Today Muddy Waters recieved his blues marker in Rolling Fork as the birthplace of McKinley A. Morganfield. Eleanor Barkhorn writes about the big day in yesterday's Delta Democrat:
“We're just so excited to have this tangible evidence of Muddy Waters here in Rolling Fork,” said Meg Cooper, coordinator for the Mississippi Lower Delta Partnership, who spearheaded efforts to bring the blues marker to Rolling Fork.
Cooper said international tourists flock to Rolling Fork, searching for signs of Waters, who was born McKinley Morganfield in 1913 and lived in the Delta until the 1940s, before moving to Chicago.
That's fine, except, Muddy was not born in Rolling Fork.
Muddy Waters biographer Robert Gordon was on hand for the ceremony, so nobody's trying to fool tourists. Because the first page in Gordon's biography of Muddy details where Muddy was born and why so many wrongly believe it to be Rolling Fork. Apparently the marker will explain that while Muddy often said he was born in Rolling Fork, he actually was born in neighboring Issaquena County at a place called Jug's Corner and Rolling Fork was the nearest post office. Here's an excerpt of an interview with Muddy's brother Robert Morganfield for Robert Gordon's 2002 documentary "Can't Be Satisfied", a companion to the biography of the same name.
If you really want to see where Muddy Waters was born, Click here to see unused video and interviews from Robert Gordon's American Masters documentary on Muddy Waters.
And if you really want to find out how it really wasn't Alan Lomax who "discovered" Muddy Waters, then read Gordon's bio. Here's what music writer and historian Dave Marsh had to say about it following Lomax's death in 2002:
Lomax's obit made the front page mainly because he "discovered" Son House and Muddy Waters. But in Can't Be Satisfied, his new Muddy Waters biography, Robert Gordon shows that Lomax's discoveries weren't the serendipitous events the great white hunter portrayed. Lomax was led to House and then Waters by the great Negro scholar, John Work III of Fisk University. Gordon even shows Lomax plagiarizing Work, and not on a minor point. (See page 51) In his book, Lomax offers precisely one sentence about Work. He eliminated Work from his second Mississippi trip. He also burned Muddy Waters for the $20 he promised for making the records.
Click here to read the full Marsh article.
Yes, they rolled out the red carpet today for Muddy Waters in Rolling Fork. Hopefully, it's a really long carpet that stretches all the way to Jug's Corner. Like the $20 Lomax never paid him, Muddy deserves it, and so much more.
Click to see the PBS American Masters Muddy Waters page.
Click here to hear a young Muddy sing "Country Blues" as recorded by Alan Lomax on the Stovall Plantation.