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Muddy Waters


Muddy WatersMuddy Waters Official Site
Rolling Stone: Muddy WatersRolling Stone: Muddy Waters

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A postwar Chicago blues scene without the magnificent contributions of Muddy Waters is absolutely unimaginable. From the late '40s on, he eloquently defined the city's aggressive, swaggering, Delta-rooted sound with his declamatory vocals and piercing slide-guitar attack. When he passed away in 1983, the Windy City would never quite recover.

Like many of his contemporaries on the Chicago circuit, Waters was a product of the fertile Mississippi Delta. Born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, he grew up in nearby Clarksdale on Stovall's Plantation. His idol was the powerful Son House, a Delta patriarch whose flailing slide work and intimidating intensity Waters would emulate in his own fashion.

Musicologist Alan Lomax traveled through Stovall's in August of 1941 under the auspices of the Library of Congress, in search of new talent for purposes of field recording. With the discovery of Morganfield, Lomax must have immediately known he'd stumbled across someone very special.

Setting up his portable recording rig in the Delta bluesman's house, Lomax captured for Library of Congress posterity Waters' mesmerizing rendition of "I Be's Troubled," which became his first big seller when he re-cut it a few years later for the Chess brothers' Aristocrat logo as "I Can't Be Satisfied." Lomax returned the next summer to record his bottleneck-wielding find more extensively, also cutting sides by the Son Simms Four (a string band that Waters belonged to).

Waters was renowned for his blues-playing prowess across the Delta, but that was about it until 1943, when he left for the bright lights of Chicago. A tiff with "the bossman" apparently also had a little something to do with his relocation plans. By the mid-'40s, Waters' slide skills were becoming a recognized entity on Chicago's South side, where he shared a stage or two with pianists Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd, and guitarist Blue Smitty. Producer Lester Melrose, who still had the local recording scene pretty much sewn up in 1946, accompanied Waters into the studio to wax a date for Columbia, but the urban nature of the sides didn't electrify anyone in the label's hierarchy and remained unissued for decades.

Sunnyland Slim played a large role in launching the career of Muddy Waters. The pianist invited him to provide accompaniment for his 1947 Aristocrat session that would produce "Johnson Machine Gun." One obstacle remained beforehand: Waters had a day gig delivering Venetian blinds. But he wasn't about to let such a golden opportunity slip through his talented fingers. He informed his boss that a fictitious cousin had been murdered in an alley, so he needed a little time off to take care of business.

When Sunnyland had finished that auspicious day, Waters sang a pair of numbers, "Little Anna Mae" and "Gypsy Woman," that would become his own Aristocrat debut 78. They were rawer than the Columbia stuff, but not as inexorably down-home as "I Can't Be Satisfied" and its flip, "I Feel Like Going Home" (the latter was his first national R&B hit in 1948). With Big Crawford slapping the bass behind Waters' gruff growl and slashing slide, "I Can't Be Satisfied" was such a local sensation that even Muddy Waters himself had a hard time buying a copy down on Maxwell Street.

He assembled a band that was so tight and vicious on-stage that they were informally known as "the Headhunters"; they'd come into a bar where a band was playing, ask to sit in, and then "cut the heads" of their competitors with their superior musicianship. Little Walter, of course, would single-handily revolutionize the role of the harmonica within the Chicago blues hierarchy; Jimmy Rogers was an utterly dependable second guitarist; and Baby Face Leroy Foster could play both drums and guitar. On top of their instrumental skills, all four men could sing powerfully.

1951 found Waters climbing the R&B charts no less than four times, beginning with "Louisiana Blues," and continuing through "Long Distance Call," "Honey Bee," and "Still a Fool." Although it didn't chart, his 1950 classic "Rollin' Stone" provided a certain young British combo with a rather enduring name. Leonard Chess himself provided the incredibly unsubtle bass-drum bombs on Waters' 1952 smash "She Moves Me."

"Mad Love," his only chart bow in 1953, is noteworthy as the first hit to feature the rolling piano of Otis Spann, who would anchor the Waters aggregation for the next 16 years. By this time, Foster was long gone from the band, but Rogers remained, and Chess insisted that Walter ? by then a popular act in his own right ? make nearly every Waters session into 1958 (why break up a winning combination?). There was one downside to having such a peerless band; as the ensemble work got tighter and more urbanized, Waters' trademark slide guitar was largely absent on many of his Chess waxings.

Willie Dixon was playing an increasingly important role in Muddy Waters' success. In addition to slapping his upright bass on Waters' platters, the burly Dixon was writing one future bedrock standard after another for him: "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man," "Just Make Love to Me," and "I'm Ready"; seminal performances all, and each blasted to the uppermost reaches of the R&B lists in 1954.

When labelmate Bo Diddley borrowed Waters' swaggering beat for his strutting "I'm a Man" in 1955, Waters turned around and did him tit-for-tat by reworking the tune ever so slightly as "Mannish Boy" and enjoying his own hit. "Sugar Sweet," a pile-driving rocker with Spann's 88s anchoring the proceedings, also did well that year. 1956 brought three more R&B smashes: "Trouble No More," "Forty Days & Forty Nights," and "Don't Go No Farther."

But rock & roll was quickly blunting the momentum of veteran blues aces like Waters; Chess was growing more attuned to the modern sounds of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, the Moonglows, and the Flamingos. Ironically, it was Muddy Waters that had sent Berry to Chess in the first place.

After that, there was only one more chart item, 1958's typically uncompromising (and metaphorically loaded) "Close to You." But Waters' Chess output was still of uniformly stellar quality, boasting gems like "Walking Thru the Park" (as close as he was likely to come to mining a rock & roll groove) and "She's Nineteen Years Old," among the first sides to feature James Cotton's harp instead of Walter's, in 1958. That was also the year that Muddy Waters and Spann made their first sojourn to England, where his electrified guitar horrified sedate Britishers accustomed to the folksy homilies of Big Bill Broonzy. Perhaps chagrined by the response, Waters paid tribute to Broonzy with a solid LP of his material in 1959.

Cotton was apparently the bandmember that first turned Muddy on to "Got My Mojo Working," originally cut by Ann Cole in New York. Waters' 1956 cover was pleasing enough but went nowhere on the charts. But, when the band launched into a supercharged version of the same tune at the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, Cotton and Spann put an entirely new groove to it, making it an instant classic (fortuitously, Chess was on hand to capture the festivities on tape).

As the 1960s dawned, Muddy Waters' Chess sides were sounding a trifle tired. Oh, the novelty thumper "Tiger in Your Tank" packed a reasonably high-octane wallop, but his adaptation of Junior Wells' "Messin' With the Kid" (as "Messin' With the Man") and a less-than-timely "Muddy Waters Twist" were a long way removed indeed from the mesmerizing Delta sizzle that Waters had purveyed a decade earlier.

Overdubbing his vocal over an instrumental track by guitarist Earl Hooker, Waters laid down an uncompromising "You Shook Me" in 1962 that was a step in the right direction. Drummer Casey Jones supplied some intriguing percussive effects on another 1962 workout, "You Need Love," which Led Zeppelin liked so much that they purloined it as their own creation later on.

In the wake of the folk-blues boom, Waters reverted to an acoustic format for a fine 1964 LP, Folk Singer, that found him receiving superb backing from guitarist Buddy Guy, Dixon on bass, and drummer Clifton James. In October, he ventured overseas again as part of the Lippmann- and Rau-promoted American Folk Blues Festival, sharing the bill with Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim, Big Joe Williams, and Lonnie Johnson.

The personnel of the Waters band was much more fluid during the 1960s, but he always whipped them into first-rate shape. Guitarists Pee Wee Madison, Luther "Snake Boy" Johnson, and Sammy Lawhorn; harpists Mojo Buford and George Smith; bassists Jimmy Lee Morris and Calvin "Fuzz" Jones; and drummers Francis Clay and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (along with Spann, of course) all passed through the ranks.

In 1964, Waters cut a two-sided gem for Chess, "The Same Thing"/"You Can't Lose What You Never Had," that boasted a distinct 1950s feel in its sparse, reflexive approach. Most of his subsequent Chess catalog, though, is fairly forgettable. Worst of all were two horrific attempts to make him a psychedelic icon. 1968's Electric Mud forced Waters to ape his pupils via an unintentionally hilarious cover of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" (session guitarist Phil Upchurch still cringes at the mere mention of this album). After the Rain was no improvement the following year.

Partially salvaging this barren period in his discography was the Fathers and Sons project, also done in 1969 for Chess, which paired Muddy Waters and Spann with local youngbloods Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield in a multi-generational celebration of legitimate Chicago blues.

After a period of steady touring worldwide but little standout recording activity, Waters' studio fortunes were resuscitated by another of his legion of disciples, guitarist Johnny Winter. Signed to Blue Sky, a Columbia subsidiary, Waters found himself during the making of the first LP, Hard Again; backed by pianist Pinetop Perkins, drummer Willie Smith, and guitarist Bob Margolin from his touring band; Cotton on harp; and Winter's slam-bang guitar, Waters roared like a lion who had just awoken from a long nap.

Three subsequent Blue Sky albums continued the heartwarming back-to-the basics campaign. In 1980, his entire combo split to form the Legendary Blues Band; needless to note, he didn't have much trouble assembling another one (new members included pianist Lovie Lee, guitarist John Primer, and harpist Mojo Buford).

By the time of his death in 1983, Muddy Waters' exalted place in the history of blues (and 20th-century popular music, for that matter) was eternally assured. The Chicago blues genre that he turned upside down during the years following World War II would never recover; and that's a debt we'll never be able to repay. -- Bill Dahl, All Music Guide


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1960At Newport
1960Sings Big Bill Broonzy
1963Folk Festival of the Blues [live]
1964Folk Singer
1964Muddy Waters [Chess]
1966Down on Stovall's Plantation
1967Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana
1967Brass and the Blues
1968Super Blues
1968Electric Mud
1969After the Rain
1969Fathers and Sons
1969Sail On
1970Vintage Mud
1970Back in the Good Old Days
1970Good News
1970Goin' Home: Live in Paris 1970
1970They Call Me Muddy Waters
1971The London Muddy Waters Sessions
1972Muddy Waters Live
1973Mud in Your Ear
1973Can't Get No Grindin'
1974London Revisited
1974Muddy & the Wolf
1975Woodstock Album
1976Live at Jazz Jamboree '76
1977Hard Again
1978I'm Ready
1982Sweet Home Chicago


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1960 At Newport

01. I Got My Brand on You
02. (I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man
03. Baby Please Don't Go
04. Soon Forgotten
05. Tiger in Your Tank
06. I Feel So Good
07. I've Got My Mojo Working
08. I've Got My Mojo Working, Pt. 2
09. Goodbye Newport Blues

1960 Sings Big Bill Broonzy

01. Tell Me Baby
02. Southbound Train
03. When I Get to Thinking
04. Just a Dream (On My Mind)
05. Double Trouble
06. I Feel So Good
07. I Done Got Wise
08. Mopper's Blues
09. Lonesome Road Blues
10. Hey Hey

1963 Folk Festival of the Blues [live]

1964 Folk Singer

01. My Home Is in the Delta
02. Long Distance Call
03. My Captain
04. Good Morning Little School Girl
05. You're Gonna Need My Help
06. Cold Weather Blues
07. Big Leg Woman
08. Country Boy
09. Feel Like Going Home
10. The Same Thing
11. You Can't Lose What You Never Had
12. My John the Conqueror Root
13. Short Dress Woman
14. Put Me in Your Lay Away
15. Put Me in Your Layaway

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1964 Muddy Waters [Chess]

1966 Down on Stovall's Plantation

01. I Be's Troubled
02. Ramblin' Kid Blues
03. You Got to Take Sick and Die Some of These Days
04. Burr Clover Blues
05. Pearlie May Blues
06. Country Blues No. 1
07. Why Don't You Live So God Can Use You?
08. Rosalie
09. Country Blues No. 2
10. Take a Walk With Me
11. Joe Turner
12. You're Gonna Miss Me
13. I Be Bound to Write You

1967 Blues from Big Bill's Copacabana

1967 Brass and the Blues

01. Corrina, Corrina
02. Piney Brown Blues
03. Black Night
04. Trouble in Mind
05. Going Back to Memphis
06. Betty and Dupree
07. Sweet Little Angel
08. Take My Advice
09. Trouble
10. Hard Loser

1968 Super Blues

01. Long Distance Call
02. Who Do You Love?
03. I'm a Man
04. Bo Diddley
05. You Can't Judge a Book by Its Cover
06. I Just Want to Make Love to You
07. My Babe
08. You Don't Love Me (You Don't Care)
09. Studio Chatter
10. Sad Hours
11. Juke

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1968 Electric Mud

01. I Just Want to Make Love to You
02. (I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man
03. Let's Spend the Night Together
04. She's Alright
05. Mannish Boy
06. Herbert Harper's Free Press News
07. Tom Cat
08. The Same Thing

1969 After the Rain

01. I Am the Blues
02. Ramblin' Mind
03. Rollin' and Tumblin'
04. Bottom of the Sea
05. Honey Bee
06. Blues and Trouble
07. Hurtin' Soul
08. Screamin' and Cryin'

1969 Fathers and Sons

01. All Aboard
02. Mean Disposition
03. Blow Wind Blow
04. Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had
05. Walkin' Thru the Park
06. Forty Days and Forty Nights
07. Standing Around Crying
08. I'm Ready
09. Twenty-Four Hours
10. Sugar Sweet
11. Long Distance Call
12. Baby Please Don't Go
13. Honey Bee
14. The Same Thing
15. Got My Mojo Working, Pt. 1
16. Got My Mojo Working, Pt. 2

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1969 Sail On

01. Howlin' Wolf
02. Garbage Man
03. Mannish Boy
04. Blow Wind Blow
05. Honey Bee
06. Hoochie Coochie Man
07. Long Distance Call
08. Trouble No More
09. Train Fare Home
10. Baby Please Don't Go
11. Going Home
12. Everything Gonna Be Alright
13. Off the Wall
14. Can't Get No Grindin'
15. After Hours
16. Got My Mojo Working

1970 Vintage Mud

1970 Back in the Good Old Days

1970 Good News

1970 Goin' Home: Live in Paris 1970

01. Chicken Shack
02. Carrey Shuffle
03. After Hours
04. Train Fare Home
05. Honey Bee
06. Blow Wind Blow
07. Long Distance Call
08. Trouble No More
09. Hoochie Coochie Man
10. Got My Mojo Working
11. Goin' Home

1970 They Call Me Muddy Waters

01. When the Eagle Flies
02. Crawling King Snake
03. County Jail
04. It's All Over
05. Bird Nest on the Ground
06. They Call Me Muddy Waters
07. Find Yourself Another Fool
08. Kinfolk's Blues
09. Making Friends
10. Blind Man Blues
11. Two Steps Forward
12. Howlin' Wolf

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1971 The London Muddy Waters Sessions

01. Blind Man Blues
02. Key to the Highway
03. Young Fashioned Ways
04. I'm Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town
05. Who's Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I'm Gone
06. Walking Blues
07. I'm Ready
08. Sad, Sad Day
09. I Don't Know Why

1972 Muddy Waters Live

01. Mannish Boy
02. Oh Baby, You Don't Have to Go
03. Baby Please Don't Go
04. Ain't Gonna Trouble Me No More
05. They Call Me Muddy Waters
06. Walking Blues
07. Going Down Slow
08. She's Nineteen Years Old
09. Love Her With a Feeling
10. Have You Ever Been Mistreated
11. Got My Mojo Working

1973 Mud in Your Ear

01. Diggin' My Potatoes
02. Watch Dog
03. Sting It
04. Why'd You Do Me?
05. Natural Wig 06. Mud in Your Ear
07. Excuse Me Baby
08. Sad Day Uptown
09. Top of the Boogaloo
10. Long Distance Call
11. Mini Dress
12. Remember Me
13. Snake
14. Comin' Home Baby
15. Blues for Hippies
16. Chicken Shack
17. Love 'N' Trouble
18. I'm So Glad
19. Love Without Jealousy
20. Evil

1973 Can't Get No Grindin'

01. Can't Get No Grindin' (What's the Matter...)
02. Mother's Bad Luck Child
03. Funky Butt
04. Sad Letter Blues
05. Someday I'm Gonna Ketch You
06. Love Weapon
07. Garbage Man
08. After Hours
09. Whiskey No Good
10. Muddy Waters' Shuffle

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1974 London Revisited

01. Hard Days
02. Highway 41
03. I Almost Lost My Mind
04. Lovin' Man
05. Going Down Slow(w/Howlin Wolf)
06. Killing Floor(w/Howlin Wolf)
07. I Want to Have a Word With You(w/Howlin Wolf)

1974 Muddy & the Wolf

01. All Aboard
02. Blow Wind Blow
03. Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had
04. Walkin' Thru the Park
05. I'm Ready
06. Long Distance Call
07. Rockin' Daddy(Howlin' Wolf)
08. What a Woman!(Howlin' Wolf)
09. Who's Been Talking?(Howlin' Wolf)
10. The Red Rooster [Rehearsal](Howlin' Wolf)
11. The Red Rooster (Howlin' Wolf)
12. Highway 49(Howlin' Wolf)
13. Do the Do(Howlin' Wolf)

1975 Woodstock Album

01. Why Are People Like That?
02. Going Down to Main Street
03. Born With Nothing
04. Caldonia
05. Funny Sounds
06. Love, Deep as the Ocean
07. Let the Good Times Roll
08. Kansas City
09. Fox Squirrel

1976 Live at Jazz Jamboree '76

01. Floyd's Guitar Blues
02. G.P.S. Boogie
03. Baby Please Don't Go
04. Soon Forgotten
05. Corinne Corinna
06. Hoochie Coochie Man
07. Blow Wind Blow
08. What's a Matter With a Meal
09. Kansas City
10. Caldonia
11. Screamin' & Cryin'
12. I Got My Mojo Working
13. Gabbage Man

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1977 Chess

1977 Hard Again

01. Mannish Boy
02. Bus Driver
03. I Want to Be Loved
04. Jealous Hearted Man
05. I Can't Be Satisfied
06. The Blues Had a Baby and They Named It Rock and Roll
07. Deep Down in Florida
08. Crosseyed Cat
09. Little Girl

1978 I'm Ready

01. I?m Ready
02. 33 Years
03. Who Do You Trust
04. Copper Brown
05. I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man
06. Mamie
07. Rock Me
08. Screamin? And Cryin?
09. Good Morning Little School Girl

1982 Sweet Home Chicago

01. Forty Days And Forty Nights
02. Rollin' And Tumblin'
03. All Aboard
04. Rock Me
05. Rollin' Stone
06. I'm Ready
07. Standin' And Cryin'
08. She Moves Me
09. I Feel So Good
10. Goin' Home

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Graphics by YSM

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