Jim Clark gets his mojo work­ing as he ex­plores the gui­tar style of one Mckin­ley Mor­gan­field, bet­ter known as blues leg­end, Muddy Wa­ters!

Guitar Techniques - - Contents -

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

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