Tag Archives: Muddy Waters

The Best of Them All: Muddy Waters

McKinley "Muddy Waters" Morganfield

McKinley “Muddy Waters” Morganfield

To my mind (ageing and limited as it is) Muddy Waters is the undisputed king of the blues. I love Lightnin’ Hopkins ability to never tell the same story twice. Fred McDowell’s blues are some of the deepest dug songs ever recorded. And the frisson filled snappiness of Buddy Guy’s electric guitar is impossible to replicate. Any number of blues men and women can be praised for one, two or even multiple contributions to the music but no one was able to sum it all up like the colossus of Chicago.

For the first half of my life blues was the stuff played by Lamont Cranston, The Minnesota Barking Ducks and a whole work gang of other bar bands in the pubs and taverns around the University of Minnesota. Dancing and sweating for long hours on those crowded and cramped floors was some of the best fun I’ve ever had. And yes, it’s true, I actually thought that Baby, Please Don’t Go was an original composition of the Barking Ducks! When Willie Murphy banged on the keyboards and howled, (Wednesday nights at the 4 Corners) I had no clue that he had been an apprentice with all sorts of Delta, Chicago and Detroit blues men and was widely regarded as one of the minor prophets of the blues piano.

My only knowledge of Muddy Waters had been from his rendition of Mannish Boy in the film, The Last Waltz. And I didn’t like it. It was too black, too primal, too beyond my ability to comprehend. I could see he had a voice to contend with but honestly? He’s nothing on the bands we listened to on the West Bank.

Slowly the waves of truth eroded the naïve ignorance of my musical shore. A Lightnin’ Hopkins record picked up for cheap was surprisingly accessible. None of this Muddy Waters shit screaming about his being a ‘maaaan!’! That moved me to venture into the music of Hound Dog Taylor, Mississippi Fred McDowell, John Hurt and Champion Jack. I was starting to get the blues. Thankfully, I came to understand that all those great songs I heard at the tavern were actually fucking old. They had been around forever, it seemed and everyone had recorded them. Again and again.

Muddy WatersAnd in the back of mind, like a whisper, was the nagging ‘You gotta listen to Muddy Waters.’ I resisted. He may be a grand figure, the one whom everybody seemed to kowtow and do homage to, but I was willing to try to navigate around him. One day in a Borders shop in Tucson (remember that chain?) I forced myself to buy a CD of the Mr. Waters. It was a deal with myself: put the CD on the shelf for credibility but that doesn’t mean I’ve got to listen to it.

Back home in Dushanbe, Tajikistan (don’t ask) I found myself sitting around on one slow Saturday afternoon feeling brave. I popped in the CD I’d picked up on the other side of the Universe and crossed my arms in a defensive harrumph.

It was good but nothing earth-shattering. I started to read something and didn’t pay the music much mind. But then this song which I thought Buddy Guy had written (She’s 19 Years Old), and whose version I figured was the ultimate electric blues song, came on. It was wild and raw but what really blew my mind was this amazing high-pitched choking murderous guitar solo. The slide was simply terrifying in its determination and intention. To do what, I’m not sure, but since the song was about having the hots for a teenage girl, I could easily imagine.

waters_muddyAt that very moment I got Muddy Waters. All resistance fell away. Everything he did on the rest of that solitary CD instantly, and I mean instantly, turned to gold. Ever since I’ve been collecting every recording of McKinley Morganfield I can get my hands on. In one fell swoop I heard his voice for what it was (a booming bravado growl of incredible emotional power) and concluded he was one of the most important and under appreciated guitar players in American music.   Over the journey I fell in love with his complex psychological makeup (an immensely disciplined leader of his band and cultivator of his art, yet a man ready to accept a white man’s largesse for his living) and his sense of style. Whether he was sang a dusty acoustic country blues or raved it up with America’s great rock ‘n rollers, whether he shook his jowls like an insane bulldog or ran his sharecropper’s hands up and down the neck of his guitar he had it all. He spoke, like they said of Jesus of Nazareth, with a preternatural authority. His art came from somewhere else than this world.

I could rave on, but I’ll spare you. I’m a disciple of this man. And here are 35 (just the tip of the tip of the iceberg) tracks that demonstrate his genius.

He is, indeed, the maaaan!


Track Listing:

01 Got My Mojo Workin’

02 Little Geneva

03 You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone #2

04 My Eyes (Keep Me In Trouble)

05 Leavin’ In The Mornin’

06 What Is That She Got

07 Twenty Four Hours

08 You Shook Me

09 She’s 19 Years Old

10 Come Back Baby (Let’s Talk It Over)

11 When I Get To Thinking

12 Cold Weather Blues

13 Take The Bitter With The Sweet (Alt 1)

14 One More Mile

15 Long Distance Call

16 Mannish Boy

17 Rollin’ And Tumblin’

18 Little Brown Bird

19 Sugar Sweet

20 Gypsy Woman

21 Instrumental

22 My Home Is On The Delta

23 32-20 Blues

24 Crawlin’ Kingsnake (Live)

25 Elevate Me Mama (Alt)

26 Baby Please Don’t Go

27 Tiger In Your Tank

28 Deep Down In Florida

29 Tell Me Baby

30 Country Blues (Number One)

30 Forty Days And Forty Nights

31 I’m Ready

32 Standin’ Here Tremblin’

34 Feel Like Going Home

35 Nine Below Zero


The Man: Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters

I’m on the road for the next few weeks. Fiji today, Solomon Islands tomorrow. Not much time to go before I head off to all day meetings and then a flight back to Nadi later this evening. So will share a nice album from the greatest bluesman of all time, Mr. McKinley Morganfield.


Part of Universal’s Authorized Bootleg series, this disc combines 15 highlights from Muddy Waters‘ multi-night stint at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium in November 1966. These shows may have been held at a famous rock venue but these recordings have more in common with the performances Muddy gave on the blues and folk festival circuit in the mid-’60s. Muddy and the band are tight and professional, running through numbers they’ve played many times – of the 15 tracks, “Forty Days and Forty Nights,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Rock Me,” “Baby Please Don’t Go” are all repeated – and they don’t push, they’re so relaxed they even let the tempo almost drag at times. This means there’s not much kinetic energy here, but it’s not bland either: Muddy is always a powerful, compelling center and there’s some prickly ice-pick thin guitar popping up in unexpected places. The professionalism keeps the two sets here enjoyable but it’s those slight surprises that make this worthwhile. (AMG)


Track Listing:

  1. Forty Days and Forty Nights
  2. (I’m Your) Hootchie Coochie Man
  3. Rock Me
  4. Baby, Please Don’t Go
  5. She Moves Me
  6. Got My Mojo Working
  7. You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had
  8. Forty Days and Forty Nights
  9. Baby, Please Don’t Go
  10. Thirteen Highway
  11. Rock Me
  12. Honey Bee (Sail On)
  13. Trouble No More
  14. (I’mYour) Hootchie Coochie Man
  15. Long Distance Call