In preparation for the 24th annual Tinner Hill Blues Festival set to take place in venues all across Falls Church this weekend, Larry “Mud” Morganfield, son of blues legend Muddy Waters, shared some of his time with the News-Press to enlighten us about the way of the blues.
Everyone’s got some blues in them, according to Morganfield. They come from the hardship a person faces in their life and the lessons they learn about themselves while dwelling in those dark moments. Growing up on Chicago’s west side in the 1960s, Morganfield accrued his blues by witnessing murders, aggressive policing and the riots that followed Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. Of course having the blues is the key ingredient, but being able to channel that pain into each performance and form a bond between the artist and audience is what truly sets apart established blues musicians from hopeful aspirants.
“It’s one thing to play the blues. You can play the blues ‘til the sun falls out of the sky. But it’s another thing to have some blues and to sing it from your heart and to sing it from experience,” Morganfield said. “Anyone can learn how to play like somebody and come out and say ‘look at me, I’m a blues man,’ but until you go through something, man, you really can’t say you got the blues.”
The journey to get his blues picked up steam following the death of his father in 1983. Only 29 at the time, Morganfield had music in his veins since he toe-tapped his way out of the womb. Still, he hadn’t decided to make a living out of it until mention of his mother, Mildred Williams, was left out of a blues tribute television program that followed Muddy’s passing. From then on, Morganfield promised her that the world would know her name and left his job as a truck driver to become a musician.
Mud wouldn’t release his first album, Fall Waters Fall, until 2008, representing a 25 year gap from when he first dove into the music industry. The lengthy delay was necessary as Morganfield felt his talent, and more so, his ability to express his blues weren’t up to par with the tremendous responsibility of being the first son of Muddy Waters. Though little did he know, it was him in all along, he just had to believe.
“I always knew I had it, but I didn’t know how to get it,” Morganfield continued. “I didn’t know all I had to do was step up to the mic. Until I took that leap of faith, got in front of the mic and sung from my heart, and from there everything else is history, man.”
The past 10 years have seen Mud’s star rise rapidly. With the release of his second studio album in 2012, Son of a Seventh Son, and his album dedicated to Muddy in 2014, For Pops: A Tribute to Muddy Waters, Morganfield has frequented locales nationwide while also making trips abroad on a regular basis. He’s refined his vocals and also trusted his intuition when it comes to a blues singer’s secondary role as a conductor, where Mud keys in different members of his band for their solos during live shows.
All of this has led Morganfield back to the start, with his father. The two didn’t have much of a relationship, but Mud says he senses his father’s presence on stage and can feel his affirmation when he’s steering the music just right. It’s that spiritual connection shared between a boy and his father that keeps Morganfield engaged with his career, and most of all, enamoured with the blues.
“I wish I could’ve been in college, getting degrees, but then I wouldn’t have been true to the blues,” Morganfield added. “I got so much blues, man, it’s gonna last me ‘til the day I take my last breath.”
For more information on Mud Morganfield, visit mudmorganfieldblues.com