Muddy Waters

On this day in 1915, blues legend Muddy Waters was born McKinley

Morganfield in Rolling Fork, Miss. He was nicknamed Muddy Waters early on

because he fished and played regularly in the muddy waters of the birthplace of

the blues, the Mississippi Delta. He began playing harmonica as a teen-ager in

local Delta clubs and soon learned the guitar by studying the work of blues

legend Robert Johnson. In 1944, Waters headed North and began establishing

his own legend, playing the electric guitar in Chicago blues clubs. Shortly after

making his move, he signed with Aristocrat Records and had a major blues hit

with "Rollin' Stone."

In the 1950s, he transformed electric blues with his raw, blazing guitar work

based on that of his hero, Big Bill Broonzy. Waters recorded a number of great

albums for Chess records, ably assisted by the likes of pianist Otis Spann and

songwriter/bassist Willie Dixon. During this period, he produced a staggering

number of blues standards, including "Mannish Boy" and "I'm Your Hoochie

Coochie Man." In 1960, Waters played the Newport Jazz Festival and his music

began to make inroads into the "white" pop world. This was particularly the

case in England, where he became -- along with such musicians as Dixon and

Chuck Berry -- the inspiration for the British blues boom of the mid-'60s. His

music heavily influenced the work of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, John

Mayall, Led Zeppelin and many others, along with that of such U.S. groups as

the Blues Project and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In the '70s, Waters was

honored with Grammy awards, and guitarist Johnny Winter produced three

Waters albums that reworked some of Waters' best early material. He also

made an unforgettable appearance in the film of the Band's legendary final gig,

"The Last Waltz," in 1976, performing "Mannish Boy." Waters died of a heart

attack on April 30, 1983. By then, he and his music had become an enduring

part of American culture.

Other birthdays: Major Lance, 57; Berry Oakley (Allman Brothers Band),

50; Dave Hill (Slade), 46; Gary Moore, 46; Craig Adams (ex-Sisters of Mercy),

36; and Mike Starr (Alice In Chains), 32.