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The Blues: Muddy Waters

Updated on January 5, 2016

Muddy Waters, Father of the Chicago Blues

Born McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1915 - April 30, 1983), Muddy Waters was the Father of Chicago Blues. According to Wikipedia, "Muddy was ranked #17 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time," but that doesn't begin to address his influence on Chicago's electric Blues.

Although in his later years Muddy usually said that he was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in 1915, he was actually born at Jug's Corner in neighboring Issaquena County, Mississippi, and he often told recording companies that he'd really been born in 1913, as it made him look older.

I was so wild and crazy and dumb in my car. It didn't run but 30 miles an hour. You made do.

Birth of the Chicago Blues

Chicago was the central point for the development and distribution of the modern electric blues. Everything else has flowed from there.

The Chicago Blues revolution began in 1948 with the release of a 78-rpm single by Muddy Waters, who sang a pair of traditional Mississippi Delta-styled pieces that showcased Waters' dark, haunting voice. His amplified guitar created a new, powerful sonority that introduced to traditional music a sound its listeners found exciting; comfortably familiar yet strangely compelling and, above all, immensely powerful.

"I got up one Christmas morning and we didn't have nothing to eat. We didn't have an apple, we didn't have an orange, we didn't have a cake, we didn't have nothing."

-- Muddy Waters

Folk Singer
Folk Singer

The Audio CD.

"Muddy Waters started out playing acoustic blues in the Delta, and it shows on this return to his roots, designed to appeal to the mid-1960s surge of interest in folk music. The back of the CD includes a photo of Waters with bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon, as well as a very young Buddy Guy, gathered around a single microphone. This particular CD reissue includes five bonus tracks, among which are 'The Same Thing' and 'Short Dress Woman,' which take advantage of the longer CD running time. All of the other reasons to hear this one remain--Waters's strong, confident voice, the relaxed smoothness of the material, and the surprisingly clean recording, made even cleaner by the digital remastering." Genevieve Williams, Blues Revue Magazine)


"I wanted to get out of Mississippi in the worst way. Go back? What I want to go back for?"

Going Down Slow

Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, and Bo Diddley perform "Going Down Slow" -- a Blues standard written by St. Louis Jimmy. The song's been done by Eric Clapton, Ray Charles, Howlin' Wolf, Huey Lewis & The News, BB King and others.

"I have had my fun, if I don't get well no more

My health is failing me, and I'm going down slow

Please write my mother, tell her the shape I'm in

Tell her to pray for me, forgive me for my sin"

I Just Want to Make Love to You

"I don't want you to cook my bread

I don't want you to make my bed

I don't want you because I'm sad and blue

I just want to make love to you"

I Just Want to Make Love to You

Willie Dixon wrote this song, and Muddy Waters was the first artist to record it.

"Can't ask her where she's going

She tells me where she's been

She starts a conversation

That don't have no end"

She's Nineteen Years Old - ChicagoFest 1981

"I want to do with my guitar what Muddy Waters does with his voice." (Jimi Hendrix)

His Best 1956 to 1964 (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) - An Amazon Essential Recording

"Few blues artists covered as much territory as did Muddy Waters, and it's more than evident if you put this collection and The Complete Plantation Recordings side by side. Even more than the prior His Best collection, these recordings illustrate Waters's talent not only as a composer and performer (as usual, many of the songs were written by Willie Dixon), but also as a bandleader. The backing musicians--including several who were by now name artists in their own right, such as James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Earl Hooker, Little Walter, and A.C. Reed--are tight as a drum and smooth as a greased axle. This essential collection contains several classics, including but not limited to 'Got My Mojo Working' (Waters's studio take on what has to be the most-covered blues song in existence), 'She's Nineteen Years Old,' 'Good Morning, Little School Girl,' 'The Same Thing,' 'You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had,' 'You Shook Me,' and 'You Need Love' (which will sound oddly familiar to Led Zeppelin fans). It rocks, it rolls, it shakes, it's quintessential Chicago blues." (Genevieve Williams, Blues Revue Magazine)

She's Nineteen Years Old

Buddy Guy was mentored by the giants of Chicago Blues, and Muddy Waters was first among them. I've included this version of "She's Nineteen Years Old" as a tribute to Muddy, and the genre he gave birth to.

Muddy said it straight...

"I was always singing the way I felt, and maybe I didn't exactly know it, but I just didn't like the way things were down there-in Mississippi."

"If you got something you don't want other people to know, keep it in your pocket."

I got seven hundred dollars, don't you mess with me

Hoochie-Coochie Man

If you got something you don't want other people to know, keep it in your pocket. (Muddy Waters)

Baby Please Don't Go - Muddy Waters & The Stones

Whoa baby, what's gettin' wrong with you

You don't treat me nothin' girl, like you used to do...

Your favorite tune?

Which of the tunes on this page grabs you the most?

See results

I'm a Man - Muddy, Bo Diddley and Little Walter - Wow!

"Now when I was a young boy, at the age of five

My mother said I was, gonna be the greatest man alive..."

Written and recorded by Bo Diddley in 1955, "I'm a Man" became an instant classic. It is said to have been inspired by Muddy's 1954 hit, "Hoochie Coochie Man." After it was released, Muddy Waters responded with "Mannish Boy," a song which used a play on words to tease Bo Diddley about his youth.

("Mannish Boy" is below, and will be the final piece provided here.)


"I'm a man

I'm a full grown man

I'm a Hoochie Coochie Man"

Manish Boy

Who do ya love?

I can't help but chuckle, because I find it impossible to choose a "best" from a list of legendary giants, but that's life in the Squid Lane... so help me out here... if you HAD to pick one, and only one, which one would it be, and why?

Who Is Your Favorite Chicago Blues Artist?

See results
Big Bill Morganfield
Big Bill Morganfield

Big Bill Morganfield

Muddy Waters' Son

"Many men try to fill their father's shoes when they join the family business. Few, however, must prove they are up to the task in front of an audience as large as the one that watched Big Bill Morganfield. Blues lovers the world over revere his late father, Muddy Waters. Morganfield didn't take up the challenge until several years after his dad passed away in 1983. When he realized he wanted to delve into the world of blues as his father had, he purchased a guitar, intending to pay homage to the legendary Waters, whose real name was McKinley Morganfield. That tribute was six long years in coming, years that Morganfield spent teaching himself how to play the instrument." (Read the full Bio on Billboard)

I first heard Big Bill's sound during a concert appearance in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. I enjoyed his performance so much I bought two of his CDs on the spot. His haunting "Rising Son" is still my favorite song - it reminds me of Muddy.

Rising Son
Rising Son

My top Morgenfield CD!


I stone got crazy when I saw somebody run down them strings with a bottleneck. My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree and I said that I had to learn.

(Muddy Waters)

Love the Chicago Sound? - Take a moment to say hi!

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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I like real authentic music like this. great lens . i listed it on


    • Nightcat profile image


      6 years ago

      Had to come back to finish nosing around. Gave you a lensroll, trust me I'm not trying to horn in on your blues niche. Hopefully my latest travesty will do. Your blues lenses, however, rock.

    • jholland profile image


      6 years ago

      This is a great lens. I have long enjoyed Muddy's music, but knew very little about the man himself. Loved discovering his son's work here as well.


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