Completing a trio of mid-century blues greatness along side Bo Diddley and Howlin’ Wolf, today was the day I experienced “Anthology” by Muddy Waters. Like his peers and predecessors, the music of Muddy Waters truly transformed and gave birth to the British Invasion blues-rock of the 1960s. Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Foghat, among many acts, draw heavily from the Muddy Waters catalog. The Rolling Stones even named their band in tribute to “Rollin’ Stone”, one of so many influential songs from this two-hour collection.
With a sound that is a bit more distinctive and upbeat than traditional blues, there is a very unique sound to most of these songs. To start, many feature a powerhouse harmonica solo by Waters, and the guitar solos have a unique, caustic and aggressive singular note tone that make me feel like I could clearly identify a Muddy Waters guitar solo from several others “Baby, Please Don’t Go”, “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I Just Want to Make Love to You”, “Mannish Boy”, “She’s Nineteen Years Old”, and “You Shook Me”, powerfully re-created a generation later by Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck… the list of songs that find their way through several successions is inconceivable in its total volume. Having listened to all of this music evolve, it is easy for me to understand while aspiring rock and blues musicians of the early 1960s turned back the clock to this rich and raw sound to build their own blueprint.
Aside from enjoying hearing these early versions play on, my other favorite moment would be listening to “Mannish Boy”, written by Muddy himself as a response to rival Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man”.
“Now, when I was a young boy, at the age of five, my mother said I’m gonna be, the greatest man alive.”
Considering all he created and shared with the world of music, he did his very best to live up to those words, and when you hear him owning that song completely, it’s hard to argue.