World War II had been over for only two years when Muddy Waters released his first professional single. It was shortly before he made his national US chart debut in 1948 with “(I Feel Like) Goin’ Home.” The 1950s brought many more R&B hits, and 1958 his first UK tour. But then the great bluesman started to find his singles falling short of the national charts, even though his output contained countless gems now rightly revered as classics by bluesologists.
None of them appeared on original albums by Waters, for a simple but remarkable reason. He didn’t have the opportunity to make a studio album at all until 1960, two years after a Best Of collection, when he paid tribute to Big Bill Broonzy on Muddy Waters Sings Big Bill. Muddy was already 46 years old.
Two great Chess pieces
In June 1960, he recorded both sides of his next Chess single, and both were gems. The libidinous “Tiger In Your Tank” was a Willie Dixon composition inspired by Esso Gasoline’s popular advertising campaign, created in 1959. Muddy gave it a suitably high-octane, raunchy treatment that he repeated the very next month, when he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival.
That show was immortalised on the landmark album At Newport 1960, released towards the end of that year. The 2011 reissue of that LP included the live performance at Newport of the single B-side, the slow blues “Meanest Woman.” But even if the single missed the R&B listings, the Newport album would soon be helping to bring Waters to a new, young audience. Both tracks are available on the third volume of Muddy’s Chess recordings, a glorious 49-song romp through a key part of the bluesman’s heyday.