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Waters, Muddy

byname of McKinley Morganfield

(born April 4, 1915, Rolling Fork, Miss., U.S.—died April 30, 1983, Westmont, Ill.) dynamic American blues guitarist and singer who played a major role in creating the post-World War II ensemble blues style.

Waters grew up in the cotton country of Mississippi and taught himself to play harmonica as a child; he took up guitar at age 17. He eagerly absorbed the classic delta blues styles of Robert Johnson, Son House, and others while developing a style of his own. He was first recorded in 1941, for the U.S. Library of Congress by archivist Alan Lomax, and in 1943 he moved to Chicago, where he began playing clubs and bars on the south and west sides. He soon broke with country blues by playing electric guitar in a shimmering slide style. His early, aggressive, electrically amplified band, including pianist Otis Spann and harmonica virtuoso Little Walter, created closely integrated support for his passionate singing, which featured dramatic shouts, swoops, and falsetto moans. His repertoire, much of which he composed, included lyrics that were mournful (“Blow Wind Blow,” “Trouble No More”), boastful (“Got My Mojo Working,” “I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man”), and frankly sensual (the unusual 15-bar blues “Rock Me”).

Waters recorded frequently for the Chess label during the 1950s, when he became the foremost exponent of modern Chicago blues. Tours of clubs in the South and Midwest in the 1940s and '50s gave way, after 1958, to concert tours of the United States and Europe, including frequent dates at jazz, folk, and blues festivals. In later years he concentrated on singing and played guitar only occasionally. A major influence on a variety of rock musicians—most notably the Rolling Stones—Waters was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

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