In blues as in other musical idioms, there is a timeworn tradition of the children of celebrated artists continuing in their parents’ footsteps. Not even considering pretenders to the throne—artists who co-opt the name of someone to whom they have little or no connection—there are, in fact, notable musicians who keep the flame burning or set out on a new musical journey all their own.
While Larry “Mud” Morganfield wasn’t raised by his famous father, the influence of Muddy Waters comes through in the music of the blues legend’s eldest son. He began his professional career after turning fifty, singing in Chicago blues clubs. After a well-received set at the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival, his recording career commenced with a 2008 debut release, “Fall Waters Fall.”
While Mud doesn’t often play an instrument onstage (he’s skilled on bass and drums), he does sing. And that he does with a vocal tone and texture remarkably similar to that of his late father. “What’s That That You Got,” the opening cut on the debut album, is very much in the swaggering, up-tempo style of Muddy Waters. Though a modern recording, the ensemble and production team crafted a musical landscape of Mud that feels right at home.
Knowing references—lyrical and instrumental—are often cooked into Mud Morganfield’s songs. So while never explicitly emulating Muddy Waters, he creates music that carries on the vibe of the blues great. With a repertoire that extends beyond the Chicago electric blues to include New Orleans styles and more, he’s carved out a successful niche for himself in the blues world.
After an indie release (2008’s “Mud Morganfield with the Dirty Aces Live”), Mud signed with blues-roots label Severn Records. Released in 2012, “Son of the Seventh Son” earned positive notices. In 2015 he felt confident enough to tackle more of his father’s music on a recording; the result, a collaboration with the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Kim Wilson, “For Pops: A Tribute to Muddy Waters” won Best Traditional Blues Album at that year’s Blues Music Awards.
Morganfield released his sixth album, “They Call Me Mud” in 2018. With an expanded backline that includes a beefy horn section, he sounds even more assured. The album isn’t strictly blues; there’s a strong undercurrent of Stax-styled soul (think Albert King crossed with the Memphis Horns) on cuts like “48 Days.” Mud’s wry sense of humor shines through on cuts like a cover of Muddy’s “Can’t Get No Grindin’, ” and his band strikes a country-soul feel on the album’s instrumental closer, “Mud’s Groove.”
Mud’s website leverages his sonic similarity to his father: “Muddy Waters or Mud Morganfield? It’s almost impossible to tell,” reads the promotional copy. While Mud’s not looking to dream up a new style of the blues, he proudly carries on the family tradition. While his tour schedule finds him playing blues festivals and clubs as far away as Brazil and the United Kingdom, he regularly schedules dates in and around his Chicago hometown.
December 26, 8pm, SPACE, 1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston, (847)492-8860; $15 advance, $18 day of show.
With a background in marketing and advertising, Bill Kopp got his professional start writing for Trouser Press. His more than 2,500 interviews, essays, and reviews reflect Bill’s keen interest in American musical forms, most notably rock, jazz and soul. His work features a special emphasis on reissues and vinyl. Bill’s work also appears in many other outlets both online and in print. He also researches and authors liner notes for album reissues, and co-produced a reissue of jazz legend Julian “Cannonball” Adderley’s final album. His first book, “Reinventing Pink Floyd,” is due from Rowman & Littlefield in February 2018.