however, he was Chess Records and even though he did not receive a fair share of his money from all those hits recorded, he still had a major say in how things were done and who he wanted on his records. Can’t think of others with that much authority in Chess eyes.
He was a trailblazer, a father of the Chicago Blues, working at day, playing in joints at night, Muddy Waters brought booming fame to various Blues music.
For the first time ever, records made for a narrow audience had a crossover to a wide national public fame. Everywhere you could hear these records, Muddy was on every station, booked by the minute.
Over the years, Muddy’s fame spread globally and he toured across Europe successfully creating a tremendous fan base that spread throughout generations. Some of it was rough, like going to Europe for the first time where they were booing him on stage for playing electric while they expected delta. Other time booing for playing delta while expecting electric. However the English musicians such as Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones were inviting Mud and Blues artists of that time to many of their shows, often refusing to play if the organizers refused to bring Muddy Waters or Howlin’ Wolf. A great appreciation to the teachers.
Muddy Waters released 13 studio albums, 7 live albums and a billion accompanist, compilations and singles, most of which are a prime example of how the old cats played back at Mississippi and what the young kids attempt to imitate to this day. Muddy could do it all. He was a brand, but a brand of true and highest quality.
At the end of April 1983, Muddy died in his sleep at age 70. B.B. King told later that it was going to be many years until public realizes how much this man had done for the Blues as we know it and how much modern guitar music is influenced by him. I agree.
To me, “Hoochie Coochie Man” was the first tune I tried to play, the day I got my first guitar. Like all else about Muddy Waters, it is simple yet exquisite.
I often watch the audience during Muddy’s recorded performances. Some people there are excited, others are curious, few are indifferent. My views on the Grandfather of the Chicago Blues had shifted. I appreciated, now I respect and admire the man after studying his biography closer and with due diligence. He was the teacher that I look for in my Blues. He was the man that inspired, motivated and helped others out. He was the fearless musician that took the blows so that others did not have to. He was a father and he remains a lifting force.
I don’t usually sit down and learn Muddy’s licks, however I do feel great appreciation for the man. Gratitude even, for being the face on the force that opened doors for the Blues. For being lovable enough, charming enough, unique and charismatic to crossover internationally. Muddy Waters contributed a largest portion to create Urban Blues, regardless of who did what amount of work. Many of those whom I admire greatly, felt the same way about him. “The Rolling Stones”, guess where the name came from…