McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, was an American blues singer-songwriter as well as one of the greatest figures of Chicago Blues.
Muddy Waters was born on April 4, 1913, in Issaquena County, Mississippi. The young Muddy Waters expressed a great interest in blues music and started to learn to play the guitar and harmonica. His biggest influences were Son House and Robert Johnson, two great figures of the Delta Blues. Muddy’s first gigs took place in juke joints, African-American establishments opened in the Southeastern United States during the Jim Crow Laws era.
In 1941, Muddy Waters met ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax who worked for the Library of Congress as Assistant in Charge of the Folk Song Archives. Together, they recorded four songs between 1941 and 1942. From then on, Muddy decided to pursue a career as a professional musician and left Mississippi to Chicago.
At that time, a new form of blues genre evolved : the Chicago Blues. As a result of the Great Migration, when black workers moved from the Southern United States into the industrial cities of the Northern United States (such as Chicago), Delta blues evolved in a Urban blues with a much more electrified sound. Muddy Waters began to play on an electric guitar, a Fender Telecaster. He formed his own band, The Chicago Blues, alongside harmonica player Little Walter Jacobs, guitarist Jimmy Rogers, pianist Otis Spann et drummer Elgin Evans. In 1948, Muddy signed his first contract with Leonard Chess, founder of the greatest blues label Chess Records.
Muddy Waters recorded his first hit, Rollin’ Stone, and performed as support band of Big Bill Broonzy during his tour. Quickly, Muddy Waters became a rising star of the Chicago Blues music scene. His songs such as Mannish Boy, Baby Please Don’t Go or I’ve got my Mojo Working became great successes (and are now considered as Blues standards). Muddy also became a great influence for many American musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter and the Allman Brothers.
During the 1960s, Muddy Waters conquered Europe and seized the British musical scene during the rise of the British Blues Boom in England. The bluesman had a considerable influence on many British musicians and bands such as Rory The Rolling Stones (whose name comes from Muddy Waters hit, Rollin‘ Stone), Rory Gallagher or Led Zeppelin.
In 1972, Muddy Waters recorded the “London Muddy Waters Sessions” alongside Stevie Winwood and Rory Gallagher, before going through a very quiet period as many others bluesmen at the time… until 1977. Johnny Winter, an American bluesman and a big Muddy Water’s fan, produced what will become the Muddy Waters’ come-back album : Hard Again. The album was a great success and obtained a Grammy Award the same year. Thereafter, Muddy released two more albums : I’m Ready (1978) and King Bee (1981).
Sick and tired, Muddy Waters gradually moved away from the musical scene. His last concert took place in the Autumn of 1982 in Florida with Eric Clapton. On the 30th of April 1983, Muddy Waters died in his home in Westmont, Illinois.