The Turnaround: Muddy Waters & Jimmy Rogers
Take a look at the styles of two famously associated bluesmen, with a handful of ideas for each, plus two backing tracks to jam over
There aren’t many bigger names in blues than Muddy Waters – writer of all-time classics such as Mannish Boy, Hoochie Coochie Man and Got My Mojo Working, and a major influence to a generation of later guitarists. His sharp, minimalist Fender Telecaster playing was supplemented by a number of guitarist bandmates throughout his career, most notably Jimmy Rogers, who played most of the main guitars on Muddy’s early material and penned blues staples such as Walking By Myself.
Jimmy came more from the Gibson school of thought, playing a variety of hollow or semi-hollow instruments. Both guitarists favoured a clean, but lively sound – the result of cranking a valve amp to near the distortion threshold, but not over the edge into full-on break up. If you have access to a low-powered valve amp, that’s all you need – otherwise, try adding the merest hint of overdrive and compression (and we really do mean a tiny amount) to add colour and sustain to your clean tones.
Part of what characterises blues from the era is the ‘room sound’ captured by the recording techniques of the day. Musicians would all play in a studio together and there were no overdubs. A little spring reverb helps to set the scene but make sure you keep the level low to avoid sounding too modern.