Muddy Waters: At Newport 1960/Sings “Big Bill”

Waters' urbanised country blues reached new ears with his Newport set, here packaged with his 1959 tribute to his champion Big Bill Broonzy

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Raised in rural poverty in Mississippi, and immersed in the country blues of his region, McKinley Morganfield had changed his stage name to Muddy Waters by the time he migrated north to Chicago in 1943. He bought his first electric guitar in 1945, made his first recording in 1947, and soon became a prominent figure on the Chicago blues scene, where traditional country blues was morphing into a more modern urban style, amplified blues show-bands generating beat and dance appeal in entertaining club performances.

In all this he was much encouraged by Big Bill Broonzy, who commented: “Muddy can really sing the blues. Hollering, shouting, crying, getting mad – that’s the blues.” Hit recordings in the 50s on the Chess label, such as I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man and I’ve Got My Mojo Working, established him as a major star on the blues circuit.

This CD contains two LPs from 1959-60 (in reverse order), plus six bonus tracks from the same period. All tracks are band performances behind vocals and feature longstanding sidemen, notably James Cotton and Otis Spann. The success of the prestigious live Newport Festival session brought Muddy wider recognition outside the Chicago blues clubs and jukeboxes. With confident, expressive vocals and gritty, collective instrumental backing, the performance builds through a selection of his popular repertoire, ranging from the slow and sorrowful to the upbeat and defiant. By the closing I’ve Got My Mojo Working, the young crowd is really won over.

The previous year, with the same line-up, he had recorded a short tribute album to Big Bill Broonzy, whose songs were restyled in the Waters’ band treatment. When I Get To Thinking and Lonesome Road Blues are standout performances. Of the bonus tracks, Mojo and Tiger In Your Tank are performed better at the live Newport session, whilst the brisker bonus version of I’ve Got My Brand On You sounds brighter.

This enjoyable CD reissue gives a very good and representative example of a major blues artist, who was to greatly influence the blues, R&B and the early rock scene in the UK after his 1958 tour.

Discography
[At Newport 1960] (1) I Got My Brand On You; (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man; Baby, Please Don’t Go; Soon Forgotten; Tiger In Your Tank; I Feel So Good; I’ve Got My Mojo Working; I’ve Got My Mojo Working (reprise); Goodbye Newport Blues; [Sings Big Bill] (2) Tell Me Baby; Southbound Train; When I Got To Thinking; Just A Dream (On My Mind); Double Trouble; I Feel So Good; Baby, I Done Got Wise; Mopper’s Blues; Lonesome Road Blues; Hey, Hey; (3) I’ve Got My Mojo Working; (4) Meanest Woman; Soon Forgotten; (5) Forty Days And Forty Nights; (4) I Got My Brand On You; Tiger In Your Tank (78.45)
Waters (v, g) on all tracks with:
(1) James Cotton (h); Pat Hare (g); Andrew Stephenson (b); Otis Spann (p); Francis Clay (d). Newport Jazz Festival, Rhode Island, 3 July 1960.
(2) as (1) except Francis Clay or Willie “Big Eyes” Smith (d). Chicago, June-August 1959.
(3) Little Walter (h); Hubert Sumlin, Pat Hare (g); Willie Dixon (b); Otis Spann (p); Francis Clay (d). Chicago, December 1956.
(4) as (1). Chicago, June 1960.
(5) Little Walter (h); Pat Hare, Jimmy Rogers or Hubert Sumlin (g); Willie Dixon (b); Otis Spann (p); Fred Below (?) (d). Chicago, January 1956.
Hoo Doo 263609