In The Style Of Muddy Waters

By Miguel Angel Ariza

This week we focus on the style of one of the founding fathers of everything we know as rock today. Very few figures in the history of music are mentioned as many times as a vital influence in the careers of our idols as this incredible bluesman named Muddy Waterspossessor of a truth that can almost be felt when you hear him singing or, of course, play the guitar. Long before commercial musical products, music schools, millionaire sales, the promotion and marketing of artists, studios and companies, there were people who picked up a guitar simply to express their joys and, most of the time, their miseries. This is the true source of Muddy Waters’ unique talent and it needs to be understood to interpret his songs and the incredible impact he had, and continues to have, until this day. Everything we hear from him is pure, black label, incorruptible, blues in its highest expression and, as if that were not enough, he is one of those responsible for the blues becoming electric ... and, consequently, the unstoppable wave that that change generated in the history of music.   

When dealing with a guy who began his career in the Mississippi cotton plantations it is difficult to talk about the gear he used since pictures don’t exist from the early years of his career, but we can say that his first guitar was an acoustic Stella that he bought for two and a half dollars when he was 17 years old (or at least that's what he said in interviews - since we do not know very well either where or when he was born exactly). After his first recordings in the 40s with a borrowed Martin, he arrived in Chicago, the city that would change forever with his arrival. After allegedly using a Silvertone for a while he bought his first electric guitar, probably one of the first was a Gretsch Synchromatic but a little later, as early as the 1950s, the first of his most representative guitars reached his hands: a Gibson Les Paul Goldtop with P-90's. This became his main guitar until in 1958 he bought the guitar with which the public would end up forever linking him, since he would not let it go until the end of his life: the 1958 Fender Telecaster in red that he baptized as' The Hoss'. That guitar, which accompanied him for almost three decades, underwent a few modifications, with the greatest sign of distinction being the mythical amplifier potentiometers that he had installed, instead of the Fender series.

While it is true that Muddy used other guitars during the 60s, for example the Guild Thunderbird S-200 (due to an agreement that linked him to the Guild brand for a while), he was quite faithful to 'The Hoss' for the rest of his life. That is why we once included him as one of the 10 
'Masters of the Telecaster'at Guitars Exchange.

As you can imagine if the information is already confused regarding his guitars, which at least had some visibility, it is much more complicated to list his amplifiers, with his favourites being those with just a few watts because he wanted mobility during his years playing in clubs. What we can talk very briefly about are his favourite pedals, as he didn’t have any. When a man is born in the early twentieth century in a racist state within a racist nation, working from sunrise to sunset in cotton fields and witnessing the birth of the first bluesman (there is a legend that Muddy Waters saw Robert Johnson play), a sound is acquired that doesn’t need pedals, effects or fireworks. It's the sound of Muddy Waters; That's how the truth sounds.

Find you own way to the tone of Muddy Waters