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Muddy Waters- Folk Singer (1964)

Updated: May 9

Muddy Waters- Folk Singer

(Chess Records)

Released January 30, 1964,

Recorded September 1963


The thirty albums chosen for this list are dominated by British blues imitators, folkies who borrowed from the blues, and jazz dudes who incorporated the blues. When the Stones, Beatles, Animals, etc. offered their covers of blues tunes, authentic blues innovators like Muddy Waters were becoming more recognized by a more integrated audience in 1964.

Slide guitarist and singer Muddy Waters (McKinley, Morganfield) was born in Issaquena County, Mississippi, in 1913 and grew up on the Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi. This area also produced blues and R&B stars like Son House, Willie Brown, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner, and Sam Cooke. Waters grew up very poor; his mother died when he was only an infant. His grandmother raised him in a small cabin and gave him the nickname "Muddy" because he enjoyed playing in the mud. His father, who was also a blues guitarist, had little to do with his upbringing.

Inspired by the music he heard in the church and the fantastic Delta blues musicians living nearby, Waters began playing guitar around seventeen. In 1941, Waters came to the attention of musicologist Alan Lomax, who made several field recordings of Waters over the next year for the Library of Congress. In hopes of finding more opportunities and a culture that was more racially tolerant, Waters headed to Chicago around 1943. He soon began working around the Chicago clubs as a solo act and an opener for Big Bill Broonzy. Growing frustrated by crowd noise, Waters purchased his first electric guitar to add more volume. The electronic instrument proved the perfect vehicle to accompany Water's hard-edged masculine-themed blues. Waters continued to work and record as a sideman for the next few years, and during this time, his reputation grew throughout Chicago.

By 1948, Muddy Waters began recording for Chicago's Chess Records and released such songs as "I Can't Be Satisfied" and "Rollin' Stone." Moving into the 1950s, Waters became the biggest name in blues. With the help of bassist and Chess Records staff writer Willie Dixon, he released such classics as "Hoochie Cootchie Man," I'm Ready" ', "I Just Want To Make Love With You," "Trouble No More," "Forty Days and Forty Nights" and "Got My Mojo Running" over the next six years. Muddy Waters worked with one of the most celebrated blues groups during this time. This unit included Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Otis Span on piano, and Elga Edmonds on drums.

By the end of the decade, many of Water's contemporaries and those he influenced created great competition for him in the states. To Expand his audience and opportunities, he traveled to Europe and began spreading his brand of electric blues internationally. His performances and recordings heavily influenced many young white English guitarists, such as Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, and Jeff Beck.

Waters began the next decade with a historic performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960, which led to the album At Newport 1960. With the Folk Singer album Waters and Chess, records saw an opportunity to jump on the popularity of the folk bandwagon and decided to have Waters return to his Mississippi roots. It would be the only all-acoustic album of Waters' career. Awards and honors: Blues Hall Of Fame, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

Side One

(+ means "recommended track" and * means released as a single)

Track 1- "My Home is in the Delta" speaks of Waters's return to his roots. Accompanying Waters on the cut and most of the album is Willie Dixon on string bass (the record producer), Buddy Guy on guitar, and drummer Clifton James. The combination of Guy and Waters works fantastically on this signature cut (+)

Track 2 - "Long Distance" is a slow sexy down homey blues with some fantastic guitar work by Buddy Guy. Take note British blues invaders. (+)

Track 3 - "My Captain" is A Willie Dixon tune. It is one of three tracks on the album not written by Waters. The bluesman takes his time on this lengthy track. On it, Muddy displays a preaching quality consistent with early Delta Blues. The guitar work on this one is a study of blues guitar mastery. As with most blues tunes, the lyrics are about hardship.

Track 4- "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" is credited to blues harpist Sonny Boy Williamson who served as a bit of a mentor to Muddy Waters in Chicago. This track is Chicago blues stripped down, and it grooves! A highlight for sure (+)

Track 5 -"You Gonna Need My Help," brings the music back to the slow and sexy. In the song, the singer's love is a bit of an angry sourpuss. She won't cook for him and puts him down. He has a plan, though, probably to leave because he's got "everything goin' my way."

Side 2

Track 1 -"Cold Water Blues" brings the music back to the authenticity of Delta. Two guitars and a voice. A reflection of how life can suck when it's cold. Most people hate the cold.

Track 2- "Big Leg Women" was written by Chicago blues man John Temple. Apparently, he likes his women large and wants them to "Roll your belly like you roll your dough."

Track 3- "Country Boy" is an example of signature Muddy Waters. His most celebrated works showcase unforgiving masculinity that some would characterize as sexism. In this one, Waters tells his woman, "I will never treat your right," and that he "would stay out every night." Somehow it's ok because he's a country boy, and he loves her despite his nature and behavior. (+)

Track 4- "Feel Like Going Home" offers great acoustic slide guitar work. The recording is a solo track by Muddy Waters. For some reason, he has to find his "baby," or someone will "bury" him. Blues doesn't get more real than this. (+)

Conclusion: Muddy Waters- Folk Singer offers pure blues played by a pure bluesman. Through the success of white blues imitators and acoustic folk players, Waters gained more notoriety in the mid-1960s. This stripped-down presentation showcases great honesty and musical integrity.

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