Muddy Waters – Signed and Played Stella Guitar With Full Provenance
A Stella guitar signed and played by blues giant Muddy Waters, with incredible provenance. We have never seen another guitar signed by Muddy Waters, who died in 1983, long before collectors were getting guitars signed. We acquired this guitar from Muddy’s longtime guitarist/acclaimed blues artist/author Bob Margolin, who tells the extraordinary story in his accompanying letter of authenticity:
“I played guitar in Muddy’s band from 1973-80. On May 9, 1975, my 26th birthday, we were playing in Berkeley, California. My sister, Sherry Margolin, lived nearby and came down to visit when we got to town. She brought this guitar with her, which she had bought at a flea market. it was a lot like the Stella from Sears Roebuck that she and IA learned to play on in the ’60’s.
I was with a group of people in Muddy’s motel room when she arrived that afternoon, and so she came to see me there, carrying the guitar so as not to leave it unprotected in her car. Muddy, dressed but lying on top of the motel room bed like a king holdinc court, asked her what was in the guitar case, and when she took out the Stella he lit up. Muiddy was really surprised to see a Stella like this, and the sign of this one made him exclaim, “This is what I used to play in Mississippi.”
Muddy played a song on the guitar and really enjoyed it as it brought back a lot of memories–you could tell he assumed the guitar was a gift for him. Knowing my sister didn’t want to give it up and thinking quickly, I said, “Hey Mud, why don’t you sign the guitar for my sister ?” figuring he’d get the message that she wanted to keep it. Muddy happily signed the guitar, etching his name in the soft wood of the guitar top with a black Bic pen.
Because they were available and affordable, Stella guitars hold a special place in Blues history. H.C. Speir, the talent scout responsible for getting some of the most important early Mississippi Delta blues singers recorded including Charlie Patton, Skip James, Ishmon Bracey, Willie Brown and William Harris when asked what kind of guitars these legendary bluesman said “Stellas. They all played old cheap Stella guitars…≥across the board !”
According to his friend and touring partner Johnny Shines, Delta blues king Robert Johnson primarily favored the Kalamazoo, a budget line Gibson, and the Stella which sold for about $12. Considering these inexpensive instruments, the sound Johnson created is even more amazing.
The guitar was in storage for most of the next 15 years, but I retrieved it in 1990. I used it play one song, “She And The Devil,” on my Powerhouse Records album “Chicago Blues” in ’90. I loaned it to the Boston House of Blues, where it was on display from ’94 to 2001. In 2002 I loaned it to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss. where it was exhibited until 2006 as part of an exhibit in the reconstructed Muddy had lived in on the Stovall Plantation.
When he played this guitar and smiled, it reminded Muddy of his Mississippi roots, and the Blues he played there. These rusty old strings were pushed down by Muddy’s fingers for a few minutes, and rang clear and deep–taking him back to Clarksdale.”
July 15, 2006
(We loaned this museum to the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, where it was exhibited as well. )
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