Big Bill Morganfield with the Delta Sonics, 3/30/14 at the D Note
Muddy Waters, arguably one of the most influential bluesmen ever, passed away in 1983. His son, William Morganfield a/k/a Big Bill Morganfield has taken up the torch and has been carrying on the Morganfield blues line for many years and last Sunday he brought some gritty Chicago blues to Colorado for a Sunday afternoon show. (Blues Before Sunset!)
Following in the footsteps of a famous father like that is both a blessing and a curse. The Morganfield name obviously can open doors and attract attention, but in the very next second, there will be critical comparisons to the progenitor. Since the son’s debut recording 15 years ago, the comparisons have been uniformly favorable. Big Bill can lay down some mighty fine blues.
For Sunday’s performance at the D Note, Morganfield was backed by local band, the Delta Sonics. They’re a hard working outfit that, itself, is steeped in the blues, especially of the Chicago variety. On paper, the match seemed to be like giving Eric Clapton a Stratocaster; like putting Mario Andretti behind the wheel of a Ferrari; like giving Dick Chaney a waterboard. In reality, it was better. Morganfield and the Delta Sonics meshed like band mates with a couple dozen years and several hundred thousand miles of touring under their belts.
Over the course of two-one hour sets, Morganfield and the Delta Sonics worked their way through a variety of blues tunes including a number of standards like “Bad, Bad Whiskey” and “Walking By Myself.” They also hit a number of Big Bill originals like “Dead Ass Broke,” “Born Lover” and “Tight Things.” And, of course, given the situation, a couple Muddy covers were clearly called for. So the show ended with dad’s “Mannish Boy” and “I Got My Mojo Working.” Although Chicago blues was the main focus, Morganfield’s music draws heavily from jazz as well. Many tunes were based on a walking bass line and swung like Count Basie was in the house.
Big Bill clearly has the classic trifecta going on: singing, guitar playing and song writing. Most of his albums, including his most recent release, Blues With A Mood (Black Shuck Records, 2013), are composed primarily of his original tunes. On Sunday he stuck with his trusty Fender Telecaster throughout the afternoon. His solos, if not executed with the lightning speed of some kind of guitar hero, were piercing and soulful whether he played with a slide or not. His playing demonstrated a deep feeling for the blues like his father so successfully transmitted. His singing, while not identical to his father’s, certainly evoked Muddy’s spirit with his commanding voice and emotional delivery. Big Bill is clearly his own man.
Big Bill isn’t the only Morganfield progeny plying the blues these days. His older brother, Mud Morganfield, has only recently emerged as another bluesman and torch bearer of the Morganfield legacy and uncannily sounds just like their father.
Over 30 years gone, McKinley Morganfield is surely missed and there will never be another like him, but his legacy literally lives on with his son Bill, who is clearly the real deal.