Blues legend Muddy Waters’s Chicago house seek better days

Chicago: The house in south Chicago where blues legend Muddy Waters lived for two decades, now appears abandoned with its windows blocked by plywood.

But his fans are convinced that better days will come and hope that the house will soon be converted into a museum honouring the man who inspired hundreds of musicians.

McKinley Morganfield was an American blues musician and is often considered the “father of modern Chicago blues”. His influence was not only limited to blues but extended to rock ‘n roll, hard rock, folk, jazz, and country.

Waters was born on a plantation in the southern state of Mississippi in 1913 and began playing the blues as a teenager. At the age of 30, he joined the great African-American exodus north to Chicago to become a professional musician.

Among his greatest hits were ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, ‘I Got My Mojo Workin’, ‘Mannish Boy’,’Rollin and Tumblin’ and ‘Rolling Stone’, the latter of which provided Mick Jagger and his mates a name for one of the greatest rock bands in history ‘The Rolling Stones’.

Located at 4339 South Lake Park Avenue, the two-storey brick house is in the desolate neighbourhood of North Kenwood, a short distance from US President Barack Obama’s former residence.

Even though blues fans consider the house sacred and tourists from all over the world come to take photos, the $100-million property was put on sale but was withdrawn from the market last year.

Its windows are covered with plywood and a large ‘X’ in the front indicates risk for firemen in case of fire.

In 2013, it was listed by the non-profit group Landmark Illinois as one of the 10 historic properties in the state which were at a major risk of demolishment, but as it is located in a historic district, it is doubtful that would happen.

With its future uncertain, Waters’s admirers are looking for ways to acquire the property and convert it into a museum.

Lisa Dichiera of Landmark Illinois told Efe news agency that there are a lot of people with ideas but no money.

The only indication that it was Waters’s home is a sign with his name, photos and achievements that were put up there by the municipal government almost 15 years ago

When Waters lived there, members of his band like pianist Otis Spann and drummer Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith would practise in the basement studio where it is said legendary musicians like Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf and Mike Bloomfield often visited for blues sessions.

Waters is credited with having composed the perfect format for rock: guitar, bass, drums and harmonica.

“I love his music,” said Dan Godston, the director of the Borderland Arts Collective and who is closely following the efforts to make the house an historic site.

“Waters left an indelible mark and without his contributions, music today would be very different,” he said.

Marcos Raya, a 66-year-old artist living in the Pilsen neighbourhood said he began listening to Muddy Waters in 1967 and has never stopped.

Raya, like many others, believes that the house should be preserved by the city as a tribute to this icon, because no one has contributed to blues as much as Muddy Waters.