Classic Rock Corner

Muddy Waters and the Stones Get Their Mojo Workin'

Muddy Waters and the Rolling Stones Live at the Checkerboard Lounge Chicago 1981 Eagle Rock, 106 min., $14.98 DVD/$19.98 DVD/CD

What a great time it is be a classic-rock fan with eyes as well as ears. Between a trove of rare and unreleased concert and TV appearance videos readily available on YouTube and the constant DVD release of shows not necessarily shot for historical posterity, all sorts of wonderful things pop up. And that includes this amazing show filmed in the cramped confines of a south side Chicago blues club.

To call this a Rolling Stones show, however, would be a bit of a misnomer. Only three of the five band mates -- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ron Wood -- are in attendance, along with "sixth Stone" Ian Stewart pumping keys. And is that Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan sitting at the table as well?

Jagger sings call-and-response on a few tunes, and the shambling-looking, fag-puffing Richards and Wood play low-key guitar in the back, looking alternately chuffed and terrified, cramped onto an impossibly tiny stage with lots of other players.

No, the real stars here are Waters -- doing the majestic Elder Statesmen bit -- and his band, along with his guests: Big-afroed, white-suited Buddy Guy (the Checkerboard was his club), and the tall, lanky singer/guitarist Lefty Dizz, who all but owns the concert with his playing and showmanship on "One Eyed Woman." Guy's harp player, the erratic Junior Wells, also interjects to sing and play numerous times, though often to the seeming annoyance of Waters.

Musicians filter on and offstage in these 15 numbers including Waters standards like "Sweet Little Angel," "Baby Please Don't Go" (with the red tracksuited Jagger), "Hoochie Coochie Man" (with Jagger vamping a bit too much), "Mannish Boy," and "Champagne and Reefer."

Highlights include Waters and band on "You Don't Have to Go" and the epic "Country Boy", along with "Go My Mojo Working," along with Guy's showcase "Next Time You See Me" and Dizz's "One Eyed Woman."

The concert has surprisingly good camera work for the time, and you do get the feeling of being packed in a small, booze-and-cigarette smoke sodden blues club (the Stones have to walk over tables to get to the stage). The audience is a mix of Stones entourage and club regulars, and the companion CD contains most - but not all - of the show.

Throughout their career, the Rolling Stones -- along with other mid-'60s British Invasion bands like the Beatles, Kinks, Who, and Animals -- have never hidden their love for the blues or appreciation for artists like Waters and consistently sung their praises to an audience that otherwise would probably never have heard them (read: white teenagers). This DVD shows the Stones giving a little payback and is simply outstanding.

Muddy on legalizing dope: (a scat during "Champagne and Reefer") - "It should be allowed... to the people that want it... smoke a little dope... good for your mind... and it relaxes your body, don't ya' know?"

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero