Hoochie Coochie Man
In a Nutshell
What do you get when you combine backwoods African American folk music, hoodoo religion, and the earliest form of guitar amplifier? Possibly nothing, unless you throw blues legends Muddy Waters (born McKinley Morganfield) and Willie Dixon into the mix. Muddy, who got the name from his childhood penchant for tromping through the Mississippi Delta mud, was one of the first (and most brilliant) musicians to bring the blues north and plug in his guitar, changing the path of blues music forever. One of his greatest legacies, the absurdly titled "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," was written by Willie Dixon as a comic audience pleaser during the early 1950s and is considered an early example of the Chicago blues—the new, amplified, rockin' form of blues still popular around the world.
But the song is also rich in cultural references dragged straight out of the Deep South, where Muddy, Dixon, and the blues were originally born. A black cat's bone? A mojo? A John the Conqueroo? With literally hundreds of thousands of African American southerners newly resettled in Chicago and trying to adjust to an urban lifestyle, it's no wonder that the song's silly riffs full of insider references were such a hit. Muddy's gritty, forceful style and playful delivery make this song an influential blues classic.
About the Song
||Musician(s)||Muddy Waters (guitar and vocals); Little Walter (harmonica); Otis Spann (piano); Jimmy Rogers (guitar); Willie Dixon (bass); Fred Below (drums)
|Album||Released as a single|
Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix
says the first guitarist he ever heard was Muddy Waters: "It scared me to death, because I heard all of those sounds," said Hendrix
—probably referring to Muddy's special penchant for emotive, twangy bottleneck guitar riffs. The influence of Muddy Waters extends far and deep into our musical culture, also touching The Beatles
, The Rolling Stones, and the entire history of blues
. His fusion of the southern folk music known as Mississippi Delta blues with a more electric, urban sound inspired a whole movement and changed the course of both blues music and the next big thing for decades to come: rock 'n' roll
In previous decades, a comic song like "Hoochie Coochie Man," based on hoodoo superstitions and Deep South slang, would have been relegated to the category of "race music"
(an anachronistic term for music sung by black people for black audiences). But as Muddy and other Chicago bluesmen exploded onto the scene, so did civil rights and racial integration
. By the 1960s
, many of Muddy's followers were white hippies, some as infamous as Jim Morrison
, who gave himself an unfortunate nickname based on "Hoochie Coochie Man." Don't ask, just read on.
On the Charts
"Hoochie Coochie Man" reached #8 on Billboard's Black Singles chart. (This was before the days of racial integration in music ratings, by the way. Speaking of racial integration, pop quiz: what Supreme Court
decision in the same year—1954—had a huge impact on that exact issue? Click here
if you are stumped.)
The song is listed at #225 on Rolling Stone
's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time."
The song is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
as one of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll." Muddy Waters has four songs on that list, and he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Muddy Waters' version of "Hoochie Coochie Man" was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame
in 1984, 30 years after it was recorded, as a "Classic of Blues Recordings."
Muddy Waters was ranked #17 in Rolling Stone
's "100 Greatest Artists of All Time."