Rollin' Stone

Album: The Best Of Muddy Waters (1950)
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Songfacts®:

  • Waters wasn't the first to use the term "Rollin' Stone" in a song: Hank Williams beat him to it by a year with "Lost Highway," which contains the line, "I'm a rolling stone, all alone and lost." Williams' line gave Bob Dylan the title to "Like a Rolling Stone," but Waters' song named the rock band The Rolling Stones.

    As Keith Richards explained in a VH1 interview, when the band got their first gig in 1962, they had to quickly come up with a name. A copy of The Best Of Muddy Waters was lying on the floor, flipped over to reveal the track list. They spotted "Rollin' Stone," and went with it: The Rollin' Stones - their management made them add the G, making it The Rolling Stones.
  • The title comes from the ancient proverb "a rolling stone gathers no moss." The rolling stone is always on the move, which in Williams' song leads to crippling isolation. Waters' rollin' stone lives this way by choice; instead of settling down to raise a family, he wanders the neighborhood, calling on ladies when their husbands aren't home. The same type of guy shows up in The Temptations' "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone."
  • In the first verse, Waters dreams of being a catfish, with the good-looking women trying to catch him. This section was inspired by a 1941 song called "Catfish Blues" by the Mississippi bluesman Robert Petway.
  • This was the first successful Muddy Waters single. Born in Mississippi in 1915, he moved to Chicago in 1943 and signed with the Okeh label three years later. Nothing came of it, but in 1948 he signed with Aristocrat, which released a few of his singles without success. Aristocrat was acquired by Chess Records, and in 1950, "Rollin' Stone" became Waters' first Chess release. It sold well and set in motion a career that made him one of the most celebrated blues musicians of his time.

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