Born into a blue collar family in Kosciusko, Mississippi on January 31, 1944 and raised by a single mother, Musselwhite grew up surrounded by blues, hillbilly and gospel music on the radio and outside his front door. His family moved to Memphis, where, as a teenager, he worked as a ditch digger, concrete layer and moonshine runner. Fascinated by the blues, Musselwhite began playing guitar and harmonica. It wasn’t easy growing up a poor, white boy in Memphis, even among the rich musical influences the city offered. He felt like an outcast and a stranger (themes that have informed, inspired and haunted his music to this day).
Following the path of so many, Musselwhite moved to Chicago looking for better paying work. While driving an exterminator truck as a day job, Charlie lived on the South Side and hung out in blues clubs at night, developing close friendships with blues icons Little Walter, Big Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Joe Williams, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. Before long, he was sitting in at clubs with Muddy and others, building an impressive word-of-mouth reputation. Soon after, Charlie was being paid to play in the same South Side neighborhood. Noted blues journalist Dick Shurman says, “The black Chicago blues artists all liked Charlie as a person. They felt that he was one of them — a southern country boy with a deep affinity for the blues.”
Musselwhite has guested on numerous recordings, as a featured player with Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder, Ben Harper, John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, The Blind Boys of Alabama, INXS and most recently Cyndi Lauper. He has shared stages with countless blues and rock musicians. He was inducted into the Blues Foundation’s Blues Hall Of Fame in 2010, has been nominated for six Grammy Awards and has won 24 Blues Music Awards. The San Francisco Chronicle says, “Charlie Musselwhite’s harmonica playing shows taste, bite, restraint and power. He’s one of the best, and as a bluesman, he’s as real as they come.”