MUDDY WATERS I
(Bust of Muddy)
Antone’s
April 18– 22, 1978
11” x 17” (27.94cm x 43.18cm)

The Bust of Muddy. is a landmark piece for me, marking a major accomplishment in my ability to visually portray the essence of my musical subject. I made a connection with my subject that is unique in its accuracy and intensity. The stippled portrait of Muddy is one of the finest pen and ink drawings that I have done, and I still marvel that I was able to capture his Buddha-like countenance so well. The title lettering seems wed to the image, and combined with the commercially-scripted Antone’s forms a kind of visual trinity, wherein the three parts are seen as a visual whole. Also, a thematic motif that is incorporated within many subsequent pieces was introduced here for the first time – that of the playing card, its suits and values.

  

This is the first of two Muddy Waters posters that I produced for Antone’s, and is known as the Bust of Muddy. The voice this man gave to the blues is how we have come to think of this music. Muddy took the potent and primal force that arose in the fields of the rural south, married it to the industrial and urban wilderness of the Midwest and the north, and set it upon electrified wings – wings that have carried it the world over.

It was Muddy’s second performance at Antone’s, and it took place again at the original location at Sixth and Brazos. A vacant storefront, Clifford Antone had returned to Austin in 1975 to make it “Austin’s Home of the Blues”. This he did in the teeth of the music form that prevailed then -- country rock, a.k.a. “Redneck Rock” or “Cosmic Cowboy”– and it ruled Austin in those days. Armadillo World Headquarters, Soap Creek Saloon, Castle Creek, and The Texas Opry House largely personified that music and were the premier venues then. The blues had long been an undercurrent incognito within Texas music. Clifford put it on stage, called it by its name and it thrived. Three years later, as the old houses of country rock, The Split Rail, Alliance Wagon Yard and Bull Creek were evaporating, new blues venues like Rome Inn and the Austex Lounge were being born. Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Barbara Lynn, Jimmy Reed and other aging blues legends performed on Antone’s stage to an appreciative and growing audience. But there were others - a group of talented, reverent young white blues musicians, eager to meet and learn from the bringers of fire to their bellies. Blues bands appeared where there was none before. Musicians like Jimmie Vaughan, Denny Freeman, Paul Ray, Angela Strehli and Doyle Bramhall apprenticed in a kind of blues guild that had spontaneously formed across from the Driscoll Hotel. As word spread, a younger wave arrived; people like Derek O’Brien, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Charlie Sexton, and Sue Foley. As Clifford said, a home -- this was the house that Muddy was building the spring of 1978.

Born McKinley Morganfield on April 14, 1915 in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, he acquired his second name for his love of a nearby creek. His mother died when he was small and he moved in with his grandmother on Stovall's Plantation, and it was here he learned to play the harmonica and later the guitar in a band called the Son Simms Four. Influenced by Son House and Robert Johnson, he was first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1941, and then again a year later. He moved to Chicago in 1943 and his friendship with Big Bill Broonzey helped him get his first recordings by Columbia in 1946. He also played acoustic guitar for John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson and joined with Sunnyland Slim, Jimmie Rogers, Claude Smith and Eddie Boyd. In 1948, Leonard Chess recorded Muddy Waters. From 1951 through 1960, some of his best pieces were created, including Mannish Boy, Got My Mojo Workin', Rolling Stone and I'm Ready. A tour of England in 1958, before his world renowned performance at Newport, exposed him and his music to many of the budding musicians that would dominate rock and roll in the Sixties. And it was in this way that most Americans came to be introduced to Muddy Waters. He died of a heart attack in 1983. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.


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