Year
1913

Muddy Waters is born

When Bob Dylan picked up an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, he permanently alienated a portion of his passionate fan base. When Muddy Waters went electric roughly 20 years earlier, he didn’t have a fan base to be concerned about, and those who did go to his shows probably had no quarrel with his motivation for plugging in, which was simply to play loud enough to be heard inside a raucous nightclub. Little could those lucky Chicagoans have known that they were hearing the birth of a style of blues that would become a fundamental part of their city’s cultural identity. Out of all the bluesmen plying their trade in the clubs of the Windy City in the late 40s and early 50s, none did more than Muddy Waters to create the Chicago Blues—the hard-driving, amplified, distinctly urban sound with roots in the rural Mississippi Delta, where Waters was born on this day in 1913.

Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He played and sang at parties and fish fries from the age of 17, spending his days picking cotton on the Stovall Plantation for 50 cents a day. In 1941, folklorist Alan Lomax, on his famous trip through the Delta on behalf of the Library of Congress, discovered Waters and made the first recordings of his slide-guitar blues, released many years later as the “Plantation Recordings.” By 1944, Waters had joined the Great Migration that took African Americans by the hundreds of thousands north to cities like Chicago. It was there that his country blues evolved into the aggressive Chicago Blues exemplified on famous songs like “Rollin’ Stone,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Mannish Boy” and “Got My Mojo Working.”

The first of those songs would later provide songwriting inspiration to Bob Dylan and the idea for a name to a famous British rock group. The Rolling Stones were just one of hundreds of blues-based groups that formed in England in the early 1960s, inspired in part by Muddy Waters’ records and by his tour of Britain in 1958. Waters would be regarded as a blues giant on the strength of his 1947-1958 Chess Records recordings alone, but it was the influence of those records on a young generation of British musicians that formed the basis for his inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Born on this day in 1913, Muddy Waters died near his adopted hometown of Chicago on April 30, 1983.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Microsoft founded

On this day in 1975, at a time when most Americans use typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually ...read more

Legendary movie critic Roger Ebert dies

On this day in 2013, one of America’s best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for The Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after a battling cancer. In 1975, Ebert started co-hosting a movie review program on ...read more

Man who took NASCAR mainstream is born

Bill France Jr., the leading force behind the transformation of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) from a regional sport into a multibillion-dollar industry with fans worldwide, is born on this day in 1933 in Washington, D.C. France’s father, William ...read more

Second Battle of the Somme ends

During World War I, the Second Battle of the Somme, the first major German offensive in more than a year, ends on the western front.On March 21, 1918, a major offensive against Allied positions in the Somme River region of France began with five hours of bombardment from more ...read more

NATO established

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is established by 12 Western nations: the United States, Great Britain, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Canada, and Portugal. The military alliance, which provided for a collective ...read more

Dr. King is assassinated

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to ...read more

Operation Baby Lift aircraft crashes

A major U.S. airlift of South Vietnamese orphans begins with disaster when an Air Force cargo jet crashes shortly after departing from Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon. More than 138 passengers, mostly children, were killed. Operation Baby Lift was designed to bring 2,000 South ...read more

Gretzky finishes season with 212 points

On this day in 1982, hockey sensation Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers finishes the NHL season with 212 points, the first and only player in NHL history to break the 200-point barrier.A hockey prodigy, Gretzky turned pro at 17 and joined the Indianapolis Racers of the World ...read more

Harrison dies of pneumonia

President William Henry Harrison dies after serving only 32 days in office on this day in 1841. Harrison holds the unfortunate presidential record of shortest term in office. Ironically, the man with the shortest White House tenure delivered the longest inaugural address in ...read more

Maya Angelou is born

Poet and novelist Maya Angelou-born Marguerite Johnson-is born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she and her brother went to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. When she was eight, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. When she ...read more

Ben-Hur wins 11 Academy Awards

Clocking in at three hours and 32 minutes, William Wyler’s Technicolor epic Ben-Hur is the behemoth entry at the 32nd annual Academy Awards ceremony, held on this day in 1960, at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Setting an Oscar record, the film swept 11 of the 12 ...read more

Dirigible crash kills 73

On this day in 1933, a dirigible crashes in New Jersey, killing 73 people in one of the first air disasters in history. The Akron was the largest airship built in the United States when it took its first flight in August 1931. In its short life of less than two years, it was ...read more

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated

Martin Luther King Jr. is shot to death at a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. A single shot fired by James Earl Ray from over 200 feet away at a nearby motel struck King in the neck. He died an hour later at St. Joseph’s Hospital. The death of America’s leading civil rights advocate ...read more