This eventually became Muddy Waters’ signature tune, which is sort of a pity because there were usually more interesting songs in his set, but he seemed to genuinely love it, and brought so much to each performance that you had to join in the love.
I managed to see most of the big-name bluesman, mostly in a pretty elderly condition, but those are still highlights; I even interviewed Willie Dixon for the student paper; I seem to recall asking him what he thought about white college kids joining his audience and he looked at me like I was crazy; “Blues is for everyone, man.” I saw Muddy at the long-gone Ontario Place Forum in Toronto; he was really old and had to perform sitting down; then lurched out of his chair for Mannish Boy, busting some moves and hollering “I’m a MAN!”; it was so awesome.
There are loads of Mannish Boy recordings, but for me it’s not close; the one you want is from Hard Again, produced by and featuring Johnny Winters. I wrote a whole blog piece about that record, and a related follow-up about listening to vinyl in the 21st century. It’s a gem, and will convince you you’re in a basement club with Muddy and Johnny and the band at the other end of the room.
Links · Spotify playlist. This tune on Amazon, Spotify, iTunes. Now, as for live video, the most famous is when Muddy lit up the stage at The Last Waltz; it’s a solid performance (particularly the harmonica backfill) and the photography is brilliant. But there is a lot of Mannish-Boy video out there on the Net, and most of them are good. Here’s one from 1971 that feels somehow the purest to me.