Born: June 19, 1956 in Chicago IL
Big Bill Morganfield's work was cut out for him before he ever sung a note of blues music. Carrying the legal name of his famous father, Morganfield's music was always going to be compared to a standard that no artist could live up to. Still, Big Bill has done an admirable job in escaping the long shadow of his father and establishing his own voice and vision as a singer, songwriter, and guitarist.
Living With The Legend
William "Big Bill" Morganfield was born in Chicago, the son of blues legend McKinley Morganfield, a/k/a Muddy Waters. Raised by Verdell Clark, his grandmother, in Southern Florida, Morganfield originally eschewed music in favor of academics, earning degrees in English from Tuskegee University and communications from Auburn University.
Morganfield was working as a school teacher when he was bitten by the music bug sometime after Waters' death in 1983. Spurred by grief, Morganfield intended to teach himself guitar and pay fitting tribute to his father. Six years later, after a deep study of blues styles and history, Morganfield appeared on an Atlanta stage playing alongside Lonnie Mack. When over 1,000 people screamed their approval, a bluesman was born.
Morganfield's new music career wasn't without its pitfalls. He put together a traditional blues combo, but dissatisfied with its sound, he retreated to further develop his songwriting skills. In 1998, Morganfield was invited to perform alongside artists like Buddy Guy and the Allman Brothers Band at a Kennedy Center "Tribute to Muddy Waters" concert. The gig helped him land a record deal with noted blues and roots-rock label Blind Pig Records.
Morganfield recorded 1999's Rising Son, his debut album, in Chicago with his father's former guitarist, Bob Margolin, producing. Members of the Muddy Waters band like pianist Pinetop Perkins and drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith played on the critically-acclaimed album, which would earn Morganfield a W.C. Handy Award for "Best New Artist." Later that year Morganfield would perform at the San Francisco Blues Festival.
Blues In The Blood
Morganfield returned to Chicago in 2001 to record his second album, Ramblin' Mind, which featured guest stars Taj Mahal, who also contributed a song, and Chicago blues harpist Billy Branch. Guitarist Margolin, bassist Nick Moss, and harp player Bill Lupkin also pitched in on the album. Two years later, working with producers Jimmy Vivino and Brian Bisesi, Morganfield delivered the Delta-influenced Blues In The Blood, an acclaimed album of mostly-original songs that would spotlight Morganfield's songwriting skills.
Establishing himself as a popular draw on the blues festival circuit, Big Bill has earned a reputation as a dynamic performer and skilled slide-guitarist. In 2009, he formed his own independent Black Shuck Records, distributed by the VizzTone Label Group, for the release of Born Lover, his fourth album.
Recommended Albums: Morganfield's Rising Son is the one to start with, a stunning collection of Chicago-styled blues with a contemporary edge that would surely make his daddy proud. However, you can't go wrong with any of Morganfield's Blind Pig albums, or Born Lover for that matter. Stay away from the unauthorized import release Nineteen Years, collection of demo songs recorded in Memphis in 1997 that was never intended for release.