In the summer of 1942, Alan Lomax was travelling through the Mississippi Delta, recording examples of local folk music as part of his job as Assistant Archivist for the Library of Congress. In this work, he was following in the footsteps of his father John A Lomax, and together they contributed a huge catalogue of work to the Archive. Black folk music at that time and place meant country Blues and our knowledge of the local playing and singing styles has been deeply enriched by their work. Alan had passed through the district the previous year, when he had recorded a 28-year-old field hand called McKinley Morganfield, singing and playing guitar. One of these recordings, ‘I Be’s Troubled’, had attracted a lot of attention and Alan was keen to find him again.
The original recording of ‘I Be’s Troubled’ from the Library of Congress
They set up a session at Stovall’s Plantation on July 24th, and McKinley, who was known by his nick-name ‘Muddy’
, came along with his old mentor Henry ‘Son’ Sims
, who played fiddle and led a small string band. They recorded several tracks on the heavy disc-cutting machine in the back of Alan’s car, and when the results were pressed onto a record a few weeks later, Alan sent a copy, and $20, to McKinley. The story goes that when he heard his voice on a record, the young man decided to pack his guitar and go to the city to be a Bluesman. He travelled to Memphis
and St. Louis, then on to Chicago
, where he soon came to the attention of Big Bill Broonzy
and the other Blues legends playing the Southside Clubs. When he signed for Chess Records
in 1948, his first release was an adaptation of that early tune, called ‘I Can’t be Satisfied’. The rest is History.