In terms of record sales, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf have nothing on U2 or Mariah Carey — no No. 1 singles or albums between them. But pop music history would be inconceivable without their influence. Here are a few places it can be found:
In 1962, a young English bandleader named Brian Jones was looking for a name for his blues-rock outfit. He found inspiration from Waters' song "Rollin' Stone" — and the band soon dropped the apostrophe in favor of a "g." Before the decade was through, Bob Dylan released his classic "Like a Rolling Stone" and Rolling Stone magazine hit the newsstands. It might take a flow chart to determine who influenced who, but Waters appears to have gotten the stone rolling.
Speaking of flow charts: The Yardbirds, the British Invasion group that eventually morphed into the "Stairway to Heaven" auteurs, started as a blues cover band, and Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning" was a staple of their early repertoire.
Before the legendary Memphis label recorded Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and other crossover stars, Wolf was among the artists who helped it thrive. According to the label's website, producer Sam Phillips once declared, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.'"
Waters' most famous fan may be the precocious older daughter of "The Simpsons," who, in one episode, pads her mother's resume in hopes of helping her land a job. When the interviewer browses the list of accomplishments, he excitedly remarks, "Oh, I thought Muddy Waters wrote that song!"