McKinley Morganfield, better know as Muddy Waters, was born into a Mississippi Delta sharecropping family on April 4, 1915. His mother died in 1918 and his grandmother then raised him at his birthplace, Rolling Fork. They lived on a plantation right outside of Clarksdale, Mississippi. As a child little McKinley loved to play the blues down by a muddy creek. He picked up his voice in the cotton fields, working for fifty cents a day. As a young boy Muddy learned to play the harmonica. At age seventeen he picked up playing the guitar.
In the late thirties Alan Lomax, a folk artist, was looking for Robert Johnson but instead found Muddy Waters. Lomax recorded him and his career was born. Muddy was influenced by Son House, whose bottle neck guitar style he admired. Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Johnson both had records that impressed Muddy. Muddy's talents pushed the limits of what could be done on a blues record.
Muddy arrived in Chicago in 1943 and was helped by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Willamson and Big Bill Broonzy. People began to realize Muddy's powerful emotional singing. They realized the powerful sounds that he got from his electric guitar. Muddy soon formed a band with guitarist Jimmy Rogers, harmonica player Little Walter, and drummer Elgin Evan. This group of blues musicians became responsible for hits including: "Rolling Stone," "Louisiana Blues," "Honey Bee," "Baby, Please Don't Go," "I'm Ready," and "Long Distance Call."
Staying popular among the blacks until the early sixties, Muddy Waters had a very successful career. During this career he had several very famous musicians play in his band. The most famous of these would include Big Walter Horton, Sammy Lawhorn, Willie Dixon, Otis Spann, Pinetop Perkins, Fred Below, and Francis Clay.
On April 30, 1983 at sixty-eight years of age McKinley Morganfield had a heart attack while sleeping. In 1980 he was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 1987.