||Muddy Waters is the topic of third Monadnock Summer Lyceum Talk (7-23-01)
By TEAL KRECH for SentinelSource
PETERBOROUGH -- About 150 people settled into the red velvety cushions lining the wooden pews of the Peterborough Unitarian Church Sunday morning.
Rather than the normal low-level hum of people talking quietly among themselves, the air was filled with the deep Delta blues of Muddy Waters. The music was an appropriate beginning to the third Monadnock Summer Lyceum talk, a lecture by Mai Cramer on the importance of the famed blues musician.
Equipped with a CD player and a stack of discs, Cramer -- the creator, producer and program host of the Boston radio show "Blues After Hours" on WGBH -- discussed Waters' role in shaping not only Chicago blues of the 1950s and 1960s, but also contemporary rhythm and blues, funk, soul and rock 'n' roll.
Waters led the transition from acoustic to electric guitar and introduced the blues to a white audience, Cramer said. He pushed the limits of his own instruments, such as electric slide guitar, and pushed the limits of the sound of the blues.
Furthermore, he was a strong band leader, able to step back and give his talented band members space to demonstrate their own talent.
"It's no accident that the Rolling Stones and the magazine Rolling Stone are named after the Muddy Waters song," Cramer said.
"He set out to be a star when he left Mississippi and he did it," she said. "He had talent and he wasn't intimidated by white people, which was important in the music business. And, he himself had a sense of business."
In addition to hosting her blues show, Cramer is a communications teacher. She currently teaches at Emerson College in the Boston area, and has also held positions at Massachusetts Institute for Technology, Northeastern University, Rhode Island College, Boston University and the Boston Learning Society. She has taught everything from broadcast and technical writing to instructional design and television and film production.
While Waters' talent got him far, his personal qualities significantly contributed to his success, Cramer said.
His commanding presence attracted great musicians to his band, such as Willy Dixon and Jimmy Rogers. Also, unlike the stereotypical blues musician, Waters didn't drink and was an undemanding performer, she said.
Waters was born April 4, 1915, in Mississippi. His mother died when he was three, and he went to live with his maternal grandmother, where he had access to a 78 rpm record player, uncommon for his socioeconomic class.
When he was 13, Waters started playing the harmonica. By 18, he was married, and every Saturday night, he turned his cabin into a club, Cramer said.
In 1943, Waters left Mississippi and caught a train to Chicago. After arriving in the Windy City, he worked in a paper mill; on the side, he played at house parties, bar and taverns throughout south and west Chicago.
The band jokingly called itself The Headhunters, because it could walk into a bar and "cut the heads off," or outplay, any musician in town, Cramer said. In Chicago, Waters' deep Delta blues acquired a more urban sound, a sound many other musicians imitated, but few could truly match.
Waters got his big break in 1947 when his first hit, "I Can't Be Satisfied," hit the streets. Taking the record company offguard, the single sold out within hours of showing up on record store shelves.
"There were transplanted Southern blacks living in Chicago who were ready for deep blues, and Muddy was ready to deliver," Cramer said.
His popularity grew. In the late '50s and early '60s, Waters began playing at colleges, folk clubs and jazz clubs, where the audiences were more racially mixed than in the taverns of south Chicago.
On April 3, 1983, Waters died in his sleep at his home in Illinois.
"He reshaped the blues," Cramer said. "He set it in a whole new direction and in doing that, he influenced all music coming after the blues."
||Nice one Jaxx - thanks for finding it