Muddy Waters redefined the blues, bringing a new sound to Chicago that became known as Chicago Blues.
Born McKinley Morganfield on April 4, 1915, in Rolling Fork, Miss.,
Waters was raised by his grandmother and earned his nickname because of his fondness for the waters of the Delta. Waters first played harmonica as a teen in clubs with Delta legend Son House but soon switched to guitar, which he learned through the records of Robert Johnson.
The bluesman was recorded for the first time in 1941 by archivist Alan Lomax; those early songs are still available on The Historic 194142 Library of Congress Field Recordings.
Chicago became his home in 1943, and he began playing clubs in the evenings after working in a paper mill and driving a truck during the day. Waters recorded his first hits for the Chess label in 1948, including "Rollin' Stone" (RealAudio
excerpt) and "I Can't Be Satisfied."
Through the '50s, Waters played electric guitar on scores of recordings for Chess, with many top bluesmen getting their start in his band. Despite his international reputation and the success of a certain British rock 'n' roll band that borrowed its name from one of his songs Waters did not earn a lot of money and worked on several unsuccessful psychedelic projects in the '60s.
In the '70s, Waters left Chess, suing the label for unpaid royalties. His career revived with his recordings produced by Johnny Winter for Blue Sky in the '70s. Waters died of a heart attack on April 30, 1983, in Chicago.
Other birthdays today: Hugh Masekela, 61, and Cliff Waldron, 59.