Muddy Waters

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Waters, Muddy,

1915–83, African-American blues singer and guitarist, b. Rolling Fork, Miss., as McKinley Morganfield. As a teenager he began singing and playing traditional country blues on harmonica and guitar, and in 1941 he was recorded by Alan LomaxLomax, John Avery
, 1867–1948, American folklorist, b. Goodman, Miss. Lomax's first book, Cowboy Songs (1910), contained for the first time in print such songs as "The Old Chisholm Trail," "Git Along Home Little Dogies," and "Home on the Range.
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 for the Library of Congress. Two years later he settled in Chicago, where he switched from Delta blues to a more sophisticated urban rhythm and blues, using an electric guitar backed by other amplified instruments. He soon became known for his driving slide guitar technique and darkly expressive vocal style. From the 1950s on Waters recorded, toured, and played various music festivals. His electric blues influenced such American musicians as Elvis PresleyPresley, Elvis
(Elvis Aaron Presley), 1935–77, American popular singer, b. Tupelo, Miss. Exposed to gospel music from childhood, Presley began playing guitar before his adolescence.
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 and Bob DylanDylan, Bob
, 1941–, American singer and composer, b. Duluth, Minn., as Robert Zimmerman. Dylan learned guitar at the age of 10 and autoharp and harmonica at 15. After a rebellious youth, he moved to New York City in 1960 and in the early years of the decade began playing
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 and such British rockers as the Rolling StonesRolling Stones,
English rock music group that rose to prominence in the mid-1960s and continues to exert great influence. Members have included singer Mick Jagger (Michael Phillip Jagger), 1943–; guitarists Brian Jones
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, who took their name from a Waters song, and Eric ClaptonClapton, Eric Patrick,
1945–, British guitarist, singer, and songwriter, b. Ripley, Surrey, England. A seminal figure in rock music, he is noted especially for his virtuoso guitar playing, whose style is based on American blues as played by "T-Bone" Walker, B. B.
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, who recorded with him.


See J. Rooney, Bossmen: Bill Monroe and Muddy Waters (1991); S. B. Tooze, Muddy Waters (1997); R. Gordon, Can't Be Satisfied (2002).

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Waters, Muddy (b. McKinley Morganfield)

(1915–83) musician; born in Rolling Fork, Miss. One of the last of the great country blues singers and a primary innovator of modern Chicago blues, he was raised on the Stovall Plantation in Clarksdale, Miss., where he began playing harmonica and guitar while working as a sharecropper. In 1941 and 1942, he was recorded by Alan Lomax, the folklorist of the Library of Congress, and, emboldened by this experience, he moved to Chicago in 1943 seeking a career in music. Over the next several years, he gradually developed an ensemble blues style while performing in neighborhood bars in Chicago's South Side ghetto. In 1946 he recorded an unissued session for Columbia, and for the next three years he recorded in a country blues style for Aristocrat Records. In 1950 he gained his first national success with "Rolling Stone," the inaugural release of Chess Records, the rhythm-and-blues label with which his name was virtually synonymous for the next 25 years. In 1952 he made his first recordings with his six-piece combo, which pioneered the electronically-amplified Chicago blues style. Featuring Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, and Otis Spann, this group released several rhythm-and-blues hits, including "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Got My Mojo Working," and toured extensively on the black nightclub circuit throughout the 1950s. He made the first of several annual tours of England in 1958, during which he exerted a profound influence on the early British rock scene. He appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960, and was a central figure in the folk-blues revival of the mid-1960s. By the late 1960s, his songs were widely covered in rock; several headlining bands, including the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, featured him on their tours. He was a perennial Grammy winner throughout the 1970s, and his appearance in The Band's farewell concert, filmed as The Last Waltz, was widely hailed. He was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.