Son SimmsRosalie The Complete Plantation Recordings
Sunnyland Slim & Muddy WatersFly Right, Little GirlSunnyland Slim 1947-1948
Muddy Waters & Sunnyland Slim Little Anna MaeThe Aristocrat Of The Blues
Little Johnny JonesShelby County BluesThe Aristocrat Of The Blues
Muddy WatersWhere's My Woman BeenThe Aristocrat Of The Blues
Jimmy RogersLudella Sunnyland Slim: The Classic Sides 1947-53
Othum Brown & Little Walter I Just Keep Loving Her Blues World Of Little Walter
Leroy Foster Muskadine Blues (Take A Walk With Me)Leroy Foster 1948-1952
Leroy Foster Rollin' And Tumblin' - Part 1Leroy Foster 1948-1952
Muddy Waters Stuff You Gotta WatchThe Complete Chess Recordings
Little Walter Can't Hold Out Much Longer The Complete Chess Masters 1950-1967
Muddy Waters They Call Me Muddy Waters The Complete Chess Recordings
Jimmy RogersAct Like You Love MeThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy WatersGone to Main Street The Complete Chess Recordings
Junior WellsTomorrow NightBlues Hit Big Town
Muddy WatersShe's All Right The Complete Chess Recordings
Walter HortonOff The WallBlues Harmonica Giant: Classic Sides 1951-1956
Jimmy RogersIf It Ain't Me (Who Are You Thinking Of) The Complete Chess Recordings
Pat HareI'm Gonna Murder My Baby Sun Records:The Blues Years 1950-1958
Muddy WatersGood NewsThe Complete Chess Recordings
Muddy Waters Don't Go No Further The Complete Chess Recordings
Otis Spann I'm Leaving You Chess Piano Greats
Otis SpannIt Must Have Been The Devil Complete Candid Otis Spann/Lightin' Hopkins Sessions
James CottomWest Helena Blues Chicago The Blues Today
Muddy Waters My Dog Can't BarkThe Complete Chess Recordings
Luther JohnsonLonesome Day BluesPiano Blues Vol. 1 192 -1936
George "Harmonica" SmithI.C. Train Blues The Sparks Brothers 1932-1935
Otis Spann & Victoria SpiveyDiving MamaThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band Vol. 2
Otis Spann & The Muddy Waters BandShe's My BabyThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band Vol. 2
The Muddy Waters BandChicago SlideThe Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band Vol. 1
Mojo BufordWatch Dog Chicago Blues Summit

Show Notes:

Muddy Waters was a larger then life figure who became a star in the late 1940's and remained a huge presence on the blues landscape until his death in 1983. When Muddy arrived in Chicago from the Delta in 1943 he was just another struggling musician trying to establish himself. Pete Welding described his early years: "After several years of playing to slowly increasing audiences, first at houseparties and later in small taverns dotted throughout Chicago's huge, sprawling South and West Side black-belt slums, he had begun to record. …After several exploratory recordings made in the company of pianist Sunnyland Slim and bassist Ernest "Big" Crawford which made absolutely no impression on the record-buying public, Waters suddenly scored with the single "I Can't Be Satisfied/I Feel Like Going Home." And it is with this record that the history of the modern Chicago blues properly begins. Over the next few years, Waters gathered around him a group of like-minded, country-reared musicians with whom he proceeded to make blues history." On today's feature we deflect the spotlight away from Muddy to shine on some of the remarkable bluesman who apprenticed in Muddy's band. Among those featured today include Sunnyland Slim, Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Otis Spann and others. Along the way we'll also contrast a few sides under Muddy's name that prominently feature his bandmates.

An early edition of the Muddy Waters Band, with Waters (left),
Otis Spann (piano) and Jimmy Rogers (far right)

Our opening track, "Rosalie", goes way back to 1942 when Muddy Waters was recorded for the Library of Congress alongside Son Simms. Delta bluesman Henry "Son" Sims is best known as the fiddler who played with Charley Patton and Muddy Waters. Born in Anguilla, Mississippi in 1890, Sims played the violin, mandolin, guitar and piano. Although he led a rural string band called the Mississippi Corn Shuckers for several years, the first recording that Sims did was with Patton, who asked him to come along to Wisconsin for a 1929 Paramount session. Sims also recorded under his own name on two separate occasions; during the Patton session when he cut four songs, and several years later with McKinley Morganfield AKA Muddy Waters backing him or his first session in 1941, again in 1942 and with Muddy backing him on a session listed by the Son Simms Four in 1942.

Muddy Waters with one of his Library
of Congress recordings

Muddy and Sunnyland Slim first recorded for Aristocrat together on four songs in1947, each taking the vocals on two numbers resulting in classic s"Gypsy Woman" and "little Anna Mae" sung by Muddy and "Johnson, Machine Gun" and "Fly Right, Little Girl" sung by Sunnyland. Both appeared again with each other on 1948 sessions. Both Sunnyland and Muddy together also backed St. Louis Jimmy and Jimmy Rogers during this period.

Muddy backed Little Johnny Jones on his first record "Big Town Playboy b/w Shelby County Blues" in 1949. During the same period Jones backed Muddy on a three song session including the track we feature, "Where's My Woman Been." Jones and Muddy can also be heard backing Jimmy Rogers on another featured cut, "Ludella", cut for Regal in 1949 and unissued at the time.

Little Walter made his debut for the tiny Ora-Nelle logo ("I Just Keep Loving Her") in the company of Jimmy Rogers and guitarist Othum Brown. Walter joined forces with Muddy Waters in 1948. He arrived in Chicago in 1946 and joined forces with Muddy Waters in 1948. Along with Rogers and Baby Face Leroy Foster, this talented group became informally known as the Headhunters. They would saunter into Southside clubs, mount the stage, and proceed to calmly "cut the heads" of whomever was booked there that evening. By 1950, Walter was firmly entrenched as Waters' studio harpist at Chess (long after Walter had split the Muddy Waters band, Leonard Chess insisted on his participation on Muddy's records). Walter cut his breakthrough 1952 R&B hit "Juke" at the tail-end of a Waters session. Suddenly, Walter was a star on his own. From 1952 to 1958, Walter notched 14 Top Ten R&B hits.

Leroy Foster was first cousin to Little Johnny Jones and Little Willie Foster and came up to Chicago in 1945 in the company of Jones and Little Walter. Muddy and Foster first teamed up together backing Homer Harris and James "Beale Street" Clark at 1946 sessions. Foster aslo plays on several of Muddy's sessions during 1948 and 1949. Muddy is also is heard on vocal on the classic two-part "Rollin' And Tumblin'" at a 1950 Foster session which also features Little Walter.

Jimmy Rogers

Jimmy Rogers settled in Chicago during the early '40s and began playing professionally around 1946, gigging with Sonny Boy Williamson, Sunnyland Slim, and Broonzy. Rogers was playing harp with guitarist Blue Smitty when Muddy Waters joined them. When Smitty split, Little Walter joined the group and Rogers switched over to second guitar. He first played with Muddy Waters on an Aristocrat 78 in 1949 and remained his rhythm guitarist on record into 1955. Rogers began cutting his on records for Chess in 1950 and stayed withe label through 1959.

In 1950 Junior Wells passed an impromptu audition for guitarists Louis and David Myers at a house party on the South Side, and the Deuces were born. When drummer Fred Below came aboard, they changed their name to the Aces. Little Walter left Muddy Waters in 1952 (in the wake of his hit instrumental "Juke"), and Wells jumped ship to take his place. That didn't stop the Aces (who joined forces with Little Walter) from backing Wells on his initial sessions for States Records in 1955 with Muddy also moonlighting on guitar. On record Wells only backed Muddy on one 1952 session and a one off song in 1955 called "Mannish Boy."

Walter Horton played on a 1953 session backing Muddy, including the number we spin today,"She's All Right", and reunited with Muddy for the 1978 album I'm Ready. Horton recorded several sides for Sam Phillips in 1951, which were leased to Modern/RPM. The following year he recorded with longtime friend Johnny Shines, and was invited to settle permanently in Chicago by Eddie Taylor. In early 1953, not long after arriving, Horton got a chance to record and tour with Muddy Waters, since regular harpman Junior Wells had been drafted into military service. However, he was fired by year's end for breaking band commitments or due to excessive drinking or playing too many side gigs, depending on the account.

The first recorded glimpse of Pate Hare occurs when he showed up at Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service sometime in 1953 to play on James Cotton's debut session for the Sun label. After working with Cotton and numerous others around the Memphis area, Hare moved North to Chicago and by the late '50's was a regular member of the Muddy Waters band, appearing on the legendary Live at Newport album and numerous sessions backing Muddy between 1956 and 1960. After moving to Minneapolis in the '60's to work with fellow Waters bandmate Mojo Bruford, Hare was convicted of murder after a domestic dispute, spending the rest of his life behind bars. In one of the great ironies of the blues, one of the unissued tracks Pat Hare left behind in the Sun vaults was entitled, "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby."

Otis Spann migrated to Chicago from Mississppi in 1946 or 1947. Spann gigged on his own and with guitarist Morris Pejoe before hooking up with Waters in 1952. His first Chess date behind Muddy began on the 1953 number "Blow Wind Blow." His own Chess output was limited to a 1954 single, "It Must Have Been the Devil," that featured B.B. King on guitar, and sessions in 1956 and 1963 that remained in the can for decades. Spann looked elsewhere and recorded prolifically for labels like Candid, Prestige, Storyvill, British Decca, Bluesway, Vanguard and others. He finally turned the piano chair in the Waters band over to Pinetop Perkins in 1969, but fate didn't grant Spann long to achieve solo stardom. He was stricken with cancer and died in April of 1970 at the age of forty.

James Cotton had some big shoes to fill when he stepped into Little Walter's slot as Muddy Waters' harp ace in 1954, but for the next dozen years, he filled the role in fine fashion. Cotton made his debut for the Sun label in 1953, "Straighten Up Baby" and "Cotton Crop Blues." When Waters rolled through Memphis minus his latest harpist (Junior Wells), Cotton hired on and went to Chicago. Unfortunately for Cotton, Chess Records insisted on using Little Walter on the great majority of Waters' waxings until 1958, when Cotton blew behind Waters on "She's Nineteen Years Old" and "Close to You." At Cotton's suggestion, Waters had added an Ann Cole tune called "Got My Mojo Working" to his repertoire.

Luther "Georgia Boy/Snake Boy" Johnson played for a while with Elmore James and was a regular fixture in the Muddy Waters band by the mid-'60s. Johnson cut two albums in the late 60's backed by Muddy Waters and members of Muddy's band. During this period he also backed Otis Spann and George Smith on sessions.

George Smith played in a number of bands including one with a young guitarist named Otis Rush, and later went on the road with the Muddy Waters Band after replacing Henry Strong. In 1954, he was offered a permanent job at the Orchid Room in Kansas City where, early in 1955, Joe Bihari of Modern Records (on a scouting trip) heard Smith, and signed him to Modern. These recording sessions were released under the name Little George Smith. In 1966, while Muddy Waters was on the West Coast, he asked Smith to join him and they worked together for a while. Smith's first album on World Pacific, A Tribute to Little Walter, was released in 1968 backed by members of the Muddy Waters band and Muddy himself. Smith also spent some time on the road with Muddy in the early 70's, popping up on some live recordings from this period.

We devote a set today to some interesting records made by the late 60's Muddy Waters Band made for the Spivey label. The band cut two albums for Victoria Spivey's Spivey label: The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band (1966) and The Bluesmen of the Muddy Waters Chicago Blues Band Vol. 2 (1968). These records have been issued on CD on the Japanese P-Vine label with several extra tracks. Thalbums feature the following lineup:

Vol 1: Victoria Spivey, voc; Otis Spann, voc, p, org; George Smith, voc, hca; Luther Johnson, voc, g; Samuel Lawhorn, g; Francis Clay, dr

Vol 2: Otis Spann, Lucille Spann, Luther Johnson, Sammy Lawhorn, Little Sonny Wimberley, S.P. Leary, Paul Oscher, Pee Wee Madison, Willie Smith

Mojo Buford spent several stints in the employ of Muddy Waters and was his harpist of choice in the final edition of the Waters band. Buford played with Muddy Waters as early as 1959, but a 1962 uprooting to Minneapolis to front his own combo, and cut a couple of solid but extremely obscure LPs for Vernon and Folk-Art, removed him from the Windy City scene for a while. Buford returned to Waters' combo in 1967 for a year, put in a longer stint with him during the early '70s, and came back for the last time after Jerry Portnoy exited with the rest of his mates to form the Legendary Blues Band. Buford passed in October of 2011. Our selection by Buford, "Watch Dog", comes from the excellent 1979 album Chicago Blues Summit which features Muddy bandmates Pee Wee Madison, Sammy Lawhorn, and Sonny Rogers.