At 11.30pm on Saturday 24th November, BBC4 will be screening ‘Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones – Live at the Checkerboard Lounge’.
On an off-night on their 1981 tour, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood and pianist Ian Stewart stopped by Chicago’s Checkerboard Lounge to watch blues legend Muddy Waters perform.
Before too long, Jagger was called up to join in on ‘Baby Please Don’t Go,’ and eventually all four Stones had crowded onto the tiny stage to add their reverent but loose style to traditional classics such as ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘Mannish Boy.’ Luckily, someone thought to film all of this, and seeing Jagger, Richards and company so gleeful around their mentor and in such an intimate setting is quite a treat. This is a Muddy Waters show with the Stones frequently but not always joining along. Jagger doesn’t come on until the sixth song of the 15-track set, for example, and at one point briefly returns to his table to watch his bandmates work their magic without him.
Throughout the night, the spotlight is shared equally with the Stones, Waters and — later in the proceedings — fellow honoured guests Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. The Stones are revealed to be well-studied in the blues traditions, of course, but you can also see how they can’t seem to help but put their own stamp on things, pushing the night into less retrained, rougher and more dynamic territory.
‘Live at the Checkerboard Lounge’ has been described as probably the most concentrated dose of Rolling Stones blues music you’re ever going to see and hear.