Rollin' & Tumblin' : Muddy Waters-part One©2008JCMarion


McKinley Morganfield aka Muddy Waters is one of the most important figures in the history of post war American music. He took his history of Southern rural blues, electrified its sound, and led it into the modern world. This trend defined the rhythm & blues feel of these years, and led to the foundation of rock'n roll that swept the world. When teenagers were looking for music they coud dance to in the early fifties, they turned to the efforts of a number of artists who were influenced by the Muddy Waters blues band. The real crime of the matter, and one that had been repeated many times over, is that the originator of the musical style did not reap the rewards of their talents.

Morganfield was born in April of 1915 near Rolling Fork, Mississippi, one of ten children. For the first twenty years of his life he worked in the agricultural fields of the South, much of it on Stovall's Plantation. He was a self taught harmonica player and drifted up the river where he was in St. Louis for a time before drifting back to Mississippi in the Clarksdale area. He was recorded by the Library of Congress in 1941 and 1942 by musicologist and folklore expert Alan Lomax and Fisk University's John Work. By the early forties he had also taught himself to play the guitar in the bottleneck blues style much like Son House, and he decided to try his hand at music. For a while he was part of the Son Sims band and then in a touring carnival show headed by Silas Green. In May of 1943 he moved to Chicago and became part of the blues community which included Eddie Boyd, John Lee ("Sonny Boy") Williamson, Jimmy Rogers, Tampa Red, Big Maceo, Memphis Slim, Big Bill (Broonzy) and many others. Although he worked as a truck driver part of the time, music was his obsession. He began to get club dates in and around Chicago and built up a following. Muddy made a couple of local recordings in Chicago for Columbia and 20th Century (based in Philadelphia). In 1947 he began his history with the Chess brothers with a session for Aristocrat Records. With Sunnyland Slim on piano and Big Crawford on bass, "Gypsy Woman" and "Little Anna Mae" was released on #1302, and "I Can't Be Satisfied" and "Feel Like Going Home" on #1305. "Satisfied" captured the raw power of Waters rough hewn sound and many blues fans in Chicago sat up and took notice. "Train Fare Home" and "Sittin Here And Drinkin" on #1306 followed, and then Leroy Foster joined on guitar for "You're Gonna Miss Me" and "Big Red Spider" on #1307. It was at this time that Muddy progressed to an amplified electric guitar, and the real Chicago blues sound was presented to the world.

In 1949 he formed his own combo and recorded "Streamline Woman" and "Muddy Jumps One" on #1310, and "Little Geneva" and "Canary Bird" on #1311 was next. With Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Johnny Jones on piano, Big Crawford on bass, and "Baby Face" Leroy Foster on drums, the Muddy Waters combo took over the city's South Side. "Rollin And Tumblin" parts one and two on #411 was the last Aristocrat label recording, as the company was now known as Chess Records. "Rolling Stone" and "Walkin Blues" was the first Chess release on # 1426 followed by "Louisiana Blues" and "Evan's Shuffle" on # 1441. Walter Horton joins on harmonica for "Long Distance Call" and "Too Young To Know" in January of 1951 on # 1452. In the spring Muddy has his first success on record as "Long Distance Call" sells well in Atlanta and Dallas. In June "Honeybee" and "Appealing Blues" on #1468 is another decent seller. On the strength of these records and the success of "Rocket 88" Chess Records moved to larger headquarters to accomodate their popularity. In August Little Walter on harmonica and Elgar Edmunds on drums join Muddy for "Still A Fool" and "My Fault" on #1480. In the fall "Honeybee" is still selling and "Still A Fool" does well in Chicago and Milwaukee. In December "She Moves Me" and "Early Morning Blues" on # 1490 are recorded featuring Little Walter. "Fool" becomes a good seller on the West Coast as Muddy begins a tour of the South at years end.

By the end of 1951 Muddy Waters and his small combo had taken the Southern country blues so familiar to sharecroppers and other hard working poor rural Blacks and electrified the sound and developed a new urban sensibility that could be heard in the small clubs and juke joints of the northern ghettos. In February of 1952 Muddy tours through Louisiana and Texas and draws good crowds in Shreveport, Houston, and Dallas, where "She Moves Me" is a top selling R & B record for Chess. The sound of the Muddy Waters combo was now the sound of modern blues in Chicago. In May Chess releases "Country Boy" and "All Night Long" on # 1509. Other record labels catering to the R & B market see the popularity of Muddy Waters, and a few other artists (B.B. King and Howlin Wolf) have begun to explore the delta blues musicians. Modern Records starts a new subsidiary label called Blues & Rhythm, to concentrate on this type of record. "Country Boy" is an immediate hot seller in Memphis and Kansas City. Chess next releases "Please Have Mercy" and an older recording of "I Can't Be Satisfied" on # 1514. By November of the year Jimmy Rogers leaves the band and follows Little Walter who also left to make it a go as a solo artist. "Standing Around Crying" and "Going To Main Street" is out on Chess #1526, and within two weeks the record is a top seller in Memphis and New Orleans.

Starting out in 1953 Chess records "She's All Right" and "Sad Sad Day" on # 1537. This is followed by "Turn The Lamp Down Low" and "Who's Gonna Be Your Sweet Man" on # 1542. "Lamp" starts out strong in Atlanta and Jacksonville. In October "Mad Love" and "Blow Wind Blow" are released by Chess on # 1550 with Walter Horton on harmonica and Otis Spann on piano. In early December Muddy and his band will appear at the WDIA benefit concert to help area needy children at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis. B. B. King, Little Walter, Lloyd Price, Eddie Boyd, and others will also appear. The year closes out with "Mad Love" picked as the record of the week by the music trade publications. January of 1954 finds "Mad Love" a top seller in Atlanta and Columbia, South Carolina. That month Chess releases "I'm Your Hootchie Cootchie Man" (which would become one of Muddy's signature songs) along with "You're So Pretty" on # 1560. Willie Dixon, besides playing bass on a great many sessions with Waters, is also a prolific writer of blues tunes.

On May 8, 1954 Muddy Waters is part of an historic event in the development of modern music. He is part of the bill at Alan "Moondog" Freed's very first in person stage show outside of Ohio and in the East. It is held at the Sussex Avenue Armory in Newark, New Jersey. His WJW Cleveland R & B radio show is syndicated over WNJR in Newark, and so that city was the site of the big show. Muddy was joined by Charles Brown, Buddy Johnson & his band with Ella Johnson and Nolan Lewis, Tiny Bradshaw, The Harptones and Clovers. A capacity crowd of over ten thousand attended with a few more thousand being turned away. The future of the music was apparent as twenty per cent of the crowd was made up of White teenagers in their search for music with a solid dance tempo. Also at this time "Just Make Love To Me" and "Oh Yeah" is released on #1571. In late May "Love" is a strong seller throughout the South and is listed as a buy of the week. In early June Alan Freed announces plans for an August "Jubilee Under The Stars" to be held in Ebbets Field in Brooklyn. Muddy Waters is announced as one of the performers. The plans for this big event are cancelled in the coming weeks as Freed has been signed to move his show to New York City and radio station WINS. During the summer James Cotton joins the band on harmonica replacing Henry Strong who was stabbed to death by a jealous woman. In August Muddy tours Arkansas and Oklahoma and then returns to Chicago for a show with city dj Sam Evans. In mid September McKie Fitzhugh of Chicago radio will present an all star show in that city to benefit the blind. Muddy will be rejoined by Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, and Eddie Boyd, along with many other performers. In October Muddy Waters embarks on a six week tour of one nighters on the West Coast with the Todd Rhodes band. As the tour gets under way Chess releases "I'm Ready" and "I Don't Know Why" on # 1579. On one date in Los Angeles, Muddy and Guitar Slim trade blues at the Savoy Ballroom. In December Muddy once again will appear at WDIA's benefit Christmas Show in Memphis.

In January of 1955 Muddy Waters is named in the trade press as one of only a few R & B performers that has a loyal base of record buyers that will make purchases on the name of the performer rather than on the song's performance. That month "I'm A Natural Born Lover" and "Lovin Man" is issued on Chess # 1585 which features Otis Spann on piano. In March Muddy begins a Midwest tour. In late April Chess releases "I Want To Be Loved" and "My Eyes (Keep Me In Trouble)" on # 1596. The band consists of Muddy on vocals and guitar, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Little Walter back on harmonica, Luther Tucker on bass, and Fred Below on drums. "Loved" sells well in the Midwest, especially in St. Louis. In July Waters records another of his career signature tunes "Manish Boy" on # 1602 for Chess. Francey Clay takes over on drums for the session. The flip side of the record is "Young Fashioned Ways". Muddy does an extended engagement at Chicago's 708 Club.

Muddy stays put in Chicago with a show to open the new year at the Trianon Ballroom. He will head to Florida in mid January for a number of one nighters in the South. That month "Sugar Sweet" and "Trouble No More" are out on Chess # 1612. In April "Forty Days And Forty Nights" and "All Aboard" is released on # 1620 and features James Cotton on harmonica. The record is an immediate hit in St. Louis and Kansas City. In May Muddy and Little Walter with their combos do a show in South Bend, Indiana. In June a "battle of the bands" of sorts took place at the Trianon Ballroom in Chicago pitting Muddy against Ray Charles and his group. Attendance broke existing house records and the cutting contest was judged a "draw". In August Muddy Waters appears with Ruth Brown, Chuck Edwards, The Cadets, and Earl Swan's band, for a few dates in the Chicago-Milwaukee area. In August "Don't Go No Farther" and "Diamonds At Your Feet" on # 1630 hits the stores and record outlets. In the fall in between short tours of the South and Midwest, Muddy Waters and his band record "Just To Be With You" and "Got To Find My Baby" on # 1644. Muddy once again does a benefit concert, this time at Chicago's Regal Theater on Christmas Eve with Sam Evans presenting. The Kool Gents, Spaniels, and Al Smith's Orchestra share the stage.

to part two . . . . . . . . .

back to title page . . . . . . . .