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APART from being blues legends, what was common between Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Leadbelly? Very obviously, it’s the fact that they hid their real identities behind fascinating pseudonyms. Magic Sam, Professor Longhair, 'Meat Head Johnson' and 'The Masked Marvel'? The blues world has been filled with artistes who changed their names just so that could seem different and exciting.

Muddy Waters, for instance, was born Mckinley Morganfield. As a name like that may not have worked successfully with audiences, he used ‘Muddy’ which his grandmother called him because he was always playing in the mud, and added ‘Waters’ to make it sound funny.

Howlin’ Wolf's actual name was Chester Arthur Burnett. He took on the new name after hearing a song by (yes!) Funny Papa James, which went: "I'm the wolf that dig my tail down in the ground, I want everyone to hear me howl.” And Leadbelly played around with his surname Ledbetter. Like Leadbelly, even BB King and Buddy Guy played around with their original names. BB King’s real name is Riley B King and he thought BB King would sound better at concerts. Buddy Guy was born George Guy, and he used Buddy because that was his nick-name.

Many artistes named themselves after their physical traits. Big Bill Broonzy, Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup, Big Joe Turner and Big Mama Thornton were named because of their huge size. Guitar Shorty and Half Pint Jaxon got their names because they were small in build. In fact, Guitar Shorty was named by a club manager who couldn't recollect his name, and had to write something on the poster to announce his show. Lemon Henry Jefferson began calling himself Blind Lemon Jefferson because he was born blind. That was the same reason why William McTell became Blind Willie McTell. Rufus G Perryman got the name Speckled Red because he was an albino, and Henry Roland Byrd became Professor Longhair because of his hairstyle.

APART from being blues legends, what was common between Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Leadbelly? Very obviously, it’s the fact that they hid their real identities behind fascinating pseudonyms. Magic Sam, Professor Longhair, 'Meat Head Johnson' and 'The Masked Marvel'? The blues world has been filled with artistes who changed their names just so that could seem different and exciting.

Muddy Waters, for instance, was born Mckinley Morganfield. As a name like that may not have worked successfully with audiences, he used ‘Muddy’ which his grandmother called him because he was always playing in the mud, and added ‘Waters’ to make it sound funny.

Some musicians, like Memphis Slim and Memphis Minnie, named themselves after cities. Taj Mahal, originally Henry Saint Clair Fredericks, named himself after the Indian monument. Other stage names to catch on included those of Lightnin' Hopkins, who was born Sam Hopkins but was given the title Lightnin' by a record executive who was impressed by his guitaring speed. Then, there were Homesick James, who would constantly tour the US and complain of being homesick,Barbecue Bob, who did a day job as chef at a barbecue restaurant, and Cow Cow Davenport, who released a song called 'Cow Cow Blues'. Champion Jack Dupree got his title because he won numerous boxing matches.

What’s interesting is that this trend was followed more by the older generation of blues musicians. And it sure added to their personalities.

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