Muddy Waters is the critical connection between country and urban blues, a pioneer who amplified the Mississippi Delta sound, gave it a backbeat, put a band behind it and insured the blues a place in the modern American roots tradition. A provocative singer with a hellbent, grisly voice, Waters, whose real name was McKinley Morganfield, was also a potent slide guitar player and a bandleader who surrounded himself with equally innovative players. Waters was born in 1915 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, just outside of Clarksdale. He first recorded in 1941 for the Library of Congress after being discovered by folklorist Alan Lomax. Two years later, Waters left Mississippi for Chicago's vibrant blues scene. In 1944 Waters began to play an electric guitar, giving his sound a louder, more jagged edge. He produced a few recordings for Columbia in 1946, but it wasn't until 1948 that he made his mark. Although his first record ("I Can't Be Satisfied"/"Feel Like Going Home") was in a Delta country blues style, subsequent recordings reveal a more urban electric sound. Fueled by the powerhouse sound of his band, Waters cut a monumental collection of electric blues sides that included "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Got My Mojo Working." From 1951 through 1960, the golden decade of Chicago blues and Chess Records, Waters ruled the blues roost. A trip to England in 1958 with pianist Otis Spann made Waters a blues giant on the other side of the Atlantic as well. In the '60s Waters recorded both acoustic and electric blues, reaching beyond his loyal African-American audience. By the end of the decade he had penetrated rock & roll, playing venues such as the Fillmore East and West, and opening for the Rolling Stones. The '70s were a disastrous decade for the blues as cursory listeners abandoned the music and some of the top blues performers entered artistic slumps. Waters, however, maintained his blues integrity by working with Johnny Winter, recording some of the best albums of his career before passing in 1983. His importance as a blues artist is rivaled only by Robert Johnson's and B.B. King's.
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