Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters is best known as “the Father of Chicago Blues”. As a child, McKinley Morganfield loved playing in mud and was fondly called Muddy, which he himself later changed to Muddy Waters. Holding the 17th position in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”, Muddy is also one of the main inspirations for the 1960s British blues explosion, while Chuck Berry got his very first record contract with Muddy’s help. A number of musical genres like hard rock, rhythm and blues, jazz, folk, rock “n” roll and country have been tremendously influenced by Muddy’s music.


A number of artists went ahead and forged successful solo careers after playing in Muddy’s band, like Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton, Luther “Guitar Jr.” Johnson, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Otis Spann and many more. The rock group Rolling Stones named themselves after Muddy’s 1950 smash hit “Rollin’ Stone”. His songs “I'm Ready”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, "Louisiana Blues”, “You Shook Me” and others have been widely covered by artists who came after him. Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix had once said that “The first guitar player I was aware of was Muddy Waters. I first heard him as a little boy and it scared me to death”. Acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese is a huge fan of the artist, and has featured Muddy’s songs in his movies like Casino, Goodfellas and The Color of Money. 


Muddy has left behind an indelible mark on the blues music scene, and was honored with numerous awards and accolades, which include six Grammy awards, induction into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. A section of Chicago’s 43rd Street is called Muddy Waters Drive, and the artist’s Stovall Plantation cabin is displayed at the Clarksdale Blues Museum. His sons are blues musicians Big Bill Morganfield and Larry "Mud Morganfield" Williams. Muddy’s life and works have been chronicled in many publications, the most prominent one being the 2002 book Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters, written by Robert Gordon.


Muddy was born in Issaquena County, Mississippi on April 4, 1913, in a family of sharecroppers.  He started playing the guitar at house parties when he was 17, heavily influenced by blues musicians Robert Johnson and Son House. He moved to Chicago in 1940, returned to Mississippi, and then went back to Chicago in 1943 to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time musician. He worked in a factory and drove a truck during the day, and performed at the Chicago clubs at night,. His first electric guitar was gifted to him by his uncle Joe Grant in 1945, and there was no looking back for Muddy since then. He became one of the most important recording artists for Chess Records, and had recorded close to 30 albums.


Muddy ruled the Chicago blues scene with his electrifying stage presence, mesmerizing slide guitar and lyrics that mostly talked about everything sexual.  Muddy’s first record was released in April 1948, and his other hits include “Got My Mojo Working”, “I Feel Like Going Home”, and “I Can't Be Satisfied”. His sound was essentially electrified Delta blues, but what made it unique was the use of microtones. In his own words, Muddy had described his guitar playing as “"When I play on the stage with my band, I have to get in there with my guitar and try to bring the sound down to me. 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”. Muddy’s last public performance was with Eric Clapton at a concert in Florida in 1982.  He died of a heart attack in Chicago on April 30, 1983, and B.B King had this to say to Guitar World after Muddy’s death – “It's going to be years and years before most people realize how great he was to American music”.


Enjoy the Growing library of Muddy Waters Inspired ‘Classic Blues Backing Tracks’ here on the site – let me know if you want any particular track or groove made into an ‘Over-20-Minute-Blues-Backing-Track’ – I’d love to help you out J



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