Blues come alive with Mud Morganfield
The closest that one could get to blues legend Muddy Waters – who was born McKinley Morganfield – was in the form of his eldest son, 65-year-old Larry “Mud” Morganfield, who performed live at Mumbai’s NCPA on November 23, 2019.
True to his father, the Chicago-born Mud Morganfield – who has used the moniker Muddy Waters Jr. in the past – possessed the same baritone voice and perfect blues phrasing that made his father an icon as Morganfield ran through a set, a little beyond 90 minutes, which paid tribute to his father.
Commencing punctually at the time scheduled of 8pm, Morganfield’s jacketed backing band – consisting of musicians playing guitar, acoustic bass, piano, drums, and harp – opened the live proceedings with an instrumental, before Morganfield arrived in the midst of the second track. He sounded like a seasoned pro and delivered an outstanding first set that honoured his father’s legacy by encompassing songs from “Baby Please Don’t Go” to “Hoochie Coochie Man” across 45 minutes.
But Morganfield truly carved out a comfortable niche of his own when he proceeded into another tribute-filled second set, following a 20-minute break, when he ran through “I Don’t Know Why”, “40 Days and 40 Nights”, and the funky “Catfishing” which, obviously, was not about fishing at all as Morganfield’s sly vocals implied, further supported by the innuendo-filled “Got My Mojo Workin’”, which had the pianist fill in his musical parts by utilizing his feet a la Jerry Lee Lewis. But, for me, the highlight was “I Just Want To Make Love To You”, a 1954 blues song written by Willie Dixon which was first recorded by Muddy Waters, and released as “Just Make Love to Me”. For the trivia-minded, the song was subsequently covered by another legendary vocalist, Etta James, followed by a rollicking rendition by British blues-rock band, Foghat, on their 1977 ‘Live!’, through which I first heard the song.
After another 45-minute set, as Morganfield left the stage, the concert was over…or was it? Within minutes, Morganfield returned to provide his finishing touches with an encore of his father’s standout “Mannish Boy”, which continued to reiterate Morganfield’s sharp and energetic vocals. The entire set was supported by a brilliant line-up with the harmonica fills being blues solid.
For those interested in Mud Morganfield’s early years, he was born to Muddy Waters and Mildred Williams in Chicago and raised by his mother and seven uncles, with periodic visits from his father. Drawn to music at an early age, Waters bought Morganfield a drum set every Christmas, which he learnt to play at seven, later switching instruments to bass guitar as he became a songwriter.
However Morganfield, who was driving trucks as a career, did not consider becoming a professional musician until after his father’s death in 1983. Morganfield launched his music career in blues clubs on the south side of Chicago, where he performed a combination of his father’s material and his original works.
Certainly, there will be comparisons to his father, but they are expected and rightly so. Mud Morganfield comes as close to the Muddy Waters experience as one can get and there is no denying that Morganfield’s voice resembles the tone and timber of father Muddy Waters’ voice. The result was that his performance was truly memorable for the audience that was only filled about 70% of the capacity; one reason for the lack of a full-house may be due to its pricing factor which would have certainly stretched the resources of any college-attending student.
Nevertheless, nothing should take away from the initiative of die-hard music fan Sunil Sampat, whose inputs in bringing the musician into India were deservedly credited by Mud Morganfield from the stage, resulting in the presence of a once in a lifetime viewed musician who truly had a colourful personality, appropriately tilting towards the blues!