Muddy Waters, born as McKinley Morganfield, was an American blues musician who is usually referred to as the "Father of modern Chicago blues". He, along with his band mates, recorded numerous blues classics, such as the singles "I Just Want to Make Love to You", "I'm Ready", "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Trouble No More", "Forty Days and Forty Nights" and "You Shook Me", to name a few. He also released several studio albums, live albums, and compilation albums including ‘Folk Singer’, ‘Electric Mud’, ‘After the Rain’, ‘Fathers and Sons’, ‘The London Muddy Waters Sessions’, ‘Hard Again’, ‘King Bee’, ‘The Real Folk Blues’, ‘The Anthology’, ‘At Newport 1960’ and ‘Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981’. Known to work with renowned labels like Columbia Records and Aristocrat Records, Waters had tremendous influence not only on the blues and rhythm and blues genres but also on hard rock, rock and roll, jazz, folk music and country music. Talking about his awards and accolades, the American musician won many Grammy Awards and Blues Foundation Awards in his career. He was also inducted into several prestigious halls of fame. On a personal note, Waters married twice in his lifetime and had many children. He died from heart failure in his sleep at the age of 70.
Childhood & Early Life
Muddy Waters was born as McKinley Morganfield on 4 April 1913 (his birth year is stated to be 1915 in some sources) in the city of Rolling Fork in Mississippi. His father Ollie Morganfield was a blues guitar player as well as a farmer.
His father abandoned the family shortly after Waters was born. At the age of three, Waters lost his mother, Bertha Jones, and went to live with his grandmother, Della Grant.
He started playing the harmonica when he was five and began performing music on the streets as a teenager.
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In the early 1940s, Muddy Waters went to Chicago and started living with his relative. He then met Big Bill Broonzy, one of the leading bluesmen of that time, who decided to give the talented young man a chance. Broonzy let him open his shows in clubs and gave him the chance to play in front of a large audience.
In 1946, Waters recorded some songs for Columbia Records. Soon after this, he started recording for Aristocrat Records. He also played guitar on the cuts "Little Anna Mae" and "Gypsy Woman". He sang for the tracks "I Feel Like Going Home" and I Can't Be Satisfied" which became huge hits.
His popularity grew with the passing years and by 1953 he was recording with one of the most celebrated blues groups in history with Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Otis Spann on piano and Elga Edmonds on drums. During the early 1950s, the band released a series of blues classics including "I'm Ready", "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "I Just Want to Make Love to You".
Waters released the single “Juke” with Little Walter. This was followed by the release of the singles "Sugar Sweet", "Trouble No More", "Don't Go No Farther", "Got My Mojo Working" and "Forty Days and Forty Nights".
In the late 1950s, Waters’ career began to decline and his single "Close to You" became the only one of his songs to reach the charts in 1958. The same year, he also released his album titled ‘The Best of Muddy Waters’.
During the 1960s, the American artist’s career experienced a revival as his works gained appreciation from a new generation of music lovers. He recorded his first live blues album titled ‘At Newport 1960’ at the Newport Jazz Festival.
He recorded his album ‘Fold Singer’ in 1963. The same year, he participated in the first annual European tour and performed additional acoustic-oriented numbers. Shortly after, Waters released ‘The Blues of Otis Spann’ with Spann. He then went on to release the compilation album titled ‘The Real Folk Blues’ in 1966.
In 1967, he re-recorded many blues standards with Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Bo Diddley for the album ‘Super Blues.’ After this, Waters’ album ‘Electric Mud’ was released under the label Cadet Concept. He then recorded a follow-up album titled ‘After the Rain’ that came out on May 12, 1969.
In 1971, his album ‘They Call Me Muddy Waters’ was released. This album had Waters’ old, but previously unreleased, numbers. That next year, the musician’s album titled ‘The London Muddy Waters Sessions’ was released.
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Waters then recorded his last LP on Chess Records in 1975. The album titled ‘The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album’ featured Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin, Paul Butterfield, Garth Hudson, and Levon Helm.
In 1981, he played live at the Checkerboard Lounge with the Rolling Stones. A DVD version of this performance was then released in the year 2012. In 1982, Waters stopped performing due to his declining health. His last performance took place at a concert in the summer of 1982.
In 1969, Muddy Waters recorded the album titled ‘Fathers and Sons’ that included performances by his longtime fans Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield who had wanted to work with Waters from a long time. This album was the most successful work of Waters' music career.
Awards & Achievements
Muddy Waters won several Grammy Awards in his music career. Between 1972 to 1980, he received six Grammys under the category ‘Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording’ for ‘They Call Me Muddy Waters,’ ‘The London Muddy Waters Session,’ ‘The Muddy Waters Woodstock Album,’ ‘Hard Again,’ ‘I'm Ready,’ and ‘Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live.’
In 1980, he was inducted into the ‘Blues Foundation Hall of Fame’. Then in 1987, he was posthumously inducted into the ‘Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’.
After his death, the American musician was awarded with the ‘Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award’ in 1992.
In 1994 and 1995, he received two Blues Foundation Awards under the category ‘Reissue Album of the Year’. Also in 1994, Waters was depicted on the 29-cent commemorative stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.
Muddy Waters was first married to a lady named Geneva. She died of cancer in March 1973, leaving him a widower. Then in 1979, he went on to marry his second wife, Marva Jean Brooks. He had many kids, including sons Big Bill Morganfield, Larry "Mud" Morganfield, and Joseph “Joe” Morganfield.
On April 30, 1983, the American musician died in his sleep from heart failure.
Two years after Waters’ death, Chicago honored him by assigning one one-block section near his former house as the "Honorary Muddy Waters Drive".
In 1993, Paul Rodgers released the album titled ‘Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters’ in order to honor the late musician.
Muddy Waters' songs have been featured in Martin Scorsese’s films, including ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘The Color of Money,’ and ‘Casino.’
Waters was given the nickname "Muddy" as he loved playing in muddy water.