© 2022 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

April Feature: Muddy Waters Centennial Celebration

Though at some point in his life a few years were shaved off, credible evidence (including a marriage certificate, union card, social security filings and early interviews) all point to 1913 as the year of Muddy Waters' birth. And a century since that event, he remains one of the most influential figures in the blues.

Muddy was born in Mississippi and by his teens was playing guitar at local parties. After a brief foray to Chicago in 1940, he returned to Mississippi and was recorded for the first time by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. In 1943, he headed north again. An opportunity to open for Big Bill Broonzy, his first electric guitar, and then a connection with the Chess brothers and their new record company set him on his path to blues greatness.

From the late '40s through the mid '50s, Muddy was one of, if not the preeminent blues player in Chicago. He made many of his classic recordings, including "Hoochie Coochie Man," "Mannish Boy," and "I Just Want to Make Love to You," and led bands that featured some of the city's finest players.

Times and audiences changed, but Muddy found a new audience in the '70s among young rock fans and at festivals. A new label and partnership with guitarist and producer Johnny Winter resulted in several well received final albums that harkened back to his classic '50s sound. Three of those albums took home Grammys (to go with a trio he was awarded earlier in the decade). Muddy also won several Blues Music Awards, was inducted into both the Rock and Blues Halls of Fame, and was the recipient of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Muddy's rugged, boastful, unblinking, electric sound came to epitomize the Chicago blues. He employed or assisted many important Windy City players, including Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Otis Spann, Luther "Georgia Boy" Johnson, and Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson. Buddy Guy credits Muddy with opening the door to his career in Chicago, and a generation of young white artists inspired by his work included the Rolling Stones, Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Elvin Bishop and Charlie Musselwhite.

Throughout April, Crossroads highlights music from throughout Muddy Waters career - from classic tracks to his final recordings, along with covers of his songs, music from musicians who worked with him, and recordings from his bluemen sons.

Muddy with "Hoochie Coochie Man"

Muddy with "You Can't Loose What You Never Had"