Muddy Waters - Honoring Black History

Muddy Waters (1915-1983) developed an electrifying, sensual breed of the blues that laid the groundwork for rock stars of generations to come. Born a second-generation blues player, McKinley Morganfield grew up in the Mississippi delta near Rolling Fork, Mississippi, and looked to music as his way out of enduring servitude as a sharecropper. At 17, he bought his first guitar, a Stella acoustic, for $2.50 from a Sears, Roebuck, & Co. catalog and began teaching himself how to play by listening to his favorite records. Fleeing the racial oppression of the South, Muddy traveled to Chicago and worked odd jobs while booking gigs in the evenings. His acoustic guitar was easily drowned out in the noisy clubs so he switched over to the electric guitar in 1945—a choice that would change the history of the blues forever. The heat and pain of the Mississippi South emanated from his deep voice and the dark, slippery mud of the Delta was perfectly mirrored in his slide guitar. Three years later with the help of what would be Chess records, the song “I Can’t Be Satisfied” circulated through the blues scene. By the end of the next decade, Muddy was touring the U.K. While he didn’t see the great commercial success of those he inspired like Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page, he continued recording, performing, and galvanizing the blues up until his death. Today his memory lives on in his music, and on Muddy Waters Drive on the south side of Chicago.