Album #19: Muddy Waters Day at Paul’s Mall

Muddy Waters with James Cotton in 1978. Photo via Wikipedia.

Like any suburban kid who ever picked up a guitar, I loved the blues. So when the old WBCN Radio announced that it would broadcast the Muddy Waters Day festivities live from Paul’s Mall, I was pretty excited. On June 15, 1976, I turned on my tape deck and managed to capture 48 minutes of musical magic.

No, you can’t buy the album. (Actually, maybe you can. See below.) But the Muddy Waters Day recording features the man born McKinley Morganfield at his finest, from the rollicking opener, “Caledonia,” to his stinging slide guitar on “Long Distance Call,” to his hits: “Mannish Boy,” “Hoochie Coochie Man” and, of course, his signature song, “Got My Mojo Working.” Waters grew up in Mississippi, the birthplace of the blues, and later moved to Chicago, where he was among the first blues musicians to go electric.

I’d long since ceased to have anything I could play the cassette on. But last year I bought a cheap little machine that converts old cassettes into MP3s. The tape was in better shape than I had imagined, and so now I can listen to it all over again. (To my surprise, it looks like you can buy it, along with a concert he gave at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960.)

Why no actual albums? Years ago I picked up the Johnny Winters-produced “Hard Again” as well as the Chess three-CD anthology. Good stuff, but just not as good. There was also a huge plus factor to the Paul’s Mall concert — I got to see him and his band the following night. So the tape — now an MP3 — also serves as a memento of a special night.

Waters was 63 when we saw him — an old man, we thought, though a little younger than I am now. He played for about half of a very long show, with his band taking the rest of it without him.

Toward the end of the night, he came up behind us and sat down as he waited to go back on stage. My friend and I suddenly realized we were in the presence of royalty. “Play ‘Mojo’!” my friend said excitedly. “Aw, you don’t want to hear that shit,” he replied.

He played “Mojo.” How could he not?

Talk about this post on Facebook.