The R&B charts of the 1950s were profitable territory for Muddy Waters. After scoring his first top ten hit in that format in 1951, with ‘Louisiana Blues,’ he reached that upper echelon of the countdown on no fewer than 13 further occasions up until 1958.
The ninth of those top tenners, as ever on Chess Records, was ‘I’m Ready,’ the Willie Dixon composition of which Muddy’s was the first recording, taped on 1 September 1954. By late October, it was on the R&B listings and climbing to No. 4 in a nine-week stay.
‘I’m Ready’ was the song containing Dixon’s classic piece of blues phraseology, “I’m drinkin’ TNT, I’m smokin’ dynamite,” and Willie himself was on the session. He played bass in a group of all the talents that included Little Walter on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Otis Spann on piano and Fred Below on drums.
Spann himself would record a version of the song in 1968, as it grew into a much-covered blues staple with recordings from both sides of the Atlantic. Buddy Guy and his frequent collaborator Junior Wells each did it, as did Humble Pie on their third, self-titled album in 1970. Another British blues devotee, Long John Baldry, released his in 1971, and Scottish rock R&B favourite Frankie Miller did his in 1973.
Later readings of ‘I’m Ready’ followed by George Thorogood and the Destroyers; by Paul Rodgers, before his tenure with Queen but with Brian May on guitar; and by British bandleader and TV personality Jools Holland, with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, on the 2002 album Jools Holland’s Big Band Rhythm & Blues, with a guest appearance by Steve Winwood. Waters himself returned to the tune as the title track and lead song of his 1978 album, which won a Grammy and was produced by Johnny Winter.
‘I’m Ready’ is on Blues Greats: Muddy Waters, which can be bought here.