Muddy Waters - vocals, guitar
Francis Clay - drums
Mac Arnold - bass
Sammy Lawhorn - guitar
George Smith - harmonica
Luther "Georgia Boy" Johnson - guitar
One of the most impressive and influential steps that Bill Graham took early in his career was to invite blues and rock & roll pioneers - such as Muddy Waters, James Cotton and Chuck Berry - to perform alongside up and coming, widely popular rock groups. The bold move helped not only to rejuvenate the careers of these landmark (and often unacknowledged) artists, but also exposed younger audiences and artists to their musical forbears - often to profound effects.
The week prior to this run, Graham had promoted his first run ever at the new, larger Winterland venue - with a bill featuring Jefferson Airplane, Paul Butterfield Blues Band and for the first time, Muddy Waters. This experimental decision was so well received that he booked the same lineup for another three-day run, beginning on this night, September 30, 1966.
Following Bill Graham's introduction, the group warms up with the instrumental, "Chicken Shack," immediately establishing a deep groove. They continue with a second instrumental, "Watermelon Man," before segueing directly into the classic "Rock Me Baby," wherein Waters' signature vocals surface and distinctive sound fully emerges. The recording ends with a version of "She's Nineteen Years Old," a song that defines Muddy Waters style and influenced countless other blues songs.
These four songs that survive on tape from Muddy Waters' set feature what many consider to be the finest backing band he would ever assemble, including George Smith on harmonica and Luther "Georgia Boy" Johnson on guitar. The band was in fine form during these initial San Francisco runs and obviously feeding off the hospitality of the San Francisco audience. It's remarkable to hear an entire generation welcome this blues legend into to their collective ear.