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McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1913 – April 30, 1983), better known by the derisive stage name of Muddy Waters, was a pioneering blues guitarist and infamous mopey jerk. He is widely considered to be the father of modern Deep Dish blues, the father of the modern whining sad dude, and not the father of Rashida Wilson's child. Living a life governed by the blues, he immersed himself in his music and let depressing reality take over his personality, creating a sardonic and morose character. Nevertheless, he inexplicably got a ton of pussy.
Morganfield's depression got off to a strong start when his mother died during the act of childbirth. Reportedly, the freshly-born McKinley was too exhausted to cry, being pushed and rolled around by "the woman" for the last nine months without end. Getting evicted from the comfort of the womb was the last straw. The midwife, mistakenly assuming the depressed baby to be dead, left him to rot in the gutter, which filled up with muddy water from the sheets of rain pouring down overhead.
Morganfield was noticed and taken in by a genial vicar who happened to wander nearby on the way to the YMCA, who raised him for the entirety of his difficult, angsty childhood in the rural badlands near Biloxi, Mississippi. Young Muddy, then just known as Young McKinley, was plagued by punishing sessions of explosive diarrhea, an unfortunately frequent occurrence that earned him the derisive nickname of "Muddy Waters" amongst his peers.
However, Muddy contested this origin of his nickname until his day of death, insisting that his legendary moniker couldn't have "come out of some stupid shit joke," in his autobiography Bridge over Muddied Waters: The Muddy Waters Story. "Everybody shits," he continued, "but tons of other stuff about mud and water happened to me in my life. Just go back a little in this book and find out for yourself. Remember the thing with the midwife? It isn't all about shit jokes." The constant explosive diarrhea became less frequent in his teens until he eventually outgrew it; in turn, he accomplished more than most present-day blues historians, who still dwell on the issue and snicker at the phrase "constant explosive diarrhea".
Those Terrible Teens
The social and family troubles of Waters's childhood sublimated into lyrical moroseness the instant he received a harmonica on his fourteenth birthday. Muddy, who had wanted the new Hess Truck, was so disappointed that he wrote two dozen songs about why he disliked his new harmonica, then performed them with his new harmonica. His disappointments compounded later that year when, instead of the crayons he had been pining for, he only got an acoustic guitar for Christmas.
The vicar discovered Muddy had a knack for writing songs about life's various letdowns and set out to purposefully ruin his life, in hopes that he'd get noticed by a highfalutin record company. Several years passed with no luck, though during this period Muddy penned some of his most notable early hits, such as "Mousetraps All Over My Room Blues" and "Grenade In My Cheerios Blues". Lightning struck when musical renegade Alan Lomax saw Waters playing "Lightning Struck Me Blues" while hogtied up the flagpole during a vicious rainstorm. Lomax dug his rough, emotional take on country blues and recorded a couple hundred of his songs—most of them about hating harmonicas—for preservation in the Library of Congress.
Rather than being inspired by the recognition, Muddy believed he had "sold out to the Man" and developed a sense of self-loathing. The vicar, sensing a goldmine of malaise, convinced his neighbors to shun Muddy, tar and feather him, and run him out of town on a rail. Pockets full of horrific experience, he fled to Chicago to start his career as a professional complainer.
Muddy was taken in by his friend and fellow musician Big Bill Broonzy, who got him gigs at nightclubs by calling in various sexual favors. Waters despised these nightclubs, their rowdy atmospheres constantly drowning out the sound of his quiet acoustic blues. Despairing, he sold his harmonica—something he had been wanting to do for a long time—and bought a large, heavy object with which he could drown himself. For once, things were going according to plan, and he nearly achieved happiness when he tied the amplifier to his legs and prepared to jump into the muddy waters of the Chicago River. Regrettably, a passing deacon on his way to the local YMCA stopped him before he could jump.
Despite his suicidal complaints, the deacon dragged Waters into his warm home, force-fed him some chicken noodle soup, drugged him with warm milk, and trapped him in a comfortable bed with an extremely tight tucking-in. To add insult to injury, the deacon took notice of the deadly amplifier and donated his prized electric guitar to Muddy, an outspoken Luddite. This act of charity irritated Muddy so much that he began performing his new songs, about the electric guitar, with the electric guitar purely out of spite. Talent scouts took notice of his loud, sarcastic sound while busking at Chicago's Woodfield Mall. Chicago Tribune writer Jonathan Gonzalez reflects in his biography Muddy Waters Under the Bridge: Another Book About Muddy Waters With The Word "Bridge" In the Title:
|“||It was a religious experience, walking out of J. Crew and seeing that bulky black man rest on the stoop of Old Navy, Gibson draped across his knee. The words he was saying were not as important as the unique sounds that emanated from his guitar: loud, brash, dominant. This was the sound of a man exerting the force of his character onto the world. This was a man who was large and in charge, healthy and boastful. I knew at that moment this man and his sound would be big, very big, and heard not just in Woodfield but in malls across the nation. No doubt he is proud of his creation, and will bask happily in his legacy for years to come.||”|
More recent statements from Muddy himself reveal that this couldn't be farther from the truth.
Muddy's patented style of emotionally raw electric blues was dubbed "mall blues" or "emo blues", a label that most critics view as redundant. Muddy received brief personal recognition for his accidental musical breakthrough, and was almost able to cast aside his spiteful ironies and adopt the style as his own. Within a year, the malls of Chicago soon overflowed with dozens of imitators from all over the country, eventually leading to the impersonal and commercialized version of Muddy's original concentrated blues angst. A new style known as "screamo blues" was thus born. The budding genre was quickly plucked from Muddy's grasp, and he resumed depressed business as usual.
There appeared to be no cure for Muddy's depression and exponentially growing rage with the world. Smashing his guitar after a concert was reported as musical heroism and rebelliousness, not justified violence against an instrument that brought him untold depths of pain and suffering. He attempted suicide four different times, and each attempt was interrupted by a pastor, shaman, Buddhist monk, and rabbi, respectively. After a point, he hadn't just given up on life, he gave up on death. As usual, he transcribed all of these woes into rollicking electric blues hits, ironically raking in more and more success.
The answer to all his troubles came knockin' on his door in 1967, when label chief Mashall Chess came knockin' on Muddy's door and presented the blues guitarist with a fistful of marijuana. Muddy rolled his eyes and monotonously mumbled "Why the hell not." They dissected the dank nugget, picked out the seeds and stems, and proceeded to get high as hell. The experience was uniquely pleasant and provided Muddy with his "Eureka!" moment; he didn't need to kill himself and risk being happened upon by a passing archbishop, all he had to do was murder his career to escape the hellhole rat race of being a musical superstar.
Muddy first attempted to destroy his career literally with little success. He then decided upon a more abstract approach, took a hit from a bong, and channeled the negative energy within him into eight tracks of psychedelic self-destruction called Electric Mud.
Initially, the album was met with ambivalent returns. It sold hundreds of thousands in the opening months but was critically reviled, providing Muddy with a healthy dose of self-verification. Rolling Stone magazine called it "A big, barely-blue travesty. A classic example of once remarkable black dudes veering into white rock just to sell records above the poverty line and lavish themselves in a sea of white rumps," though the reviewer was fired the next day for writing a terrible, racist review. The Allmusic review carried the same message, but was more veiled in its racist tones: "It's like watching Al Pacino trying to play basketball. He just can't do it." The most famous review, however, comes from the Toronto Sun, which simply published two words: "Electric shit."
Muddy briefly felt something that was perhaps akin to joy when reading these scathing reviews, but it gave way to seeping defeat when his high ran out and he realized people hated his record because they thought he was trying to sell out, not because he was just trying to make a shitty record. Still, the money he earned from it allowed him to purchase a private island to sulk on for the next fifteen years. Not much was heard about Muddy, who spent most of his time brooding on sunny shores and composing tunes on ukuleles he despised, until he died in 1983 by choking himself to death with a plastic bag. Mysteriously, he burned all of the churches on the island to cinders before he went on his merry way, much to the delight of the local savages.
Despite his constant brooding and inability to smile or interact normally with others, Waters had an extremely healthy sex life that he hated every minute of. He attracted women of every color and creed and, being too apathetic to turn them away, reluctantly bedded them. Between the years of 1951 and 1968, Muddy was the hootchie-cootchie man to over seven hundred and fifty hootchie-cootchie mamas. Muddy described his battles with hot indiscriminate sex best in an interview with the New York Times:
|“||Women. It seems like they're out to get me, everywhere I turn. I try to do all I can to avoid them but they keep coming at me. At the club, after the concert, outside my home window; even the sixty-year old librarian started slipping naked pictures of herself into the books I rented. I just can't bear it, all these women chasing after me. This one time, I was at the fish market looking for a nice salmon to cook, despite not having an appetite for the past two weeks, when the woman behind the counter recognized me. She gave me this sultry look and a knowing wink, and as she handed me her pound of fish flesh she leaned close and whispered in my ear: "Want to see my muddy waters?" I most certainly did not, but it wasn't like I was doing anything better that day. Before I knew it, I was in the meat freezer spanking her naked ass with a slab of porterhouse, thinking the whole time "What the hell am I doing?"||”|
According to Tina Turner, who Waters allegedly fisted backstage on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, such an occasion was nearly a daily event, and he used his experience to great effect. More often than not, both he and his partner would collapse into tears after the act of intercourse for completely different reasons. Some women slept with Muddy for the fame and some for the dashing good looks, but most were attracted to him because of his boundless depressive personality that lent him the aura of a "troubled bad boy," as former lover Janis Joplin put it. He was shanghaied into marriage four times by infatuated fans, the last of which grew so obsessed with his sullen nature that he was forced to summon up the energy to file a restraining order.
Muddy fathered fourteen known illegitimate children, all of which he left rotting in gutters immediately after their births. He attempted to avoid the fateful stress of being a bastard father by getting a vasectomy as soon as he hit puberty, but he accidentally wound up sleeping with three of the nurses, impregnating one. Muddy then attempted condoms but thought they were too distracting, eventually giving up on contraception entirely.
Waters left behind an unprecedented collection of 50,000 unpublished recordings following his untimely suicide, leading most music historians to believe that he was, in fact, more depressed than was initially thought. Each song is between two or three minutes long and was estimated to be recorded during the summer of 1977, a time most Muddy Waters biographers and bridge pun-makers now know was "The Shitty Summer of Seventy-Seven", so-named after Muddy's own "The Shitty Summer of Seventy-Seven Blues". Topics range from obscenely massive mood-killers ("Trapped Under a Tsunami Blues") to comically unimportant nuisances ("My Shoulder Feels Sort of Weird Blues"). This period of ludicrous blues songwriting efficiency has met no equal to this date, though it was nearly rivaled by Stevie Ray Vaughan in 1996 during his infamous Month of 1000 Toe-Stubbings.
- ↑ This legacy served as the basis for his song "Whining Sad Dude Blues".
- ↑ This DNA test served as the basis for his song "Woman I Told You So Blues".
- ↑ This characteristic served as the basis for the song "I'm Livin' the Blues Blues".
- ↑ This unbelievable fact served as the basis for his song "Getting Lots of Pussy Blues".
- ↑ This event served as the basis for the song "Rotting in the Gutter Blues".
- ↑ This childhood served as the basis for the song "Childhood Angst Blues".
- ↑ This traumatic experience served as the basis for the song "Constant Explosive Diarrhea Blues".
- ↑ This bit of autobiographical meta-analysis served as the basis for the song "Fourth Wall Blues".
- ↑ This gift served as the basis for the song "Birthday Present Blues".
- ↑ This biannual disappointment served as the basis for the song "Color Me Blue Blues".
- ↑ This incident served as the basis for the song "Lightning Struck Me Twice Blues".
- ↑ This archaic torture sequence served as the basis for the song "Bleeding Scrotum Blues".
- ↑ This literal helping hand served as the basis for the song "Big Bill Broonzy's Bronze 'Big Bill' Blues".
- ↑ This ironic gesture served as the basis for the song "Don't Believe in Technology Blues".
- ↑ This inaccurate analysis served as the basis for the song "Couldn't Be Farther From the Truth Blues".
- ↑ This musical trend served as the basis for the song "Fallout Boy Blues", probably because he felt like a boy who had fallen out of the musical vogue. Any nominal resemblance to a contemporary post-hardcore band is purely coincidental.
- ↑ This deep funk served as the basis for the song "Depressed Blues Musician Blues".
- ↑ These remarkable twists of fate served as the basis for the song "Repeatedly Saved by Members of the Clergy Blues".
- ↑ This abandonment of hope served as the basis for the song "Death... Meh Blues".
- ↑ This proposition served as the basis for the '80s cult classic Marshall and Muddy's Excellent Adventure.
- ↑ This epiphany served as the basis for the song "I Once Shot an LP in Reno Just to Hear it Skip Blues".
- ↑ These critical pannings served as the basis for the song "Told You Guys I'm Terrible Blues".
- ↑ This disputable claim served as the basis for the song "Same Way I Like My Coffee Blues".
- ↑ This analogy served as the basis for the song "Michael Corleone Can't Jump Blues".
- ↑ This Spinal Tap reference served as the basis for the song "Toronto Shit Blues".
- ↑ This reaction served as the basis for the song "Can't You Guys Tell That I Just Want You All To Leave Me Alone Already Blues", which went #1 in the UK in only 2 weeks.
- ↑ This suicide served as the basis for his final song, "Slow Suffocation Blues".
- ↑ This brief affair served as the basis for the song "I've Slept With Many Other Celebrities Blues".
- ↑ This ounce of strength served as the basis for the song "The Courts Can't Keep You Away Blues".
- ↑ This failed operation served as the basis for the song "Super Virility Blues".
- ↑ This experiment served as the basis for his song "Rubber Prison Blues".
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