McKinley Morganfield, better known the world over as Muddy Waters, is a bona fide blues legend. Very few artists cast a larger shadow on the course of 20th century music than this guy. He's seen by many as the Godfather of Chicago blues, a movement that took place in the US in the 1950s and bridged the gap between the acoustic Delta blues of the 1920s, '30s and '40s, and the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s.
Indeed, much of the template for electric guitar based hard rock came from directly from Muddy Waters.** **He helped rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry secure a record deal. The Rolling Stones took their name from his breakthrough hit Rollin’ Stone, which Paul Rogers and Jeff Beck also paid tribute to on Rogers’ second solo record Muddy Waters Blues: A Tribute To Muddy Waters. Guitar hero - and self-confessed fan - Jimi Hendrix also evolved the song into his own seminal hit, Voodoo Child (Slight Return).
Eric Clapton also took significant influence from Muddy’s sound, reworking Rollin’ And Tumblin’ for Cream’s debut album Fresh Cream, whilst Led Zeppelin based the lyrics for Whole Lotta Love on Muddy’s You Need Love. Led Zeppelin also covered You Shook Me (another song written by Willie Dixon, who wrote many of Muddy’s best known hits) for their debut self-titled album, whilst the inspiration for the lyrics to AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long also came from the aforementioned track.
Muddy was responsible for turning a whole generation onto blues based music, and nowhere is his sound better represented than on Live At Newport 1960. Recorded on July 3rd at the Newport Jazz Festival, it captures the artist at the absolute peak of his powers. As with any record from this series, to truly understand its impact you have to factor in the conditions of its creation and the period of its release – it was one of the first live blues albums ever released, and for the majority of audience members in attendance that day it would’ve been their first exposure to electric blues.
The album’s nine tracks are lean and mean, and the 2001 MCA reissue (the definitive version of this album) gives them a high resolution makeover, highlighting and improving the quality of the individual musicians, particularly that of bass player Andrew Stevens. Muddy’s tough baritone is also brought forward in the mix, recreating how these songs would’ve sounded live. The roaring set kicks off with I Got My Brand On You, a cocksure composition underscored by Otis Spann’s honky tonk piano, anchored by James Cotton’s howling harmonica. Next up’s stop-time stomper (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man, followed by a rambunctious rendition of _Baby Please Don’t Go _(originally by Big Joe Williams), before the band take it down a notch with Soon Forgotten, allowing guitarist Pat Hare the chance to shine. He was one of Memphis’ finest players, and the influence he exuded on British blues acts like The Yardbirds is notable here.
I Wanna Put A Tiger In Your Tank and I Feel So Good build towards the climatic, show stopping Got My Mojo Working, which the band played again for their encore whilst Muddy Waters jitterbugged around the stage, whipping the unsuspecting crowd into an absolute frenzy. If you can imagine for a moment the rowdiest heavy metal gig ever - that’s the equivalent to how audience members at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960 would’ve felt. By the end of the gig Muddy Waters was too exhausted to carry on singing, so pianist Otis Spann had to assume vocal duties on set closer Goodbye Newport Blues, but his work was already done. Both recorded music and the live performance would never be the same again.