McKinley Morganfield, AKA the Blues Icon Muddy Waters

About the Life of McKinley Morganfield

Biographical Information

McKinley Morganfield, believed to have been born in April of 1913, spent his childhood on the Stovall plantation in Mississippi. Raised primarily by his grandmother, he got his nickname Muddy Waters for his boyhood tendency to play in the nearby creek. As a boy, he learned the harmonica and was heavily inspired by church music and Delta blues styles he heard in the streets and at parties. At 17 he learned the guitar. As a young adult, he spent his weekdays driving a tractor on the sharecropped plantation. The weekends he spent using his cabin as a juke house, hosting parties and offering his own made moonshine. He made some money playing at house parties with his band and sometimes solo. In 1941, he was first recorded playing for researcher from the Library of Congress. In 1943, Waters moved to Chicago as part of the Great Migration and started playing in clubs as a side job to his work in a paper mill and as a truck driver. In 1944 he bought his first electric guitar and quickly realized how much easier its acoustics could be heard across big crowds. He signed with Aristocrat Records in 1946, but by 1948 it changed to Chess Records. With Chess Records, Waters produced hits that ranged from melancholy to proud to sensual and became one of the top musicians in Chicago. In 1958 he transitioned from touring clubs in the South and Midwest US to concert tours in America and Europe, performing in jazz, folk, and blues festivals. He ended his career awarded into the inaugural class of the Blues Hall of Fame, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a winner of multiple Grammy Awards. 

Muddy Waters' Contributions to Music

Muddy Waters’ Influence on Music

Muddy Waters’ fusion of the electric guitar’s urban sound with the traditional style of the acoustic delta blues created the unique style called the Chicago blues. His 1958 move from Chicago to England introduced the British to the unique, soulful sounds of Muddy’s Chicago blues would come to influence many of the greatest English rock guitarists of the 1960s. The Rolling Stones actually named themselves after Muddy’s hit ‘Rollin’ Stone’. 1960s rock was really a fusion of blues and rock and roll, a development that helped Muddy’s Chicago blues to go on to inspire the world. 

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