Mr. Clearwater was born Edward Harrington in Macon, Miss., on Jan. 10, 1935. In a 2011 interview with The Chicago Tribune, he recalled learning the blues by hearing his uncles singing “while working and plowing and picking cotton and pulling corn” in Mississippi.
One uncle gave him a guitar, and he started picking out blues melodies on it. He began performing as a teenager after his family moved in 1948 to Birmingham, where he played with gospel groups, including the Five Blind Boys of Alabama. In 1950 he moved to Chicago, where he stayed with an uncle, H. H. Harrington, and worked as a dishwasher — a job he would later sing about.
He played gospel music in churches and, through his uncle, met and jammed with the musicians who were forging Chicago’s electric blues, notably Magic Sam, a Chicago luminary who became a longtime friend. Billed as Guitar Eddy and then as Clear Waters — a play on Muddy Waters — he began playing local blues clubs.
H. H. Harrington also had his own independent label, Atomic-H, which released “Hill Billy Blues” by Clear Waters and His Band in 1958.
The name Clear Waters gave way to Eddy (sometimes Eddie) Clearwater as he established himself in Chicago’s thriving blues scene. In the 1970s he was given the headdress that he wore on the cover of his debut album as a bandleader, “The Chief” (Rooster Blues), in 1980.