McKinley Morganfield (born 4th April 1913 - died 30th April 1983), known as Muddy Waters, was an American blues musician. He is considered the "father of modern Chicago blues" and was a major inspiration for the British blues explosion of the 1960s
McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, was one of the foremost artists in blues history. In the late 1940s and 1950s he led the way in transforming traditional Delta blues into the electric Chicago blues style that paved the road to rock 'n' roll. Waters was born in the Jug's Corner community of rural Issaquena County but always claimed Rolling Fork as his birthplace. His birth date has been cited as April 4, 1913, 1914, or 1915.
His grandmother, Della Grant, nicknamed him “Muddy” because, as a baby on the Cottonwood Plantation near Mayersville, he loved to play in the mud. Childhood playmates tagged on “Water” or “Waters” a few years later. His father, Ollie Morganfield, was a sharecropper in the Rolling Fork area who also entertained at local blues affairs. But Waters was raised by his grandmother, who moved to the Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale when he was still a young child, and his influences were Delta musicians such as Son House, Robert Johnson, and Robert Nighthawk. Muddy first played harmonica with Stovall guitarist Scott Bohanner, but took up guitar under the older musician's tutelage, and later performed with another mentor, blues legend Big Joe Williams. He also played in a string band, the Son Sims Four, and drove a tractor on the Stovall Plantation, where he ran a juke joint out of his house.
Waters did his first recordings at Stovall in 1941-42 for a Library of Congress team led by Alan Lomax and John Work III. In 1943 he moved to Chicago, and by the end of the decade he was setting the pace on the competitive Chicago blues scene. The city was loaded with freshly arriving talent from Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana as southern farm workers continued to migrate to the alleged “promised land” of the north. Many of the finest musicians, including harmonica player Little Walter Jacobs, pianist Otis Spann, and guitarist Jimmy Rogers, worked in the seminal Muddy Waters Blues Band, which virtually defined the Chicago blues genre. Both through his recordings on the Aristocrat and Chess labels and through his sensual and electrifying live performances, he not only became a blues icon but a godfather to generations of rock 'n' roll bands, as he expanded his audience from the African American clubs of Chicago's South and West sides to Europe and beyond. The Rolling Stones recorded several of his songs and took their name from one of his early records, “Rollin' Stone.” Jazz, R&B, country & western, and hip hop artists have used his material as well.
Other Muddy Waters classics, many written by Vicksburg native Willie Dixon, include “Got My Mojo Working,” “Manish Boy,” “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “I'm Ready.” Waters returned to visit or perform in Mississippi on occasion, and appeared at the Greenville V.F.W., the Ole Miss campus, and the 1981 Delta Blues Festival. A recipient of multiple Grammy awards, charter member of the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall of Fame, and 1987 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Muddy Waters died in his sleep on April 30, 1983, at his home in Westmont, Illinois.
Blues singer-pianist Eddie Boyd (1914-1994), who wrote the classic "Five Long Years," a No. 1 rhythm & blues hit in 1952, was also born on Stovall. Stovall resident and blues bassist David "Pecan" Porter (1943-2003) later lived in the house that Muddy Waters had earlier occupied. Porter was active on the Clarksdale blues scene from the 1960s through the 1990s.
Only in the 1980s, after the vacant house was in disrepair, did tourists begin visiting it as a Muddy Waters shrine. In 1987, guitarist Billy Gibbons of the rock group Z.Z. Top had "Muddywood" guitars crafted from the planks of the house. Z.Z. Top subsequently used the guitars to promote a fund-raising drive to benefit the Delta Blues Museum.
Muddy Waters transformed the soul of the rural South into the sound of the city, electrifying the blues at a pivotal point in the early postwar period. His recorded legacy, particularly the wealth of sides he cut in the Fifties, is one of the great musical treasures of this century. Aside from Robert Johnson, no single figure is more important in the history and development of the blues than Waters. The real question as regards his lasting impact is ...
The remains of the cabin from Stovall Farms where Muddy Waters lived during his days as a sharecropper and tractor driver are displayed in the Delta Blues Museum.
In August 1941, on a field recording expedition sponsored by the Library of Congress and Fisk University, Alan Lomax and John Work set up portable equipment in Waters' house to record Muddy and other local musicians, including fiddler Henry "Son" Simms. Lomax returned with Lewis Jones in 1942 for a second series of recordings. Two of Waters' recordings, "Burr Clover Farm Blues" and "Burr Clover Blues," paid tribute to plantation owner Colonel William Howard Stovall (1895-1970) and his crop.
Born McKinley Morganfield on 4th April 1915, in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, to a sharecropping family, Morganfield moved to the Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale to live with his grandmother after the death of his mother in 1918. As a toddler he acquired the nickname Muddy from his grandmother because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. At age seven, Morganfield began playing the harmonica and became proficient enough to play fish fries, picnics, and parties by age thirteen. His family attached "Waters" to his nickname when he began playing harmonica, and the name stuck. Waters first heard records by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Memphis Minnie, Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, and the Memphis Sheiks on a neighbor's Victrola. He bought his first guitar at age seventeen with his sharecropper's wages and taught himself to play.
Waters's early influences were local guitarists Charley Patton and Son House. One of the first blues tunes he learned was House's "Walkin' Blues." At age eighteen, Waters opened a juke joint where patrons could drink, gamble, eat fried fish, and listen to the jukebox.