Allow me to introduce you to McKinley Morganfield and Chester Arthur Burnett. They’re more commonly known by their nicknames as Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf.

Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf are considered second generation Bluesmen, inspired by legends including Son House, Blind Willie Johnson and the like. Both born in the Mississippi Delta around the same time, Muddy n’ Wolf clawed their way on to the Chess Record label.

Muddy Waters – From Sharecropper to Superstar

Like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, the personas  of Muddy and the Wolf matched the others background moreso than their own. In Muddy’s case, he had and unimaginable road to hoe as a beat-down Mississippi sharecropper until he was finally able to scrape up enough cash to scramble up to the south side of Chicago and get a mill job while he worked on his career. And when his success finally came, his persona was bigger than life. Flamboyant and gregarious, Muddy Waters appeared to have rolled up Highway 61 with his entourage in tact.

Howlin’ Wolf – Effort Worth His Statue

Of the two, the 6’6″, 300 lbs. Howlin’ Wolf actually had the easier road. Though born in Mississippi, he eventually ended up living in Chicago with his dad during his teen years and enlisted in the military in the 1930s – becoming a DJ. After being discharged, Wolf got his band going. And when his band became successful, Wolf stayed relatively grounded. He took up guitar lessons and got insurance plans for his bandmates.

When they both hit their stride in blues, they both hit it at around the same time. In that “this town’s not big enough for the both of us,” sort of way, a ‘rivalry’ broke out between the two. Fueled by stories of the duos $100-burning pissing matches and bidding wars for the services of musicians – Hubert Sumlin of note – the rivalry between Muddy and the Wolf became legendary. And like any good legend, there’s opportunity.

And these boys made the most of it.

Learned this lesson the hard way.

Featured Image source note: This used to be on a british blues club website. That link no longer works. So. No, the image wasn’t originally mine. I wasn’t born when the poster was created.

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