ILLUSTRATION BY LARRY
This is the first installment of Scatterbrain’s column, The Evolution of Modern Rock. He’ll be taking you on a journey from the Blues to Electronic Dance Music and everything in between.
We begin our journey 100 years ago in the early 1900’s, near southern Mississippi. This is where the blues was crafted, it was not just music, it was storytelling–a way of using song to share sorrows or joy especially for African American people in a time of racism and discrimination. Music was consolation, an escape, and a way to tell their tales.
With simple guitar riffs and strong, meaningful vocals, the blues spread like wildfire, captivating and inspiring listeners. At first, and for a long time, the blues were local music, and strictly acoustic, electric instruments not being widespread back then, but in the 1920’s it’s popularity grew. This led to musicians rising to fame and the spreading of new ideas through the genre. One prominent blues musician was Muddy Waters.
Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield on April 4th, 1913 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. His grandmother gave him the nickname Muddy because when he was young he would play in the mud in her garden.
In 1943, Muddy moved to Chicago. He had to work a job at a paper factory in the day to survive and struggled as a musician at night, playing at small clubs and bars or wherever he could get work. He found it hard to be heard in his gigs with his acoustic Martin guitar. This led to him switching to an amplified Harmony Monterey. Muddy Waters was a pioneer of his music for turning blues into a loud, electric music.
This was a breakthrough in a time where racial tension was present because popular music was mainly by white musicians unlike the blues which was black music. Muddy was signed to Aristocrat Records in 1947. Through the following years he would release many songs with this label. In the 50’s he rose to the peak of his fame, with hit songs such as “Rollin’ and Tumblin’,” “I’m Ready,” and his most popular, “I’m your Hoochie Coochie Man.”
By the mid 1950’s, Muddy was tired of his electric blues and thought it was going nowhere so he decided to go back to acoustic music. Little did he know that he had changed music forever with the sound of his electric guitar. He was most popular in Britain, where young people like Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney grew up with his music. There was even a band who named themselves after one of Muddy’s songs — ”Rollin’ Stone.”
Overall, Muddy Waters was a huge part of music’s history. He evolved blues into a more mainstream type of music and influenced many musicians along the way. Muddy Waters died on April 30th, 1983 in Westmont, Illinois after living a very successful life.