Read about Muddy Waters' birthday at Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac
Muddy Waters is, in many ways, the archetypal bluesman. He was raised as a sharecropper in the Mississippi Delta, where he learned to play an acoustic guitar. He went to Chicago in 1943, and the band he assembled established the electric blues sound. Over the next three and a half-decades, his band became a springboard for many of his sidemen, launching a prominent school of blues performers.
Muddy Waters reworked Mississippi bluesman Robert Petway's "Catfish Blues" into a spare, spooky track he named "Rollin' Stone". "We wouldn't do it exactly like those older fellows," Waters said. "We put the beat with it, put a little drive to it." The Rolling Stones took their name from the title, as did, in part, Rolling Stone magazine; Bob Dylan tipped his hat with "Like a Rolling Stone."
Muddy Waters' biography at Fender (PDF) and at Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of blues great "Muddy Waters" (McKinley Morganfield), born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi (1915). His mother died when he was three, and while a young child, he taught himself to play harmonica and guitar. On a Sunday in August 1941, while Waters was standing in the middle of a cotton field getting ready to use the tractor, word got to him that a white man was looking for him. His first thought was that the police had found out that he had been selling whiskey on the sly, and he turned and walked across the field to the plantation store where he met the white man who had been looking for him. It turned out to be Alan Lomax, a folklorist for the Library of Congress.
Lomax asked Waters if he wanted to record some blues for the U.S. government. As Waters was thinking over his answer, he glanced into the backseat of Lomax's car, where he noticed a recording machine, a disc cutter, a generator, and a beautiful Martin guitar. Waters agreed to play for Lomax, and the two headed to Waters' house where they sealed their friendship by toasting some of Waters' home-brewed whiskey.
The experience gave Waters enough courage to move to Chicago and start his own music career. He soon broke from country blues by playing electric guitar in a slide style, but never gave up his country blues style entirely. He played in various bands in bars on the south side of Chicago, and in 1950, he made the first recording for Chess Records, a tune called "Rolling Stone." He later became famous for songs like "Hoochie-Koochie Man" and "Got My Mojo Working."