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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.
|Musician(s)||Muddy Waters (guitar and vocals); Little Walter (harmonica); Otis Spann (piano); Jimmy Rogers (guitar); Willie Dixon (bass); Fred Below (drums)|
|Learn to play||Tablature|
|Album||Hoochie Coochie Man (Single)|
Big Joe Williams
The Rolling Stones
Ted Gioia, Delta Blues: The Life and Times of the Mississippi Masters Who Revolutionized American Music (2009)
An accessible and thorough history of the original blues masters, including Muddy Waters, who came out of the Mississippi Delta to change the entire world of music.
Robert Gordon, Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters (2002)
A classic biography covering Muddy's music as well as his turbulent personal life.
Karen Hansen, Today's Chicago Blues (2007)
A tour guide to Chicago for the blues fan, featuring many of the locales where Muddy Waters' career came into its own.
Muddy Waters: The Anthology, 1947–1972
This is an incredible collection of 50 Muddy Waters greats.
The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection: Muddy Waters, His Best, 1947–1955
This smaller collection contains 20 of his earlier, groundbreaking Chicago recordings on Chess Recrods.
Muddy and Friends
Muddy with Bonnie Raitt and Pinetop Perkins.
Muddy in France
With friend Scott Cameron—ah, the 1970s.
Backstage in Japan
He's balding on top a little, but he looks pretty good otherwise.
Young Muddy Waters
Holding his signature guitar.
Cadillac Records (2008)
A star cast (including Beyoncé Knowles) portrays Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Etta James during the rise and fall of the legendary Chess Records.
The Last Waltz (1978)
An epic live show tagged as the last show by The Band includes performances by Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Emmylou Harris.
The Delta Blues Museum Website
This great site includes an interactive "follow Muddy" feature, comparing Muddy Waters' route in the great migration north to other popular routes.
Muddy Waters on Rolling Stone's Top 100 Greatest Artists
Read a tribute by Billy Gibbons, accompanied by a great portrait.
Muddy Waters, "Hoochie Coochie Man"
This track was Waters' important debut in the mostly-white folk music scene. He went on to become a popular folk figure during the blues revival of the 1960s.
Muddy Waters, "Rolling Stone" (Live)
This early video—live at the Newport Jazz Festival—is incredible for its simplicity.
Muddy and the Rolling Stones, "Hoochie Coochie Man"
This is 1981, people. Muddy had staying power.