Blues Then and Now - The History of the Blues (Chapter 9, page 2 of 4)


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Chapter 9

During the mid-1940s, blues singers. Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Roosevelt Sykes, Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red, Big Maceo and John Lee 'Sonny Boy' Williamson were very active singing, in the black clubs in Chicago. Each had their own followers and was still recording with the 'race' record companies. Following close behind them were another group of young blues singers. Names like, Memphis Slim, Eddie Boyd, 'Baby Face Leroy' Foster, Sunnyland Slim and Robert Nighthawk who adopted the name from his 1937 record "Prowling Nighthawk."

It was however, Sunnyland Slim that introduced another young singer who was to be responsible for the transformation of Chicago blues. McKinley Morganfield was from the Delta area in Rolling Fork, Mississippi was also known as Muddy Waters. The Delta area is a 200 mile stretch of low, flat plains running between Memphis, Tennessee and Vicksburg, Mississippi, bordered by the Mississippi River on the west and the Yazoo River on the east. He started his musical career as a harmonica player and by the age of 17, he was playing the guitar. Muddy admits that he learned a good deal about guitar playing by listening repeatedly to Leroy Carr's 1928 record "How Long, How Long Blues" on which the famed guitarist Scrapper Blackwell was heard.

In the early 1940s, Muddy was found working as a field hand on Stovall's Farm in Clarksdale, Mississippi by Alan Lomax and had Waters make his first record for the Library of Congress, "I Be's Troubled" and "Country Blues." In 1943, he boarded the Illinois Central train to Chicago. When the train arrived at 12th and Michigan in the downtown section, just a few blocks from the south side black population and emptied the last three cars that were restricted for blacks only. It was remarked that it looked like 'the Ellis Island of the black migration."

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