Thursday, January 29, 2009


Country boy McKinley Morganfield, better known as Chicago Blues master Muddy Waters, brought the Mississippi Delta north. Though many other Clarksdale-to-Memphis-to-West Helena bluesmen made similar treks to record their music, Waters quickly settled in at Aristocrat/Chess as the best, most vital link straight back to Robert Johnson and Son House, Tommy Johnson and Charlie Patton, the Delta’s undisputed kings. 

During a decade and some, his versions of familiar Mississippi-region numbers (and new blues fashioned by Willie Dixon and Muddy himself) expanded, then exploded with electric amplification, and suddenly shot out around the world, striking Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones (who took their name from a Muddy Waters song title), several blues magazines and one soon-to-be-famous U.S. rock journal all dead center.

Muddy pretty much invented the electrified blues band rules from the start, from the tentative mid-1940s to later, venerated 1970s. Only rarely did he sound like anything but himself, making for a certain rhythmic/melodic sameness over the years, which means picking a representative Dozens becomes a matter of honoring both his South Side shifts and his set-in-stone (becoming rock) standards.

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