In December, members of Vinyl Me, Please Classics will receive Fathers and Sons, the must-own album from one of the most respected, well-known names in blues, Muddy Waters — an album made in collaboration with young bluesmen who owed their careers to his legendary influence. Read an excerpt from the Listening Notes here. You can sign up over here.
Below, you can learn why we picked the album, and everything that went into making our reissue.
Theda Berry: In the context of Muddy Waters’ catalog, Fathers and Sons was his biggest mainstream success, after his psychedelic detour with Electric Mud and trying to get his older fans back with After the Rain. Other than its obvious success, what about this album makes it the right fit for Classics?
Andrew Winistorfer, Vinyl Me, Please Classics A&R: That’s kind of a two-pronged answer, because, first, sometime early this year, in March or April, we got told by Universal that we should look at the Chess catalog, and basically anything that they hadn't reissued and was probably fair game for Classics if we wanted it. It’s like we got tossed the keys to the Chess catalog.
I knew immediately we should look at Muddy Waters’ LPs, though, because Muddy Waters is arguably the biggest blues guitarist of all time, like, even if you’re only vaguely aware of the blues, you know Muddy Waters’ name. He’s like the Miles Davis of the blues; he’s the name that if you have no other point of context, he’s the guy. When doing a dive into the Muddy Waters catalog, I immediately identified this Fathers and Sons record, because it hadn’t been reissued on vinyl in the U.S. since the ’80s and it’s an interesting record story-wise, because in addition to it — like you said — being his biggest-selling LP, this is a record that conceptually was kind of answering for the fact that Muddy Waters in the late ’60s was a clear influence on a lot of rock bands that were really popular, like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles. He had an impact on all of what became popular rock music. But he himself, like you said, tried to do their version of his music on Electric Mud, and that just didn’t work. It wasn’t — it’s not real Muddy Waters, and so this is an album where it’s him doing the classic blues stuff, and a lot of the songs he does on this record are Willie Dixon classics, the main songwriter at Chess Records. Then his backing band is mostly the white guys who were influenced by him. He’s got Paul Butterfield and Mike Bloomfield from the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Duck Dunn, the bass player from Booker T. & the M.G.’s. And I think it’s reflected in the cover of this record that it’s Muddy Waters the god reaching his hand out to these white musicians who were clearly influenced by him, and it was in LP form, it was him kind of bridging that generational gap, saying, “I influenced all of this stuff, here’s my version,” like, here’s the O.G., this is the straight-dope version of this.
Yeah, absolutely. And the rest of my questions sort of circle around that idea: the album name is Fathers and Sons, which really gets to that idea of Waters and Otis Spann as the fathers passing down knowledge and musical inheritance to all the white, young players in this band. And now, we’re reissuing it, which is cool because it’s going to potentially go to a new generation on top of that of people who haven’t necessarily been directly exposed to this.
We’re bringing it to people who are a generation even younger, at least.
Probably even two. And you mentioned the cover, too, and I was definitely going to bring that up talking about the packaging, because it is just almost goofy, how it’s a reinterpretation of “The Creation of Adam” part of the Sistine Chapel.
It’s this really known painting, and then this kind of goofy — we’ve had like four in a row for Classics with these iconic, incredible covers that you want to frame in your house. And cool, weird timepieces. If you put that out today, it would not take very long for you to be like completely scorched on Twitter. Like, you would be completely memed to death within like an hour after posting it. So, it’s not around very often anymore.
It’s a really funny mix of a very sincere, intentional use of a really known cultural image, but then also in this kind of — they had to think it was a little bit funny, to have their version of Adam wearing sunglasses and just kind of reclining on the ground; it’s an odd mix of sincere and funny.
It’s not very often that a cover is such a perfect metaphor for the record. You can say the story of this record and then show people the cover and, like, the entire story is encapsulated in the cover.
And the Listening Notes from Erin Osmon go like really in-depth about all of the context surrounding the album, but it is all so obviously there, in the name of the album and how it came to be and this cover art, it kind of all fits with the story of these older musicians sort of showing a newer generation how to do it, and then making this collaborative thing.
Moving on to remastering and package details, what are things to note about the packaging for this one?
This is the second Classics album that we’ve done that’s a double LP. The first one was Miles Davis and John Coltrane, our live album set, and this is actually sort of an LP split in two LPs of one that’s studio material and one that is live. So the second LP is completely live. It’s on 180-gram black vinyl, like we do for every Classics record.
This one was remastered by Kevin Gray, the guy that we try to use for most of the Classics records, and lacquers were cut by him. And it’s in a tip-on gatefold jacket, as well. As you said, Listening Notes by Erin Osmon; if you’re following Vinyl Me, Please, she wrote the booklet for Townes Van Zandt’s For the Sake of the Song, our Essentials Record of the Month in October.
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