It’s hard to overestimate how much Muddy Waters, the blues legend meant to the Rolling Stones. During their very early days, the band members landed a gig and had to give an official name (they didn’t have one yet). Thinking quickly, they looked at The Best of Muddy Waters album sitting on the floor of their flat, and they zeroed in on the first track, “Rollin’ Stone.” It was just a small leap then to the Rolling Stones.
And in case you doubt the influence of Muddy Waters, let’s head to the opening pages of Keith Richards’ new biography, Life. Talking about the band’s trip to the United States, Richards writes:
I think some of us had died and gone to heaven, because a year before we were plugging London clubs, and we’re doing all right, but actually in the next year, we’re somewhere we thought we would never be. We were in Mississippi. We’d been playing this music, and it had all been very respectful, but then we were actually there sniffing it. You want to be a blues player, the next minute you fucking well are and you’re stuck right amongst them, and there’s Muddy Waters standing next to you. It happens so fast you really can’t register all of the impressions that are coming at you… It’s one thing to play a Muddy Waters song. It’s another thing to play with him.
And so without further ado, we give you Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones playing “Champagne and Reefer” together at Buddy Guy’s Checkerboard Lounge in 1981. This video appears in our video/audio collection of Cultural Icons doing whatever made them great.