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Muddy Waters biography

The Muddy Waters story.

Born: April 4, 1915, Rolling Forks, Mississippi

Died: April 30, 1983, Westmont, Illinois

Also known as: McKinley Morganfield

Muddy Waters grew up in the Mississippi Delta, singing as he worked in the cotton fields as a boy and playing near his favorite muddy creek — thus the nickname. He picked up a guitar when he was 17. Influenced by the deeply emotional performer Son House as well as Robert Johnson, Waters became an accomplished bluesman himself. In the early 1940s he took the raw depth of the Delta blues to Chicago, and in a few years he had revolutionized the city’s blues scene. His many contributions to Chicago blues include his skill with an electric guitar, his tough, powerful vocals, and his evocative, compelling songwriting. As a bandleader he established the ensemble sound and style of Chicago electric blues — just about every great Chicago blues player of that time was in Waters’s band at one point or another. British rockers the Rolling Stones took their name from a Waters’s song — a testament to Waters’s extensive influence on both American and British rock and roll.

Essential listening: “Rolling Stone,” “Honey Bee,” “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” “Mannish Boy,” “Got My Mojo Working”