Hoochie Coochie Man
by Muddy Waters
The first time Muddy Waters played in a crowded nightclub with his guitar plugged in to an amp was a pivotal moment in American music. Even more important was the first time he recorded this sound. Adapting to the loud environment of the city's bars, Muddy electrified his Deep South blues riffs and bottleneck slide guitar playing (the earliest slides were made from glass necks of bottles). His early recordings at Chess Records, all in the style of "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man," defined a whole new genre known as Chicago blues.
"Hoochie Coochie Man," contained all the elements that came to be associated with the genre: the "use of rhythm sections and amplification; reliance on guitar and harmonica leads; and routine reference to Mississippi Delta styles of playing and singing" created a stand-out, fun music that audiences couldn't help but stop and listen to.
Chicago blues also helped create rock n' roll as we know it, and early Chicago blues is recognized these days as "the Bible of modern rock's riffs, lyrics, and attitude." The Rolling Stones took their name from a Muddy Waters song, and his fans also included the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. But inspiring white rockers was clearly not the only important role played by Muddy Waters and songwriter Willie Dixon. The pair worked with an impressive roster of bluesmen over the years: harmonica players "Little Walter" Jacobs, "Big Walter" Horton, Junior Wells and James Cotton; guitarists Jimmy Rogers, Pat Hare, Luther Tucker and Earl Hooker; pianists Memphis Slim, Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins; and drummers Elgin Evans, Fred Below and Francis Clay. They also influenced big names like Bo Diddley, Etta James, and the still-rocking Chicago blues star Buddy Guy (see him rocking out to "Hoochie Coochie Man" in 1970 here).
Muddy Waters is a standing centerpiece of blues history. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, well aware of Muddy's importance to his own career, summed up the Muddy Waters calling card better than we ever could (and it always helps to have a real famous person sum things up): "When I eventually got to hear Muddy Waters, it all fell into place for me. He was the thing I was looking for, the thing that pulled it all in for me. When I heard him I realized the connection between all the music I'd heard. He made it all explainable. He was like a codebook. I was incredibly inspired by him as a musician. He was more than a guitar player, more than a singer, more than a writer. It was all him. He was the hoochie-coochie man."