Muddy Waters – real name McKinley Morganfield – was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in 1915 and was raised by his grandparents (his parents separated when he was six months old).
His grandmother took him north to live with her on the Stovall Plantation in the rich cotton lands near Clarksdale, Mississippi, where John Lee Hooker and many other future blues stars grew to maturity.
As a youngster, Muddy took up the harmonica, and that was the instrument he played when he began performing at country suppers and picnics in his early teens.
He was singing with his own band at the age of 15 and later took up the guitar.
In 1941 he recorded for the Lomax Brothers’ Library of Congress recordings, and two years later headed north to Chicago. After the war, he began playing electric guitar and recorded for Columbia before signing with Chess, for whom he recorded many many blues tracks throughout the 50s and 60s.
Muddy recorded many songs which became blues standards including; Got My Mojo Working, Hoochie Coochie Man, Mannish Boy and I Just Want To Make Love To You.
His visits to Britain in the early 1960s proved a formative influence on Alexis Korner, The Rolling Stones (who took their name from one of his songs) and all the others involved in the British blues boom. Immensely revered and emulated, Muddy is often seen as a bridging point between blues and rock & roll.
In 1969 he recorded Fathers and Sons with Mike Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield and Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, and in 1972 recorded a London Sessions album with Rory Gallagher, Stevie Winwood and Mitch Mitchell (amongst others).
At the age of 64 Muddy went into the studio with something to prove. He succeeded in creating the album Hard Again (1977) – a work so powerfully raw and undeniably passionate that it sounds as if it is being performed at the fabled blues crossroads with both the Devil and Robert Johnson listening from across the street, merely able to shake their heads in admiration.
Hard Again received uniformly positive reviews, earned Waters his fourth Grammy and, most importantly, perfectly illustrated that nobody gets the blues quite like Muddy Waters.
Muddy Waters died on 30 April 1983 at the age of 70, after suffering a heart attack at his home near Chicago.