Many men try to fill their father's shoes when they join the family business. Few, however, must prove they are up to the task in front of an audience as large as the one that watched Big Bill Morganfield. Blues lovers the world over revere his late father, Muddy Waters.
Morganfield didn't take up the challenge until several years after his dad passed away in 1983. When he realized he wanted to delve into the world of blues as his father had, he purchased a guitar, intending to pay homage to the legendary Waters, whose real name was McKinley Morganfield. That tribute was six long years in coming, years that Morganfield spent teaching himself how to play the instrument. An evening spent playing at Center Stage in Atlanta with Lonnie Mack followed. The audience, which numbered 1000, went wild over the performance and set the novice musician's spirit afire.
He went on to establish a contemporary blues group, but abandoned the idea after several months. Dissatisfied with the music he was making, he pulled back from performing to further hone his skills. He concentrated on traditional blues and also learned how to write songs. During this time, Morganfield supported himself by teaching. He possesses degrees in English and communications, which he earned at Tuskegee University and Auburn University, respectively.
The years of dedication and hard work paid off handsomely. Morganfield's debut album, Rising Son, was released in 1999 to popular and critical acclaim. The magazine Guitar Player expressed their belief that Morganfield's album would have brought a smile to his father's face. The following year, the W.C. Handy Awards dubbed Waters' son the Best New Blues Artist.
Morganfield recorded Rising Son in Chicago, the site of many of Waters' recording sessions. Bob Margolin, Waters' guitarist, served as producer and also appeared on the album. Featured were several of Waters' bandmates, including: drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, piano player Pinetop Perkins, and harmonica player Paul Oscher. Also in attendance was blues bassist Robert Stroger, an ex-member of Sunnyland Slim's band.
Ramblin' Mind, Morganfield's second album, featured an appearance by Taj Mahal on two songs, which also featured Billy Branch on harmonica. Mahal also contributed his original composition "Strong Man Holler" to the album. One of Waters' songs, "You're Gonna Miss Me," also was included.
Morganfield grew up in Florida, where he resided with his grandmother, and later made his home in Atlanta. He performed in a tribute to his father staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. He kept in his possession his father's guitars and a touring amp.