Jim Clark gets his mojo working as he explores the guitar style of one Mckinley Morganfield, better known as blues legend, Muddy Waters!
Wheaty heads to Stovall’s Plantation to learn the style of the mighty Muddy Waters.
McKinley Morganfield was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in 1915, earning the nickname Muddy Waters, due to his penchant for playing in the creek close to his home as a child. After his mother died in 1918, Muddy was sent to live with his grandmother near Clarksdale, the unofficial capital of the Delta. Mississippi can take credit for producing an extraordinary number of bluesmen from the immediate vicinity of Clarksdale, including Son House, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton and John Lee Hooker to name but a few.
Muddy first took up the harmonica or ‘blues harp’ aged 13 and was soon gigging at local functions. By 1932 he had taught himself enough guitar to work the local suppers and fish fries around his hometown. But after several years of struggling, he settled on Stovall’s plantation, where he drove a tractor. It was here that folk archivist Alan Lomax, who was scouting the South for Robert Johnson’s musical progeny, recorded him for the library of Congress in 1941.
Muddy was disappointed that the recordings were not for commercial release, but he now had the bug and vowed his days of working the dark Delta soil were over and headed for Chicago. After snaring a gig playing acoustic guitar with singer Sonny Boy Williamson, he found the boisterous Chicago blues clubs overwhelmed his sound, so following the example of other windy city guitarists and purchased a cheap electric guitar in 1944 and the rest is history!
Muddy Waters’ influence on electric guitar music, is rivalled only by BB King. Though never a virtuoso soloist, he had an intuitive sense of the expressive possibilities of a loud valve amplifier and it could be said, that it was his sound as much as his note choice that made his guitar voice so revered.
Our first solo utilises an open G tuning, which has been a country and blues staple ever since recording began. It was popular among many Mississippi Delta players like Son House and Robert Johnson as well as the likes of Keith Richards and Jimmy Page. Muddy used it on his earlier work.
Our second solo is in standard tuning. Muddy always played in the key of E in standard tuning, utilising the open position minor pentatonic and blues scale (E G A Bb B D), which he embellished with several ‘up the neck’ licks. To change key, he would simply capo the neck and play the same ideas relative to the new position.
I’ve been playing the blues for 50 years, it’s in my hands. I don’t need to practice it. Muddy Waters
Muddy Waters: note 3rd fret capo for playing in G