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Jazz And Blues Legends

The Rough Guide To Muddy Waters: Country Blues

Muddy Waters


Born McKinley Morganfield in 1915, he was raised on Stovall’s Plantation by his grandmother. He was drawn to the expressive storytelling power of the blues, and took up the harmonica and the guitar in his teens, under the influence of the greatest of the early Delta bluesmen, Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Son House and Robert Johnson.

Mastering the jagged, intense sound of bottleneck style, he added his own emotional vocals, and soon began to perform at dances and rent parties in the Mississippi Delta. He was first recorded in 1941 for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax, who found in him the next great blues musician after Robert Johnson. Waters was then still the traditional acoustic Delta bluesman, as can be heard on tracks such as ‘Country Blues, Number One’.

He moved to Chicago two years later, and the country boy learned fast how to hustle in the big city. He was befriended by Big Bill Broonzy and got his first break playing guitar behind Sonny Boy 'John Lee' Williamson. In the clubs he switched from acoustic to electric guitar and made a huge impact applying Delta bottleneck style to the amplified instrument and restyling the country blues songs he had recorded before. In 1948, he recorded ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ for the Aristocrat label, shortly to become Chess Records. The later tracks ‘Rollin’ And Tumblin’’, ‘Rollin' Stone’ and ‘Walking Blues’ gave the sound a new, exciting edge and compelling urgency. He soon had a full band backing him, bass player Big Crawford can be heard on tracks such as ‘I Feel Like Going Home’, the harmonica genius Little Walter made an early appearance on ‘Hello Little Girl’, and a drummer was added for the first time on ‘Screamin’ And Cryin’’. Over the next years Waters defined the sound of modern blues on a series of records, which became the bedrock of the electric blues and continue to resonate to this day with the same thrilling force.

The bonus CD features a group of stellar musicians, who played with Muddy Waters while he changed the face of blues music. Harmonica players James Cotton and Junior Wells, guitarists and singers Jimmy Rogers, Earl Hooker, Walter Horton, Jimmy Oden, Buddy Guy and Otis Rush, all passed through Muddy's band or played on his records. Others were merely influenced by him. But then again, of the blues musicians of the 1950s, there was scarcely anybody who wasn't…