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McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1913 – April 30, 1983), known as Muddy Waters, was an American blues musician who is considered the "father of modern Chicago blues". He was a major inspiration for the British blues explosion in the 1960s and is ranked No. 17 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.Although in his later years Muddy usually said that he was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in 1915, he was actually born at Jug's Corner in neighboring Issaquena County in 1913. Recent research has uncovered documentation showing that in the 1930s and 1940s he reported his birth year as 1913 on both his marriage license and musicians' union card. A 1955 interview in the Chicago Defender is the earliest claim of 1915 as his year of birth, which he continued to use in interviews from that point onward. The 1920 census lists him as five years old as of March 6, 1920, suggesting that his birth year may have been 1914. The Social Security Death Index, relying on the Social Security card application submitted after his move to Chicago in the mid-1940s, lists him as being born April 4, 1913. Muddy's gravestone gives his birth year as 1915.
Muddy's grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly following his birth. Della gave the boy the nickname "Muddy" at an early age because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. Muddy later changed it to "Muddy Water" and finally "Muddy Waters".
The shack where Muddy Waters lived in his youth on Stovall Plantation is now located at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He started out on harmonica, but by age seventeen he was playing the guitar at parties, emulating two blues artists who were extremely popular in the south, Son House and Robert Johnson.
On November 20, 1932, Muddy married Mabel Berry; Robert Nighthawk played guitar at the wedding, and the party reportedly got so wild the floor fell in. Mabel left Muddy three years later when Muddy's first child was born; the child's mother was Leola Spain, sixteen years old (Leola later used her maiden name Brown), "married to a man named Steven" and "going with a guy named Tucker". Leola was the only one of his girlfriends with whom Muddy would stay in touch throughout his life; they never married. By the time he finally cut out for Chicago in 1943, there was another Mrs. Morganfield left behind, a girl called Sallie Ann.In 1940 Muddy moved to Chicago for the first time. He played with Silas Green a year later, and then returned to Mississippi. In the early part of the decade he ran a juke joint, complete with gambling, moonshine, and a jukebox; he also performed music there himself. In the summer of 1941, Alan Lomax went to Stovall, Mississippi, on behalf of the Library of Congress, to record various country blues musicians. "He brought his stuff down and recorded me right in my house," Muddy recalled in Rolling Stone, "and when he played back the first song I sounded just like anybody's records. Man, you don't know how I felt that Saturday afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice. Later on he sent me two copies of the pressing and a check for twenty bucks, and I carried that record up to the corner and put it on the jukebox. Just played it and played it and said, 'I can do it, I can do it.'" Lomax came back in July 1942 to record Muddy again. Both sessions were eventually released as Down On Stovall's Plantation on the Testament label. The complete recordings were re-issued on CD as Muddy Waters: The Complete Plantation Recordings. The historic 1941-42 Library of Congress field recordings by Chess Records in 1993, and re-mastered in 1997.
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