Westport’s Muddy Waters

The Blues, Views & BBQ Fest earlier this month was fantastic. Yet I am sure I am not the only Westporter to wonder, “WTF?”

Westport is many things. But “Blues City USA” is not one of them.

Then again…

Jeff Van Gelder — a native Westporter now living in Germany — reminds us of an intriguing moment in town history.

Muddy Waters Hard AgainOn Facebook, he writes: “The last great trio of Muddy Waters albums — ‘Hard Again,’ ‘I’m Ready’ and the somewhat-less-than-stellar ‘King Bee’ — were recorded in Westport.”

It turns out, Jeff says, that the late Dan Hartman — who wrote and recorded “Relight My Fire,” and worked with Edgar Winter — bought a house in Westport, and set up a studio there.

Jeff says:

After Muddy got out of his contract with Chess Records, his #1 fan, Johnny Winter, signed him to his Blue Sky Label. They recorded these wonderful LPs (in Westport) over a period of 2 years. Two years before, Johnny had recorded his “Nothing But The Blues” with members of Muddy, Pinetop Perkins and James Cotton at the Hartman house (called “the Schoolhouse”).

Blues and Music News  explains that Muddy and Johnny wanted to record “Hard Again” live, with Winter handling production and also playing.

If the band was composed of competent musicians, then they could make the Blues come across alive and fresh. And make no mistake; the band backing up Muddy Waters for this recording was far beyond competent. They lived their lives for this man and his music!

(Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.)

Jill Turner Odice adds a bit more on this little-known piece of Westport music history:

I lived next door to Dan when he rented the Reynolds house (6 Edgehill Lane) for $2500 a month…. I got to meet Johnny and Edgar Winter, Rick Derringer and .38 Special while they were recording there. Patti LaBelle, Foghat, James Brown, Peter Frampton as well as others made recordings there.

Just as fascinating as the fact that some great blues were recorded in Westport is the look of the house where it all happened.

"The Schoolhouse" -- 6 Edgehill Lane.

“The Schoolhouse” — 6 Edgehill Lane, off Wilton Road.

Chicago or Memphis, it sure ain’t.

6 responses to “Westport’s Muddy Waters

  1. Was Keith living in Weston then? If so, I wonder if he sat in on any of these sessions because I know how he reveres Muddy Waters.

  2. This is fascinating – on so many levels — who knew??

  3. Chris Herrmann

    I’ve always been attracted to this house…now I know why. Great bit of trivia.

  4. Charlie Greenwald

    What a fascinating history… rock n roll history pops up in Westport from the most unlikely places and people. Muddy Waters’ song “I’m a King Bee” was actually covered by the Stone Foxes, introducing a whole new audience to his music.

  5. Luisa Francoeur

    When did that happen? It is the same house that the Runyeon family rented for a number of years in the late ’90s until around 2004 or so.

  6. Jeff Van Gelder

    No Fred, Keith wasn’t living in Weston at that point. He was not involved in these sessions, although he and the Stones had played with Muddy many times. On their first visit to the States in 64 the Stones made a beeline for the Chess Studios in Chicago where they recorded “It’s All Over Now” by Bobby Womack. Later, when they appeared on the TV show “Shindig” (are you old enough to remember it?) they insisted on an appearance of the legendary Howlin Wolf – his only appearance ever on U.S. national TV. While many have contributed to our appreciation of Chicago Blues as one of the great American art forms, the Stones played a vitally important role in raising awareness, a fact often lost in their superstardom.