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Artist: Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters

Bio

Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield, Issaquena County, Mississippi, April 4, 1913 - Westmont, Illinois, April 30, 1983) was an American blues musician and is generally considered "the father of Chicago Blues." His career spanned over thirty years and he produced what are considered to be some of the finest blues songs ever, such as Hoochie Coochie Man, Mannish Boy and Got My Mojo Working. Muddy Waters is generally considered one of the most influential bluesmen of all time. 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 was born McKinley Morganfield in Issaquena County, Mississippi in 1913 (He later told people that he was born in 1915 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi; the reason for this remains unknown). His grandmother Della Grant raised him after his mother died in 1918. Waters started out on harmonica but by age seventeen he was playing the guitar at parties and "fish fries", 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 1940 Waters moved to St. Louis before playing with Silas Green a year later and returning back to Mississippi. In the early part of the decade he ran a juke house, complete with gambling, moonshine, a jukebox and live music courtesy of Muddy himself. In the Summer of 1941 Alan Lomax came to Stovall, Mississippi, on behalf of the Library of Congress to record various country blues musicians. "He brought his stuff down and recorded me right in my house," Waters recalled in Rolling Stone, "and when he played back the first song I sounded just like anybody's records. Man, you don't know how I felt that Saturday afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice. Later on he sent me two copies of the pressing and a check for twenty bucks, and I carried that record up to the corner and put it on the jukebox. Just played it and played it and said, `I can do it, I can do it.'" Lomax came back again in July o
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Articles

Muddy Waters: I'm Ready (Blue Sky) Creem, May 1978

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IT ISN'T JUST the natural process of attribution and the creative stagnation afflicting his competitors that have made Muddy Waters the premier master of his idiom.

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His brash, bellowing blues, music for pay-check nights in rowdy places remains utterly contemporary and retains the primal rock and roll feeling that made Waters the key reference point for so much of the finest electric blues-rock of subsequent generations. The aggressive and boastful singing, the sharp-cornered guitar playing, the unsentimentalized emotion are all in full measure on Hard Again and I'm Ready, the consecutive Johnny Winter-produced albums that revitalized Waters in the vivid, spontaneous after-hours atmosphere condusive to his most pure and impassioned music making.

Waters' work has always had a crowing, cockproud quality to it – and each side of I'm Ready starts off with a '54 brag-song advertisement for his manly skills – but now Waters seems aglow both with the felicity of his union with Winter and with his unchallenged supremacy in blues, he's outdistanced his contemporaries either by simply outliving them or by staying creatively inspired while they've stalled. The '78 model Muddy Waters is like the new George Burns, a grand old man with skill to match his seniority, and Hard Again did for Waters what The Sunshine Boys did for Burns: brought him rekindled recognition and, just as importantly, the impetus to keep active, assured of his stature.

The latest two LPs have the jubilance, conviction and brazen youthfulness usually associated with those giant baby steps of the best kid whiteblues bands, the debuts of the Butterfield Band, The Allmans, J. Geils and The Stones, but with thirty years of professional experience bolstering the music. I'm Ready, which adheres to the Hard Again formula, in some ways tops it. Winter is more self-effacing, the unsubtle James Cotton has been replaced on harp, the new originals are tighter (if more conventionally structured in the blues format), and the older songs are a better '50s-'60s assortment. To hear him work on the sexual poetics of ‘Rock Me’, or with sly suggestiveness take on Sonny Boy Williamson's done-and-redone ‘Good Morning Little School Girl’, is to re-experience the sweet natal pains of rock and roll and even heavy metal.

The band, a mixture of black blues vets and young white initiates, could be stronger; Willie "Big Eyes" Smith is a rigid drummer who thuds when a brisk snap would keep the party rolling, "Pine Top" Perkins' piano is unassertive, and Bob Margolin is a routine bass player. But it's Muddy's show, and he's magnificent. His inelegant, almost brutal vocals and slide guitar solos lift the three new songs on side one far beyond the material's limits, and on the chestnuts like those mentioned, ‘Screamin' and Cryin'’ and ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, he arm-wrestles the past to at least a draw, remarkable since in some cases he's testing himself against his own versions done almost a quarter-century ago. Muddy Waters' "heads up!" spirit on I'm Ready is history and immediacy, the defiant and celebratory sides of the blues, and definitely a joyful noise.

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Top Albums

The Best Of Muddy Waters cover art

The Best Of Muddy Waters

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Baby Please Don't Go cover art

Baby Please Don't Go

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Hoochie Coochie Man cover art

Hoochie Coochie Man

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The Chess Box cover art

The Chess Box

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Top Songs

Mannish Boy cover art

Mannish Boy

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Rollin' Stone cover art

Rollin' Stone

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Got My Mojo Working cover art

Got My Mojo Working

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I Can't Be Satisfied cover art

I Can't Be Satisfied

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Hoochie Coochie Man cover art

Hoochie Coochie Man

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I'm Ready cover art

I'm Ready

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Recommended Songs

Spoonful cover art

Spoonful by Howlin' Wolf

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