Sat August 18, 2012
Marc On The Blues

Nine O'clock Blues: Big Bill Morganfield

Next Saturday at 2 in the afternoon Big Bill Morganfield is performing in Loveland for KUNCs’ Tuna Fish and Peanut Butter 26. The concert, at Hammond Amphitheater, supports Weld Food Bank and Food Bank for Larimer County.

This year’s event is presented by Associates in Family Medicine.

It is well-known that Big Bill Morganfield is the son of Muddy Waters, whose real name was McKinley Morganfield.  What is not so well-known is that Big Bill, who was born in Chicago in 1956, was raised by his grandmother in southern Florida.

While not living with his father, Big Bill Morganfield was heavily influence by him. "My dad had a reputation for being a very dignified person, a very proud man. He gave us kids all a certain inner strength to go out and do whatever we needed to do," says Big Bill.

Muddy’s musical influence came along later. "Whenever I got the chance to hear him, it struck me strongly." But the idea that Big Bill might become a professional musician himself had to wait.

It was after Muddy’s 1983 death that Big Bill decided that he should look into his musical heritage. That delay in discovering the artistic family connection eventually caused Bill regret. "It gave me such an empty feeling, like someone had pulled the bones out of my body, like something was missing. I never sat down and asked all the questions I had for him. Now I feel like I get a chance to talk to him through my music."

"Daddy always wished that one of his children would follow him and play music," says Bill. A few years after his father died Big Bill bought a guitar in hopes of doing a tribute to his father, but it didn’t quite work out as planned. He ended up locking himself away practicing for about six years, teaching himself guitar.  

It took until a concert with Lonnie Mack on Atlanta’s Center Stage for Big Bill Morganfield to really connect with his calling. It was a show in front of a thousand people and Bill says "I sang and played and the people went crazy. I was dancing around like a jumping bean. I realized I've got a love for this."  

After that show Morganfield decided to go back to “wood shedding,” as musicians call it. Locking yourself away to intensely practice your instrument and/or your singing. Big Bill has bachelor's degrees in English from Tuskegee University and Communications from Auburn University and they allowed him to make a living as a teacher while he perfected his Blues and, at the same time, learn songwriting.  

To date, Big Bill Morganfield has three CDs out on the Blind Pig label, starting with Rising Son which includes performances by several members of Muddy Waters’ band and Bill says he will always cherish the experience which anyone who has heard the album knows, brought out something very special in him. The other Blind Pig releases are Ramblin’ Mind and Blues in the Blood and we will hear tracks from each on this week’s show.

While Big Bill Morganfield shows a great deal of influence from his amazing father, you can also hear a great deal of Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon. Yet the most impressive thing to me is how much of Big Bill himself has emerged through the giant influences he has had and I would say he manages to fully justify my belief that when all is said and done, Big Bill Morganfield will deserve to stand beside his father and the rest of the Blues Pantheon.

Find out if you agree with my belief this week on The Nine O’clock Blues and next week, on the 26th at 2 p.m. when Big Bill Morganfield plays live at KUINC’s Tuna Fish and Peanut Butter at Hammond Amphitheater in Loveland, presented by Associates in Family Medicine.

Also on the show I’ll play a piece from Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive.

While Jackson started in the wake of Punk Rock as a New Wave musician, he has gone on to prove he can do just about any genre he chooses, having even written and recorded four Classical albums.  Always an innovator, Jackson’s 1981 album Joe Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive didn’t start the 1980s’ Swing revival, which was really miss-named because the music was actually much more Jumpin’ Jive and Lindy Hop than Swing. It did do a lot to spread the craze outside of the bars and ballrooms of LA and NYC where it really did start. Party like it’s 1945 with Joe Jackson this week on The Nine O’clock Blues.

Plus we’ll hear an extended track from the new CD by Robert Cray Band called Nothin’ But Love.


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