Muddy Waters at The Last Waltz
There’s been a misconception over the years that I should clearly straighten out.
While we were inviting musical guests to join us for the Band’s Last Waltz concert, Levon suggested Muddy Waters. We had always been big admirers of his music, and were unquestionably influenced by him. There was a period in the early 60’s when Muddy’s records rarely left the turntable. The only concern amongst the members of the Band was- could we do justice and play his songs as well as we knew them from those amazing Chess recordings?
Muddy originally came from the Mississippi Delta in an area just across the river from where Levon grew up. Levon’s ties to the blues of his homeland were a strong bond and I completely understood his desire to have Muddy join us. Levon was totally confident in our ability to play with Muddy, so we completely embraced the idea.
At our rehearsal before the concert, Muddy brought along his piano man Pinetop Perkins and guitarist Bob Margolin. We also invited Paul Butterfield, the master blues harp player, to join us.
Muddy had been up to Levon’s barn in Woodstock NY and recorded the old classic song, “Caledonia”, so he suggested we do that one. I asked about Muddy’s amazing “Mannish Boy” track, and Bob Margolin thought was a great choice, and gave us the lowdown on the arrangement.
Playing with Muddy and these guys at the concert was definitely one of the highlights of the night for us.
Someone claimed years later that there had been a dispute over whether Muddy’s performance would be included in the Last Waltz movie. This is absolutely untrue. Then, to top it off, I heard that we’d contemplated replacing Muddy’s performance in the film with Neil Diamond’s. Ridiculously false. No one involved, not Marty, nor any of us, ever considered not including Muddy in the film. His performance in The Last Waltz is phenomenal and speaks for itself.
I seriously needed to dispel these absurd claims.