I was seventeen in the summer of ’65 when I first walked into a professional recording studio. It was A-1 Sound Studios at 234 W. 56th Street in New York City. I was there along with the other members of my high-school rock band “The Flames”, soon to be called “The Living Ends”, to record our first original song titled “Self-Centered Girl”. Our manager, Jack Peters, had booked just one hour of studio time, which was not uncommon back then, and the musicians who were in the studio ahead of us were running long with their session. At that time, I was the drummer so, to save time, I started putting my drum kit together out in the hall while we waited for them to finish.
As soon as they were done recording, we began moving our equipment into the studio while the previous group of musicians, four older black men, began packing up theirs. As we were setting up, their guitar player turned to one of our guitar players, held something up in his hand and, in what I now recognize as a distinct southern plantation drawl, said, “Do you know what this is?” Our guitar player said “No.” and, to that, the older gentleman responded by saying, “You can’t play the gertar without one of these.” He was holding up a bottleneck slide. Of course, at the time, we four high-school kids from North Jersey didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
He and his fellow musicians finished packing and, as we began to lay down our instrumental track, the older guitar player, the one with the bottleneck, went into the control room with the recording engineer and listened for a while. We recorded a few takes, and by the time I walked into the control room to hear the playback, the older guitar player had left. The engineer turned to me and said, “He really liked your drumming.” I said, “That’s nice.” “Do you know who that was?”, the engineer asked. I said, “No.” He said, “That was Muddy Waters.” and I said, “Who’s Muddy Waters?” The engineer turned to me and said, “Someday, that’s going to mean a lot to you.” An understatement. Within a few years my musical awareness expanded and I learned of “The Man”, McKinley Morganfield, who was born in Mississippi, went by the name Muddy Waters, and who was, essentially, the father of modern Chicago Blues.
Happy Birthday, Muddy. Now the whole world knows who you are. You’re the Man…and that’s spelled M. A. N.