This week blues legend Muddy Waters would celebrate his 104th birthday. Muddy is still a major influence in music history, artist like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and even today rappers like Kanye West are all influenced by his sound. For his birthday we look back at his first recording session.
Stovall Plantation recording session 1941
It was historian Alan Lomax who made a trip to the Stovall Plantation back in August 1941 to record McKinley Morganfield with Henry ‘Son’ Sims. They recorded ‘Country Blues’, ‘I Be Troubled’ and ‘Burr Clover Blues’.
“Morganfield would later become the ‘King of Chicago Blues’ as Muddy Waters. He had learned the guitar and harmonica and began playing in juke joints and at parties and dances in and around the Clarksdale, Mississippi area from about 1935 onwards”.(udiscovermusic)
Classic Albums: Muddy Waters Sings Big Bill Broonzy
One of the leading figures in the post war Chicago Blues scene is Muddy Waters. Alongside Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walter, Muddy was a big man of the Blues. His music needs no introduction and his influence is still visible today. But this master once showed his respect to another Chicago Bluesman. It was in In 1960, when Muddy Waters recorded an album as a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy ‘Muddy Waters sings Big Bill’.
Big Bill Broonzy died two years earlier, but Muddy could be sure of Broonzy’s approval All Music writes: “Oh yeah, Muddy is a real singer for the Blues,” Big Bill, the Mississippi foundation stone, was heard to say early on in Muddy Waters’ career. The confident Muddy – who was already one of the kings of the blues – changed Big Bill’s repertoire into a Muddy Waters cocktail.
From The Super Super Blues band a classic blues song “Long Distance Call”
In 1968 Chess studios released a unique album it was a collaboration of the greatest blues musician of that time; Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley recorded The Super Super Blues Band. This album is full of rocking blues classics, produced by Willie Dixon under the supervision of Phil and Marshall Chess. The fun part of this albums is that all three legends sings and play on every song together. You will hear Howlin’ Wolf sing Bo Diddley’s song “Diddley Daddy and Muddy sings along on Wolf’s classic “Spoonful“.
Wrecking My love Life
A song you can listen all day is “Wrecking My Love Life”, besides the vocals of Muddy, Wolf and Diddley that really blast out of your speakers like it is a jam that is played in front of you, a magnificent woman sings soulful ‘woohoowoo baby…’ throughout the song. Wrecking My love Life is a blues version of Reggae.
Long Distance Call – Muddy Waters
Long Distance Moan – Blind Lemon Jefferson
Long Distance Call the 3 versions
Long Distance Call was first released in 1951 by Chess and reached #8 in the R&B chart. The song originates in the song “Long distance Moan” released by Texas bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1929. While Muddy changed the name and lyrics of the song slightly, in the music you still hear a lot of moaning. Long Distance Call is a great example of the modern blues, there aren’t a lot of songs that show so good how blue someone can become as Long distance call. This song gets in your veins, bones and soul. Not only because of the lyrics but also through the guitar, the slow drums and the interludes that make this song so magical.
In comparison to the original Muddy Waters version, on the Super Super Blues band Record Long Distance Call is transformed into a rocking blues song. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Sing and the slow drums are changed into a rhythmic beat. The guitar screams are replaced by harmonica grooves.
Long Distance Call – Super Super Blues Band
Diddley Daddy is another song worth listening on Super Super Blues Band. Diddley Daddy was recorded on May 15, 1955 in Chicago and became a signature song of Bo Diddley. It is cool to hear how Howlin’ Wolf easily takes over the lyrics of Bo. Like the original version, the Super Super blues band version is rockin’ blues. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters make the song grooving like a jam. Interesting about this song is the 1963 cover by the Rolling Stones which was part of their first demo recording.
Classic Blues Songs and Traditional: Goin’ Down Slow
Some blues songs contributed so much to the history of blues and music that the can be named classic songs, or even a traditional. A few musicians have that honour. One of them is St. Louis Jimmy Oden. Goin’ Down Slow’ written by his hand in 1941 is covered over a forty times, and in my opinion it would still be a hit.
This November it rained so hard you wouldn’t think about goin´ out on the street. And yeah there was I walking to the city centre. Muddy Waters, best recordings was on headphone. The song: Goin’ Down Slow. It was what you can call right song on the right time. Wet from the rain, and cold from the wind. After Muddy version was finished. I searched for more versions while freezing my hands of. Wolf, Walter, Dupree, Charles and Sonny Terry’s Goin’ Down Slow made that terrible walk a pleasure. I searched around and found a whole lot of covers of Oden’s Masterpiece. Some of old dogs in blues, also a lot of new bluesman.
The Original: St. Louis Jimmy Oden Blues composer
St. Louis Jimmy Oden was a profilic composer from St. Louis alongside Roosevelt Sykes, Oden travelled throughout the south, mid-west and eventually settled in Chicago. Those days piano and guitar teams where popular around St. Louis. Odin recorded Goin’ Down Slow on November 11, 1941, and was issued on Bluebird records that year.
Other recording Goin’ Down Slow
More than forty times this traditional blues song had been recorded. Champion Jack Dupree, Roosevelt Sykes and Ray Charles where the first musicians to cover Oden’s hit. Almost every recording of Goin’ Down Slow stays close to the original. Howlin’ Wolf however, slightly changed some of the lyrics with the help of Willie Dixon. Wolf and Dixon made a greet dialog song of Goin’ Down Slow. How life for a man slowly slips away. Especially this rhyme:
“Man, you know I done enjoyed things
That Kings and Queens will never have
In fact, Kings and Queens can never get
And they don’t even know about it and good times?”
Howlin’ Wolf – Goin’ Down Slow
The bluesman who dominated the scene for a whole lot of years Howlin’ Wolf recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1961 for Chess Record. His version is the grittiest, darkest and baddest of all, and therefore maybe the best. You would think It was written for Howlin’ Wolf. Willie Dixon added a few lyrics to the song.
“Now looky here, I did not say I was a millionaire
But I said I have spent more money than a millionaire
‘Cause if I had kept all of the money I done already spent
I would’ve been a millionaire, a long time ago
And women? Great googly moogly”
Little Walter – Goin’ Down Slow
Especially the intro of Walter’s Goin’ Down Slow is amazing, this true electric version is like a opera. Walter really creates the tradegy of the song, and makes it a real blues hit. The electric guitar part is deep and leading in this song. You wouldn’t expect such a leading guitar part in a Little Walter song.
Cousin Joe – Goin’ Down Slow
Down in New Orleans Cousin Joe recorded Goin’ Down Slow in 1994 on his Bad Luck Blues Album. Like you would expect from Cousin Joe the piano is a bit groovy, but Joe’s voice is the key to listening to this song. Joe preaches slow.
Sonny Terry & Brownie MC Ghee – Goin’ Down Slow
Like you would expect from Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee they turn this blues traditional into a Delta Folk mixer. Like most of the versions Goin’ Down Slow is a slow song, but Sonny adds with his harmonica a whole lotta groove into the composition.
BB King – Goin’ Down Slow
One of the few who make this Goin’ Down Slow a groovy rhythm full song is BB King. Especially the ongoing beat makes this song. But BB soulful voice is absolute fantastic.
After listening to al the version of Jimmy Oden’s masterpiece I really favoured the versions of Wolf and Walter. A few weeks later BB King was the man to listen to. There aren’t that many songs that have been recorded so many times, and that is a great thing about this song. You will change your favourite version a couple of time. But the song never changes.
“Got My Mojo Working” is a what you call a classic song, everybody around in world of Blues and Rock ‘n Roll music performed it once, twice or maybe three times since it was released by Ann Cole in 1956. It is the Voodoo, the Mojo that got this song working. Maybe the rhythmic groove or the swinging lyrics. One thing is sure. “Got My Mojo Working” is milestone in music History.
Muddy Waters’ version was released in 1957 and is still a hit if it would be released nowadays. I’ll bet it would be the best song in the charts. Willie Dixon plays bass on the recording. You should expect that Dixon wrote the song because it is a very Dixon-like song. And like all his other songs it is a monster blues hit.
Hollywood actor and songwriter Preston S. Foster
But Dixon didn´t wrote the song. The copyright holder of the original “Got My Mojo Working” Is Preston S. Foster – the actor who played in over forty movies like American Empire (1942), Kansas City Confidential (1952) and The Last Mile (1932). He has a star on the Hollywood Boulevard, and for what we know he didn’t wrote a lot of songs. It is maybe one of the biggest surprises in music history.
Foster’s version was first recorded by Ann Cole a wonderful woman who toured around the south alongside Muddy Waters in the fifties. Ann recorded for several labels like Timely an Baton Records. She had minor hits over the years. A year after she sang “Got My Mojo Working” Muddy Released his version on Chess Records. That song is still one of best songs around and would become a major hit. Waters heard Cole perform on tour and got inspired to make his own version of it.
Kitty Daisy And Lewis Got that Mojo
After Ann Cole and Muddy Waters over a triple dozen artist would play the song like Elvis Presley, Canned Heat, Mannfred Mann, J.J. Cale, Art Blakey, Otis Rush, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter and recently Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Some versions of “Got My Mojo Working” are absolutely worth listening.
For example Kitty, Daisy and Lewis from England. A blues group consisting two beautiful woman playing blues like a M*’f*cker. Especially their version on the French television is a must listen. This family band rocks the blues with some fantastic harmonica solos. Watch it here…
Elvis Presley’s Got My Mojo Working
Elvis Presley’s version of ‘Got My Mojo Working’ was part of his “Elvis Sings…” album and a real rhythm and blues kind of songs. Elvis changed the lyrics a little bit in comparison with Waters or Foster’s versions. Presley recorded a lot of blues songs throughout his career one of his greater blues songs is Evil which he performed in the 1958 movie King Creole
BB King recorded the song on his “King Size” and is a real grooving version a true boogie song.
The Zombies The British band The Zombies covered “Got My Mojo Working in a beat-version a sixties pop song
“Got My Mojo Working” is a true Blues Classic and even now some of the greatest musicians keep covering the great song originally written by Preston Foster, but popularised by Muddy Waters in 1957. If you’re interested in some other great versions listen to the Spotify playlist below.