I Feel Like Going Home

Muddy Waters, 1948

What is the Mississippi Delta? What blues musicians were from the Delta?

What was the Great Migration? Who migrated, from where, and to where? When did this migration occur, and why?

Muddy Waters's music exhibits the influence the Great Migration. Compare "I Feel Like Going Home" to earlier Delta blue music ("Boll Weevil," "Cross Roads Blues"). How is it similar to these songs? How did the music change after Waters moved to Chicago?

Based on your reading of these lyrics, what do you think "home" means to Waters? What life experiences might have shaped his view of home?

"I Feel Like Going Home" recorded by Muddy Waters on The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection: His Best, 1947 to 1955, © 1997. Available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source:


Albert A. Smith, "The Reason," in The Crisis, (March, 1920)
Albert A. Smith, "The Reason," in The Crisis, (March, 1920).

Muddy Waters (1913–83) was born McKinley Morganfield on a plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi, where his grandmother gave him his nickname when he was a toddler. He played harmonica and jaw harp (Jew's harp) before he bought his first guitar in 1932, and bluesman Son House taught him how to play slide guitar. He developed a repertoire of Delta blues songs, popular songs, and country classics that he played at dances and bars. In 1941 Alan Lomax recorded him for the Library of Congress, and in 1943 he left the Delta for Chicago, where he was central to the development of "Chicago blues," which is similar to the Delta blues except for its use of electric guitars and amplification.

After signing with Aristocrat Records in 1948, Waters recorded "I Feel Like Going Home" as the B-side of "I Can't Be Satisfied." "I Feel Like Going Home" is an adaptation of Son House's "Walking Blues," which Waters later recorded in 1950. The influence of House and Robert Johnson is apparent in the wailing guitar effects Waters creates with the use of the bottleneck slide technique. But Waters extends this technique further than his predecessors by exploiting the new capabilities enabled by amplification, which allows his whining guitar to resonate longer than Johnson's, for example. Waters also uses distortion effects and feedback to intensify the expressivity of his playing.

One can hear the Great Migration, and its impact, in Waters's music. Not only are its Delta-blues roots self-evident, but so are the ways in which it presages 1960s rock. In 1950 Waters's first label, Aristocrat Records, became Chess Records, whose famous recordings of Chicago blues exerted a powerful and widespread influence on younger musicians. As a Chess artist, Waters was particularly influential on the Rolling Stones, especially the band's lead guitarist, Keith Richards, whose playing echoes Waters's in many ways.

Compare this song to:

"Boll Weevil"

"Cross Roads Blues"



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