On Thursday, Chicago’s Commission on Landmarks granted final approval to certify “the South Side home where blues legend Muddy Waters lived and raised his family” and it’s up for Chicago City Council approval.
MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum
Getting commission approval was the final hoop to be jumped through, clearing a way to have property at 4339 S. Lake Park Avenue in North Kenwood “to be named a city of Chicago landmark” honoring Muddy and his style setting music.
The City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards is expected to give their final okay, sending it off to a final full council vote.
Built as a duplex style “two flat” brick building, it’s currently owned by Chandra Cooper, great-granddaughter of the blues legend.
“We are so elated and happy that the city of Chicago Landmarks Commission has recognized and is honoring the home of my great-grandfather, where there is musical legacy and history,” Cooper relates. As soon as Chicago’s council stamps their approval, it will become The MOJO Muddy Waters House Museum.
Constructed of brick, Waters lived on the building’s first floor and had his own recording studio in it’s basement. He rented out the top floor. Some of the tenants Muddy had living upstairs were Chicago blues legends in their own right. Otis Spann, Howlin’ Wolf and Chuck Berry all shared that same address.
“We’re on this great path toward becoming one of Chicago’s landmarks, and we are looking forward to working with the blues community, the city and the alderman on this project to leave a piece of his legacy for the city of Chicago.”
Honoring Black history
This project is only one of many in a frantic effort to honor Black history in a post-George Floyd era. Muddy Waters is the latest to be honored with a house museum “within an emerging tourism sector.” The Father of Chicago Blues “moved his family into the home in 1954, purchasing it in 1956.”
Before he moved in, Waters “played house parties at night for extra money, eventually becoming a regular in local nightclubs.” He got his first big break in 1948 when Chess Records released his first hits, “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and “I Feel Like Going Home.”
By the early 50’s “his blues band, which at one time or another comprised musicians who went on to make their own mark — Otis Spann, Little Walter Jacobs, Jimmy Rogers, Elgin Evans, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Cotton — had become one of the most acclaimed in history.”
Chess wasn’t the only independent record label in the neighborhood. It was the center of a big scene and the home Muddy lived in became “a gathering place for musicians welcomed at all hours.” It was one heck of a party too.
Muddy Waters lived in the home until his wife passed away in 1973. After that, he moved to the suburbs and lived in Westmont for another 10 years, until his death on April 30, 1983.
He will always be remembered for his contribution to everything from blues to rock to funk and everything in between.