Muddy Waters: Remembering Fathers and Sons on Blues Legends Birthday

According to Muddy Waters

gravestone, today would have been the blues masters’ 100th Birthday. While there is certainly enough documentation proving his actual year of birth being 1913 or even 1914 in the Jug’s Corner community of Issaquena County, Muddy maintained in the fifties that he was born in Rolling Fork Mississippi in 1915. So I won’t question blues royalty!

As a child of the sixties, the first album that really raised my awareness of Muddy Waters was his 1969 release Fathers and Sons. In April 2009 I wrote an article briefly recalling the upcoming 40th Anniversary of that double vinyl release. The piece was extremely popular and contains some absolutely wonderful commentary after the article; where my readers have shared their feelings and experiences. I decided to repost this particular one because I wanted my readers comments to be shared on this special day. It also contains a brief bio and updated content from the original. Hopefully this piece can generate new comments by blues lovers who’d like to share their stories about Muddy Waters on this historic day in music history.

I hope you enjoy my little stroll through time…

By the time Muddy Waters’ Fathers and Sons

was released in the summer of 1969, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, Woodstock took place and I was still entranced with Elizabeth Montgomery’s role as Samantha in Bewitched… On a sadder note, that was the year I lost my grandfather and almost lost my father when he had a heart attack.

Whenever I drift back to those days, I realize just how remarkable those times really were. But because I was so young, it took a while to fully comprehend its meaning and effect on me. I would later discover that through heartache came new found inspiration. The events and music of the time influenced my interest in writing. And it was albums such as Fathers and Sons that helped generate a personal soundtrack to my youth…

Muddy Waters

was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4th, 1915 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. Following the death of his mother in 1918, he would move to Clarksdale, Mississippi where he was raised by his grandmother. Waters was a farmer’s son and got his name because he fished and often played in a muddy creek.

Water’s singing was influenced by local bluesman Son House and he would also learn to play guitar by studying the music of Robert Johnson. Muddy was the leading promoter of Chicago blues in the fifties. He brought the blues from the Delta making the transition to amplified sounds previously unheard of.

When Muddy moved to Chicago in 1943 he got work in a paper mill. It was during this time he started playing electric guitar and began performing. In 1946 Waters signed with Aristocrat Records. His original Aristocrat recordings did not make much of an impression in the beginning. But Muddy continued to play at the clubs continuously while driving a truck six days a week.

When the Chess Brothers changed Aristocrat to Chess Records in 1948, Waters’ first single on the new label “Rollin’ Stone,” became a major blues hit. Other tunes like “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “I Feel Like Going Home” from that year would secure his position as a major blues performer. These recordings featured Muddy on electric guitar, writer/producer Willie Dixon on bass and Little Walter on harmonica. By the early fifties he was backed by a complete band adding Otis Spann on piano, Jimmie Rodgers on second guitar, and Elgin Evans on drums.

The Tunes Kept Rollin in the Fifties…

“Honey Bee”
“She Moves Me”
“I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man”
“I Just Wanna Make Love to You”
“I’m Ready”
“Got My Mojo Working”
“Mannish Boy”

The above are shining examples of blues classics that would go to be recorded by many popular rock groups… The Rolling Stones even name themselves after his first single.

Waters also introduced new blues artists as they made their way through his band. Many of these included: Junior Wells, Jimmie Rodgers, James Cotton, and Buddy Guy. He would also be instrumental in the early careers of Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry.

As successful as Muddy Waters was during the fifties, his record sales were for the most part limited to the Mississippi Delta, the New Orleans area and of course Chicago. However, by this time his reputation was internationally known and in the sixties his music began reaching rock listeners. He often appeared at concerts and festivals nationally.

With producer/guitarist Johnny Winter and utilizing members of his bands of the fifties, Waters made three of his best-selling albums, Hard Again, I’m Ready, and King Bee. Winter and Waters performed together regularly in the 70’s and 80’s.

Muddy’s last public performance was in June 1982 with Eric Clapton. He passed away in 1983 of a heart attack. And in 1987 was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Fathers and Sons

After a controversial effort to revive the blues singer’s career with 1968’s Electric Mud, Fathers and Sons featured both studio and live recordings from the spring of 1969. The idea for the album came from Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield; who were looking for an opportunity to work with the blues legend. It includes an all-star band of faithful Muddy Waters students. Marshall Chess then brought everyone together and the album was released in the summer of 1969.

Father and Sons Session Musicians:

Muddy Waters – VocaFathersandSonsls and Guitar
Otis Spann – Piano
Mike Bloomfield – Guitar
Paul Butterfield – Harmonica
Donald “Duck” Dunn – Bass
Sam Lay – Drums

With Guests:

Phil Upchurch – Bass on “All Aboard” only
Jeff Carp – Chromatic Harmonica on “All Aboard” only
Paul Asbell – Rhythm Guitar on “Walking Thru The Park”, “Forty Days & Forty Nights” and “Sugar Sweet” only
Buddy Miles – Drums on “Got My Mojo Working, Part Two” only

Fathers and Sons is a fine example of students paying tribute to their hero and father figure of the Chicago blues… Listening to the recording after all these years is like a time machine to the past. It’s a vivid memory that brought me back to that electric blues sound and atmosphere I remember so well while growing up.

Whether your rediscovering your past, or just learning about the blues, I strongly suggest checking this album out. It’s an incredible piece of blues history from experienced artists old and new at the time… You’ll be richer for the experience.

Long after his death in 1983, Muddy Waters is still considered one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. He is ranked number 17 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s 100 greatest musical artists of all time. Today when I listen to his music it continues to get my foot tapping and always puts a smile on my face. His music has stood the test of time and always will.

Do you have a favorite Muddy Waters song or performance you’d like to share? Where were you when you first heard the blues master play? If you have any additional thoughts or birthday wishes on this historic day in music, please feel free to add your comments below.

The Blues Blogger

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27 Responses to “Muddy Waters: Remembering Fathers and Sons on Blues Legends Birthday”

  1. Danny April 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    Who doesn’t love Muddy Waters??

  2. krellpw April 10, 2009 at 8:53 am #

    Sounds like another one that I’m going to have to add to my “wish list.” Great review, very insightful and introspective. Great read.

  3. Recordapedia April 13, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    really like your site! Thanks!

  4. The Blues Blogger April 13, 2009 at 6:13 pm #

    Krellpw, Recordapedia— Thanks… Glad you stopped by. Say hello anytime.

  5. John February 15, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Nice site. Muddy Waters was a great one – influenced guitar heroes like Eric Clapton.

  6. Hermitbiker April 4, 2010 at 1:50 am #

    Wow, one great tribute from the Blues Blogger for the “Father of Chicago Blues” let alone his “Mississippi Delta Blues” fame, the legendary “Muddy Waters” !! Awesome…. but get a load of some of his band members…. all legends in their own right too !! With all of his music around us all everyday, it’s still hard to realize that he’s gone…. it just doesn’t seem right…. !! Happy Birthday Muddy !!

  7. Susan April 4, 2010 at 1:53 am #

    He really is the backbone to all the sounds we love, isn’t he? I honestly don’t think that his influence was limited to his music, rather to the culture that developed around his music — and the music that came afterwards.

    Amazing artist, great article, as always.

    Happy Easter, BB.

  8. Hermitbiker April 4, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    …. ok, I know he was born in Mississippi…. but when I think of “Chicago Blues or Mississippi Blues”…. the name “McKinley Morganfield aka. Muddy Waters”…. comes up automatically with me !!

  9. Johnsim April 4, 2010 at 12:23 pm #

    What a voice! Thanks again BB! Great write up on one of the greats!

  10. marcel lemieux April 5, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    That is one fine article you have written here..lots of info and brought in perspective how he contributed to so many artist that i know…fine player he was…another legend and legacy for us to remember and enjoy…thank you

  11. Duane April 6, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    Oh, where or where was I during the second coming of Muddy? I sometimes reflect on being trapped between cultural generations. I was born about 5 years ahead of the Post-World War II Baby Boom; I came of age in a boarding military school and graduated in ’59; and by this time in ’69 my second child was just born. It is a family joke that my son’s birth kept us from going to the Woodstock Music Festival. I can remember my wife and kid’s misery as I spent way too much time going through the record bins looking for that rare, special find. How strange, after all these years, I never even came close in finding these albums.

    Thanks to the TBB I have finally rediscovered some more fine music. In my research, I have also discovered another “Woodstock Album” (75), and the “bridge” between “Fathers and Sons” 69) and the Johnny Winter’s albums starting with “Hard Again” (77). This album probably got lost because it is the last Chess album and before the revival of Muddy’s second career under Johnny Winter. This Woodstock gets its name because it was recorded at Levon Helm’s Woodstock studio – not the Festival. Levon and fellow Band-member Garth Hudson team up with Muddy’s touring band and Paul Butterfield blows some killer harp and how can you not like Pinetop Perkins tickling the ivories. It is only 9 tunes and a short 43 minutes but I highly recommend adding this along with the above mention albums to your collection.

    I may straddle two generations but as Bob Dylan said, “the time they are a-changin’”. I no longer spend hours rummaging through record bins but I do spend hours researching blues and especially enjoy discovering something new. Thanks to technology, I now have 12 hours of Muddy Waters music to add to the Drivin Blues CD collection as I prepare to head to the Mississippi delta and attend the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale.

    ….
    As the present now
    Will later be past
    The order is rapidly fadin’
    And the first one now will later be last
    For the times they are a-changin’

  12. hollynoel001 April 13, 2010 at 12:36 pm #

    what a great article!!! muddy waters is one of my favorite blues singers he has inspired more people than we will ever know and i always enjoy listening to his music!!!

  13. David April 13, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Great review. Thanks, all of Muddy Waters stuff is amazing, but I’m going to have to add this one to the wish list after reading.

  14. Musicians Resources May 10, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    Excellent post on Muddy Waters, he defined the blues in the early 40’s and 50’s

    Father of the Chicago Blues

  15. Coolmon May 23, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    Nice to read about one of the fathers of Chicago Blues. Thanks for this information and article.

  16. Ian Dickinson April 5, 2011 at 2:09 am #

    Great post! Muddy Waters was one of my early introductions to the blues, pretty much been hooked ever since.

  17. rockin roger July 19, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    I was 16 when they played The “Joy Scout Jamboree” at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. The Auditorium Theatre is such a beautiful place, I have no idea how they were able to let a bunch of hippies & blues freaks in there. The acoustics are world -class, & the whole place was just majestic. It was a fitting place to honor Muddy & the new bluesmen that brought his music to the attention of a new generation.
    I know he tried to just be a side-man, but Michael Bloomfield was just so spectacular that night, he blew everyone away. God, all that musicianship for 5 bucks! What a night. One of the best nights of my life.

  18. guavaflower1 July 20, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Love this little blues corner of the web. It’s a little gem that more should discover

  19. Lola Powers July 20, 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    I’m so thrilled to have found this wonderful little blues corner on the web. Please keep writing!

  20. Midiane October 6, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    hey there. just stumbled upon your site through your twitter account. great site and great post 🙂 really happy ive found this.

    muddy is a hero of mine. i read in the liner notes from “Funky Butt” album that there’s a second theory for the origin of his name. im not from the south to verify this but deepfrying fish in batter is called ‘muddying’ fish in the south and the notes said that he used to watch his grandma muddying fish. thus the name. anyone heard of that?

    look forward to more great reviews of the masters 🙂

  21. Brandon October 9, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    Brilliant artists

  22. Richard October 23, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

    Very good article, I learn a little bit more about this great bluesman. What would the blues today if there had been no Muddy Waters?

  23. Barbara Ireland October 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Fantastic article as always! If you all haven’t seen the film, ‘Cadillac Records’, check it out! It’s the story of Chess Records, and the recording of Muddy Waters, Little Water (wild guy!), Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf… the whole gang of awesome blues artists. Trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdpI6u3WQVE

  24. Midiane October 24, 2011 at 2:21 pm #

    thats one of my top films, Barbara. I only started imagining what Howlin’ Wolf looked like after watching that film…

  25. Barbara Ireland October 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Yes Midiane, they did a fantastic job of re-creating the era and ‘characters’! Glad you liked it too. 🙂

  26. Midiane October 24, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Thanks, Barbara 🙂 I’m actually playing a gig this week where I’m gonna do two Howlin’ Wolf covers… exciting yet nerve-wracking stuff! You never wanna corrupt a gem…

  27. Ryan Lenhart October 3, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Fantastic post. I have an old Chess Records vinyl set of a Muddy Waters collection that I guard with my life.

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