November 20, 2020
(This article originally appeared in the November 2020 edition of The Arch newsletter)
Chandra Cooper is the great-granddaughter of McKinley Morganfield, known professionally as Muddy Waters. She is President of the Muddy Waters Original Jam Out (MOJO) Museum and has spearheaded the organization’s effort to transform Muddy Waters’ former Chicago home into a museum and cultural center. Below, Chandra shares personal insights on the project, her great-grandfather’s music legacy and more.
Chandra on what the house means to her and her family:
It means a lot of different things. It was the very first house my great-grandfather bought. He was a sharecropper, and for him to come from Mississippi to buy his first home in Chicago is profound. The fact that our family still has ownership of that – it is a legacy. It also shows the economic stability my great-grandfather had. A lot of Blues musicians didn’t make a lot of money, but the fact he was able to save money and have this house was really profound for the time.
My mother was raised in the house. I was born at Illinois Masonic Hospital and brought back to the house and lived there until I was three years old. I was really, really close with my great-grandfather, and I am forever grateful to him. This museum and helping to create this legacy piece for him, it is everything to me. Before I take my last breath I want to be able to honor and treasure him because he has done so much for me. This is so much more than a house. It is so personal, and it is my testament of who he is and what I want to give back to him and the Blues community.
Plans to turn the home into a museum and cultural center:
My great-grandfather’s estate — that of McKinley Morganfield — was going to sell the house in the 1990s. I didn’t think it should be sold, and I ended up buying it. It was the first thing I ever bought. I never intended to live there, I just knew it was a gem and that it should stay in the family. I wanted to find the best use for the house, and my original vision, created more than 15 years ago now, was for a house museum and community cultural center. This way, the property could be given back to the Blues community and the City of Chicago.
The community’s reaction to future plans for the Muddy Waters House:
Overall, the reaction has been very positive and very uplifting from the neighborhood, the City of Chicago and the Blues community. People have been wanting to help, to lend a hand, donating time, funding and saying they have artifacts they can donate to the future museum. People may not know how it is all going to happen, and there are the financials to work through, but people are open to new ideas and concepts to make it happen.
How people can get involved in the MOJO Museum:
- Visit MojoMuseum.com where you can find information on the project, subscribe to email updates and donate directly.
- Visit, Like and Follow Mojo Museum’s Facebook page @mojomuseum to see news updates, photos and more.
CHANDRA’S FAVORITE MUDDY WATERS SONG: Got My Mojo Workin’
I have been singing this song all my life. It is how I operate! While I don’t believe in “black magic,” I do believe in getting my “mojo working” – it’s how I got this whole museum working. I have become wise, made connections, networked, sought financial support, whatever needed to make this project work. I got this museum working.
CHANDRA’S FAVORITE MUDDY WATERS ALBUM: KING BEE
It was one of his last albums. Made in 1981, and he passed in 1983.