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Muddy Waters - Muddy Waters American Blues Music American...

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Muddy Waters American Blues Music
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American blues music has produced several iconic figures that have become well- known to the world. Thus far perhaps the best known figure we’ve discussed is Robert Johnson. Muddy Waters, following closely on Johnson’s heels (chronologically) probably stands at the top of the hill, along with B.B. King. His story, more than anyone else’s, is the story of the modern blues.
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Early Life Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in 1915, so he was only 4 years younger than Johnson, but those 4 years would make a huge difference. Although Muddy’s father played guitar, he didn’t have the chance to learn from him because his parents separated and he went to live on the Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale with his grandmother.
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The story he recounts in Deep Blues about how he got his nickname is not quite the way he originally told it. On the first recording he ever made, for Alan Lomax in 1941, he’s known as “Muddy Water” and he even calls himself Muddy Water, no “s”. As a child his grandmother used to tell him not to play in the muddy water, and that became his nickname. It was Leonard Chess who inadvertently added the “s” to his first commercial recording and his new name was created.
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The very first song Muddy recorded was what he called “Country Blues”, which was almost identical to Robert Johnson’s “Walking Blues.” The story he tells is a perfect example of the way blues songs were appropriated by various artists. “Ownership” or ‘authorship” really didn’t seem to be a concern.
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Early Repertoire The songs that Muddy recorded for Lomax are extremely important for the history of the blues because they give a great indication as to not only the place to which the blues were heading, but also the continuing power of the older styles, even the proto-blues. He recorded 13 different songs, not all of which are blues. In fact, when he was asked what artists he liked he mentioned the cowboy singer Gene Autry more than any blues singer. “Joe Turner” is an old song, in fact it’s probably pre-blues and Muddy does it in a jug band mode (he doesn’t even do the singing). Turner was a white lawman (brother of the governor of Tennessee, who became a black folk legend during his tenure (1892-1896) for the midnight runs in which he conveyed chained gangs of young black men from Memphis jails to the state penitentiary in Nashville and prison farms along the Mississippi. “Why Don’t You Live So God Can Use You” is out of the guitar evangelist tradition, almost identical to Blind Benny Paris’ “I’m Gonna Live So God Can Use Me”
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Muddy’s Musicality Muddy described his timing as “I’m a delay singer… I don’t sing on the beat. I sing behind it, and people have to delay to play with me. They got to hang around, wait, see what’s going to happen next.” This is a very important element and would shape most of the blues guitar playing to come out of the Chicago school.
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