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Authors: Robert Gordon

Can't Be Satisfied

BOOK: Can't Be Satisfied
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Acclaim for



The Life and Times of Muddy Waters

Can’t Be Satisfied
is as colorful as the tones of Muddy Waters’s voice and as much an essay in the foibles and triumphs of human nature as are the
lyrics to Muddy’s best songs . . . It’s full of crisp, brightly written tales of knifings and shootings, swindles, adultery, and illegitimate births, drugs, and alcoholism, and then
there’s the music—the steaming cauldron of Delta acoustic blues and urban rhythms and amplification from which rock and roll emerged.”

—Ted Drozdowski,
Boston Phoenix

“This is way better than the typical blues book.
Can’t Be Satisfied
does justice to an American legend.”

—Leopold Froehlich,

“Through deep historical, cultural, and social research, Robert Gordon spins the story not just of America’s original bluesman but of the birth and evolution of
this uniquely American music.”

—Nelson Taylor,
Providence Journal

“A rich, knowing book . . . a full and oft-disturbing portrait of an artist at once sexually driven and emotionally remote . . . Gordon’s a solid historian and a
crackling, jivey stylist; he feels the earthy swing of Muddy’s music and the funk of the juke houses and clubs that spawned it.”

—Chris Morris,
LA Weekly

“Men don’t come more masculine than Muddy Waters . . . Gordon, whose crisp writing, acute insights, and obvious passion for the music fuel his work, has written a
book as large as that man.”

—Joel Selvin,
San Francisco Chronicle


—David Gates,

“Thoroughly entertaining . . . brimming with anecdotes from Waters’s family, friends, coworkers, and band mates.”

—Buddy Blue,
San Diego Union-Tribune

“Gordon places Waters in musical and social history without becoming pedantic and, equally important, places the man in a world we can see and feel.”

—Michael Lydon,
New York Times Book Review

“A compelling, complete, and entertaining discourse on the man Keith Richards called the ‘codebook’ between blues, rock and roll, and
the other forms of music . . . It’s the lesser-known details of Waters’s life that fascinate and make Gordon’s book so vital.”

—Regis Behe,
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

“Gordon interviewed seemingly everyone alive who knew Waters, and to judge from his bibliography he has read everything, too. And, most important, he loves the music and
offers insightful observations of the records.”

—Frank Reiss,
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Compellingly written . . . A well-documented, anecdote-filled biography . . . The book’s extensive footnotes offer a treasure trove of interesting facts and
fascinating stories about the American blues scene.”

—Martin Brady,

“Gordon tells it straight . . . He reveals the boozing, gambling, and womanizing of dangerous bluesmen on the road packing pistols, profanity, and half-pints — and
occasionally making music for the ages.”

—Marty Racine,
Houston Chronicle

“Richly detailed . . .
Can’t Be Satisfied
is likely to be the definitive treatment of perhaps the genre’s definitive artist, a work of musical
biography and history that should have the same durability and relevance that Guralnick’s treatments of Elvis Presley (
Last Train to Memphis
Careless Love
) have

—Chris Herrington,
Memphis Flyer

Can’t Be Satisfied
reads more like a novel than a biography . . . If you want the truth about Muddy Waters, about the development of the blues in the
United States, about race relations, about large parts of the record business, about the road, and about the myriad of things that figure into a not-so-simple life, then you’ll need
Can’t Be Satisfied
— and a stack of Muddy Waters albums.”

—Jim Beal Jr.,
San Antonio Express-News

“Gordon strips away many myths about Muddy Waters . . . The great success of this biography comes from how the writer so skillfully captures the place and feel of
Waters’s world . . . Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be given to any biography is that on its pages, you feel like you meet the subject. I saw a handful of Muddy Waters’s
shows. I leave
Can’t Be Satisfied
feeling like I can smell, touch, and, most important, hear Muddy Waters again.”

—Charles Cross,
Seattle Times



It Came from Memphis


The King on the Road

This is the earliest known photograph of Muddy Waters, probably taken in Memphis in
He is holding his Fisk–Library of Congress
rpm record. Courtesy of the Estate of McKinley Morganfield

This edition first published in Great Britain in 2013 by Canongate Books Ltd,
14 High Street, Edinburgh

This digital edition first published in 2013 by Canongate Books

Copyright © 2002 by Robert Gordon

Foreword copyright © 2002 by Keith Richards

Introduction to the Canongate edition copyright © 2013 by Robert Gordon

The moral right of the author has been asserted

Originally published in hardcover in 2002 by Little, Brown and Company,
Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017


The author is grateful for permission to reprint the following: “I Be’s Troubled,” aka “I Can’t Be Satisfied” copyright
© 1959, 1987; “Country Blues,” aka “Feel Like Going Home” copyright © 1964, 1992; “Train Fare Home,” aka “Train Fare Blues” copyright
© 1967, 1995; “Rollin’ & Tumblin’ ”copyright © 1960, 1988; “Rollin’ Stone,” aka “Catfish Blues” copyright © 1959, 1987. All
written by McKinley Morganfield, pka Muddy Waters. WATERTOONS MUSIC (BMI) / Administered by BUG. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “Mannish Boy” written by McKinley Morganfield,
pka MuddyWaters, E. McDaniel, and Melvin London. Copyright © 1955, 1983 WATERTOONS MUSIC (BMI) / Administered by BUG / ARC MUSIC. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “Hoochie
Coochie Man” written by Willie Dixon. Copyright © 1957, 1964 (renewed) HOOCHIE COOCHIE MUSIC (BMI) / Administered by BUG. All rights reserved. Used by permission. “Mannish
Boy” (Elias McDaniel, Mel London, McKinley Morganfield) copyright © 1955 (renewed) by Arc Music Corporation, Lonmel Publishing, and Watertoons Music. All rights reserved. Used by
permission. International copyright secured. “Cotton Crop Blues” (James Cotton) copyright © 1954 (renewed) 1982 by Hi-Lo Music, BMI. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
International copyright secured.

British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available on request from the British Library

ISBN 978 0 85786 869 5
eISBN 978 0 85786 870 1

Book design by Fearn Cutler de Vicq

For my children

Lila Miriam and Esther Rose



For my parents

Alvin and Elaine



For my old friend

Peter Guralnick



For my new friend

Amelia Cooper

They said it was no accident of circumstance that a man be born in a certain country and not some other and they said that the weathers and seasons that
form a land form also the inner fortunes of men . . .

— Cormac McCarthy

All the Pretty Horses



Introduction to the Canongate Edition



1 Mannish Boy / 1913–1925

2 Man, I Can Sing / 1926–1940

3 August 31, 1941 / 1941

4 Country Blues / 1941–1943

5 City Blues / 1943–1946

6 Rollin’ and Tumblin’ / 1947–1950

7 All-Stars / 1951–1952

8 Hoochie Coochie Man / 1953–1955

9 The Blues Had a Baby / 1955–1958

10 Screaming Guitar and Howling Piano / 1958–1959

11 My Dog Can Bark / 1960–1967

12 Rollin’ Stone / 1967–1969

13 Eyes on the Prize / 1970–1975

14 Hard Again / 1976–1983

15 This Dirt Has Meaning / 1983 and After









here’s a demon in me. I think there’s a demon in everyone, a dark piece in us all. And the blues is a recognition of that and the
ability to express it and make fun out of it, have joy out of that dark stuff. When you listen to Muddy Waters, you can hear all of the angst and all of the power and all of the hardship that made
that man. But Muddy let it out through music, set the feelings loose in the air. The blues makes me feel better.

I heard Muddy through Mick Jagger. We were childhood friends, hadn’t seen each other for a few years, and I met him on a train around 1961. He had a Chuck Berry record and
The Best of
Muddy Waters.
I was going to mug the guy for the Chuck Berry because I wasn’t familiar with Muddy. We started talking, went ’round to his house, and he played me Muddy and I said,
“Wow. Again.” And about ten hours later, I was still going, “Okay, again.” When I got to Muddy and heard “Still a Fool” and “Hoochie Coochie Man”
— that is the most powerful music I’ve ever heard. The most expressive.

BOOK: Can't Be Satisfied
8.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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