Nearly no soul in history could say they were the Blues like Muddy Waters could. Muddy is one of the most prolific embodiments of the Blues that there ever was. His larger-than-life sound has played a hugely influential role in the style of countless musicians. The nuances in his guitar playing and his deep, rough voice made Muddy into an un-imitatable force that drove Chicago Blues, and subsequently Rock n’ Roll, to unheard of heights.
McKinley Morganfield, Muddy’s real name, was born to a Mississippi sharecropper, reportedly in the town of Rolling Fork, Mississippi. His mother died when he was only three years old, and he moved to the outskirts of Clarksdale, Mississippi, to Stovall’s Plantation. He was given the nickname “Muddy” because of his penchant for playing in the mud as a child. Like so many from the Delta, Muddy grew up sharecropping himself, tending to cotton fields for hardly a dollar per week. In the fields, he learned the long standing tradition of call-and-response singing. Influenced strongly by the Blues giant Son House, who lived nearby, Muddy began to play the guitar at 17. He quickly picked up the delta style and mastered the bottleneck slide, which would help to define his electric style later in life. It didn’t take long for him to start playing parties & jukes with his friend Sunnyland Sims, who would later play a pivotal role in Muddy’s bullet-train to fame. In 1941, while looking for the Delta legend Robert Johnson, (who had already been dead for 3 years), famed folklorist Alan Lomax recorded Muddy for the first time in his life. Mud later equated this experience to hearing himself for the first time. He was recorded again by Lomax in 1943, and that year, inspired by his recordings, he boarded a train from Clarksdale, to Chicago, Illinois to play his guitar.