Big Bill Morganfield, son of blues man Muddy Waters, follows his father's footsteps

Daily News correspondentFebruary 28, 2013 

A legacy is something that can be hard to live up to. Trying to live up to the success of someone who preceded you is difficult, and Big Bill Morganfield knows all about that. He's the son of McKinley Morganfield, also known as Muddy Waters.


Waters was considered the father of modern Chicago blues and ranked 17th on Rolling Stone's 2004 list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. That legacy has driven Morganfield to become a blues great in his own right.

His talents will be on display this weekend, as he finishes a three-night stand at Blues Central on Friday and Saturday. It's a stage Morganfield has played many times before.

"To me, Big Bill Morganfield is a great artist, as he reminds me of the famous blues man Buddy Guy," Blues Central owner Frank Dahl said. "Bill's talent brings to the stage not only great blues, but the true feel of blues history through his father."

But incredibly, Morganfield got a late start playing music. Having been raised by his grandmother, never knowing his mother and rarely seeing his father, Morganfield was interested in music but primarily focused on academia, earning two college degrees and becoming a schoolteacher.

His father's death in 1983 spurred his desire to become a musician, and he spent six years teaching himself the guitar before becoming a full-time artist.

"While my daddy was alive, there was no reason for me to play the blues," Morganfield told Blues Access magazine.

The album "Rising Son" earned Morganfield critical acclaim and commercial success in 1999, eventually landing him the award for Best New Blues Artist the following year from the W.C. Handy Awards (now known as the Blues Music Awards).

Morganfield has progressively pushed his craft since, having recorded three additional releases that, interestingly enough, show more influence from his father's fellow blues legend Buddy Guy (as Dahl noted) than Muddy Waters himself.

Waters' legacy lives on in both Big Bill and his brother Larry "Mud" Morganfield, whom he didn't meet until he was in his twenties. Both have become blues artists, with Mud cultivating a sound that owes more to their father's.

But Morganfield said his drive is one thing that was certainly passed along from his father.

"I'm just like my daddy; I ain't never satisfied," Morganfield told Blues Access. "I always want it to get better, constantly working at learning and improving."  

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