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Issue 1090

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Here's Mud In Your Eye!

Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley
Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield & Sinead O'Connor. Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley Ronni Buysack-Boysen & Eric Ranzoni. Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield & Ronni Buysack-Boysen. Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mike Hellier. Photo copyright: Simon Redley Ronni Buysack-Boysen. Photo copyright: Simon Redley Ronni Buysack-Boysen. Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud Morganfield & UK Band. Photo copyright: Simon Redley. West Weston. Photo copyright: Simon Redley. Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley Mud signing his poster for music photographer Steve Thorne. Copyright: Simon Redley. Mud Morganfield Photo copyright: Simon Redley

Mud Morganfield is a blues man. Fact. Itâs literally in his genes. His late daddy was the legendary Muddy Waters. There is no disputing the fact Mud, christened Larry Williams, looks like his Father. He takes his Fatherâs name. He sounds like his Father. Heâs got his Fatherâs smooth style too. But do not EVER call him a copy cat. Or elseâ¦â¦â¦â¦..

There are some out there who have done just that, and upset the big man big time. But rather than get into a war about it, he perhaps takes the view that while he sometimes welcomes a battle of wits, he never fights an unarmed man!

On an extensive UK and European summer tour of club gigs and festivals during July and August, US-based Mud has been in big demand lately on these shores, not only because of his own talent and that of his crack UK band, but as a direct result of his triumphant appearance on âLaterâ¦â¦with Jools Holland,â on BBC TV. Jools himself asking to play Hammond organ with Mud and the band during studio rehearsals, and joining them during the live broadcast too. I met up with Mud at BBC Television Centre where I was his guest for the Jools Holland appearance. We caught up again when he was on the road, this time in Derby before sound-checks in the afternoon. Mud doesnât usually attend sound-checks, and lets his band and crew get on with it while he rests his voice at the hotel. But despite a long journey in the tour bus from the gig the night before, he agreed to see me for a chat and exclusive photo shoot.

His stage persona is of a slick, be-suited authentic Chicago blues man, hair slicked back, tie perfectly placed and shoes shining brightly. Gold jewellery on his fingers. Thereâs no rushing around the stage like a mad man for Mud. He sits serenely on a tall stool, stage front and centre for the whole of his set, singing his heart out and conducting his band with precision. But today he has his overcoat on, a scarf, woolly hat and thick jumper. It is damn cold out there. He is probably used to the chill winds though, born and brought up in the Windy City. He is very tired and if the truth be told, heâd much rather be curled up in his hotel bed than being pumped for information from yours truly, or posed up for photographs by me and my buddy Steve. But he is here. So, letâs get the hot drinks rolling, and talk all things McKinley and Mud Morganfield â aka Larry and his âPopâ Muddy Waters - one of the founding fathers of the blues. During our chat, 59-year-old Mud opened up about his relationship with his late Father and was brutally honest. There are mixed emotions. He loved the man with all his heart and in his words: âHe was my hero. I worshipped the ground he walked on.â But at the same time, he was angry his father left him and his mother, and he felt abandoned. An anger he kept in his heart and admits he never really resolved. A big regret for him today. But he is proud with a capital P of his Daddyâs achievements, and thrilled the world still respects Muddyâs music. Only last night a 75-year-old blues fan was in floods of tears, forcing his way past security after Mudâs London show to get to him, to tell him how much he loved his Daddy and how much he now loves Mud. That struck a chord with Muddy Waters Junior.

Woops! I cannot call him that, can I? It is unbelievable and pretty outrageous that when Larry Williams decided to pursue a career in blues, after singing and playing drums and bass all his life, and he billed himself as Muddy waters Junior, his late Fatherâs estate set the lawyers on to him, to tell him he could not call himself that! Mudâs own lawyers attitude was; 'go ahead and if they threaten to sue you, let them try.' But Mud was just starting out on his career and didnât need the hassle. So despite being nicknamed âMuddy Jr. ,â and âLittle Muddy,â when he was a kid, he dropped that moniker and said: âIf you want me to get my Popâs body exhumed to prove I am his son, then we can do that.â He heard loud cries of âNo, no, noâ¦we know you are his son. That is not in dispute.â So he said, OK then, here is what I am gonna do. I am gonna call myself Mud Morganfield, because I AM a Morganfield by birth. So Larry Williams was gone and Mud Morganfield was born. He recalls vividly the moment he decided he was going to be a blues man and pay respect to his Fatherâs music around the world, and help keep his name alive and be part of his legacy. It was during a TV tribute to Muddy in the USA, and there were various family members invited to take part, but neither Mud nor his elderly mother were invited or mentioned in the programme. When he saw his Mother sobbing tears about the snub for her sonâs sake, he turned to her and made a promise: âFrom now, on they are gonna know about us.â âThat was the moment. I didnât look at it like she looked at it. I was just glad they were still honouring Muddy. But then she was so teared up and so broken-hearted that I wasnât invited. That I wasnât mentioned. It felt like the Cinderella story. The kid who was mistreated and put in the closet, and only brought out to scrub all the floors.â

His motherâs relationship with Muddy ended when Mud was about seven years old. He didnât see much of him after that, until he was a teenager and went to see him at blues clubs doing his thing on stage. Larry was given his Motherâs maiden name of Williams. Mud has the build and stature of a heavyweight boxer. Heâs seen some things, done some things and as he says, been really lucky he is not dead. But his gruff bluesman demeanour fades away and is replaced with tears in his big eyes and almost a whisper, when recounting one moment in his childhood that reflects the deep love he had for his Daddy. A very sad story really. âWhen I was in school, I was always flirting with the girls. The teachers kept telling me stop it. But my Mojo was working! I was getting a little love - and I know he passed that to me - so eventually the teacher sent me to the office, saying âI am sick of this.â I got sent home. My Mother grabbed the âphone and called Muddy, and said you better come get him because if you donât come get him, I am gonna bring him to you. Pop said âput him on the phone.â He is running the murder game down to me, telling me what he is gonna do to me. âIf I got to come out thereâ¦..â. I hadnât saw (sic) my Dad in two or three years, and for him to tell me he is gonna come and whoop my ass, I didnât care. I looked forward to that. That was how bad as a kid I wanted to see my Dad. So I am around the house with my other siblings, and I am telling them: âMy Daddyâs coming to kick my ass.â I made a little song up about it! They were laughing at me and thought Iâd lost my mind. I was so ecstatic at the thought of my Father coming to see me, even if to spank me. I didnât care. A couple of days passed and the door bell rang, and I am like âyeah, I am looking forward to this butt whooping. Simon, I loved the man. The ground he walks on. To my surprise it was my Daddyâs chauffeur. It wasnât my Father. He actually sent his chauffeur. As a kid I was so disappointed.â

âI was angry about him not being there for us.â Did you ever resolve that anger, Mud? âHonestly, no. Itâs still there. It is hard to get rid of. As I got older, I learned relationships donât have to work. You donât have to stay in a relationship just because you got children. But when I saw him or heard his songs, I felt kind of abandoned, yeah...." Mud stops mid sentence, leans over and looks me straight in the eye and asks me: âYou ainât pyscho-analysing me are you Simon?â I tell him straight: Iâm a hack not a shrink, Mud!

Mud tells me of his childhood and the contrast between the street in Chicago where he and his Mother Mildred lived, and the plush area where his famous Father ended up. âI had some tough times as a young man. First of all, I came from a broken home, my father left, which was rough for a boy. What keeps me grounded is that people who love me and love me doing what I am doing now, takes away some of the pain...of not being able to really square up with my father and tell him how much I loved him. I am always going to be haunted by that. Alwaysâ¦but what do I do, Simon? Do I go and just bury myself somewhere. I have to live life. Where I came up, all my peers were broken-home children. Those were the friends I hung with, the rough ones. I came up on the West side of Chicago and my Dad was on the South side. He didnât really get a chance to taste the good life until 10 years before he died. Finally got a nice house with a swimming pool out back, and they got him out of that urban neighbourhood.â When I came out of my house, there were gang bangers, hoes and pimps, drug dealersâ¦. Thatâs what I had and they were the people I looked to. There was no one else there. I had eight uncles, but not the Father. Then with the assassination of Martin Luther King when they burned the city down, now I am in more ruins. That gives me my blues man. I am a blues man. It is not just what I do, thatâs what I am. I feel it all my life.â

I ask if being Muddyâs son ever gave him extra pressure from blues fansâ expectations. âItâs a double-edged sword. Let me be honest with you. My Father has opened up many, many doors for me. Just being his son, but I think you still have to bring something to the table, and I think I do. What you get from Mud Morganfield, you better believe itâs from my heart. I am not a carbon copy. I do what I do because of who he was. A magazine called me a copy cat. Oh that hurt. It cut me man, you know. My management tried to keep that stuff away from me, but I got a hold of it. And something worse than that, something one of my kin folk said was really out of order. It cuts like a knife, but I am growing and I am learning. Sometimes people donât want you to be where you are supposed to be. There are blues artists been out there 40+ years, and still havenât had a chance to visit Great Britain. Here is Mud Morganfield sitting here and enjoying it.â

So what is his message to those coming to see and hear Muddy and not Mud? âAnything you see me do is gonna be me and my Father for a number of reasons. One: I am my Fatherâs son, and the genes that he had, and my grandfather and great grandfather, were passed down to me. I didnât ask to be here. Iâm here and Iâm full of blues, man. You will hear me Mud Morganfield, and you will hear my Father. You can always hear my father. I have a love for my parents that is just so powerful. Not just my Father. My Mum is an amazing woman, at 82, and has been a guiding light in my life.â

McKinley Morganfield aka Muddy Waters passed away on 30th April 1983, aged 70-years-old. Two years after his death, Chicago honored him by designating the one-block section near his former home on the South side, "Honorary Muddy Waters Drive". The Chicago suburb of Westmont, where Muddy lived the last decade of his life, named a section of Cass Avenue near his home "Honorary Muddy Waters Way." A Mississippi Blues Trail marker has been placed in Clarksdale, Mississippi by the Mississippi Blues Commission, designating the site of Muddy Waters' cabin. His 1958 tour of England marked possibly the first time amplified, modern urban blues was heard here, although on this first tour he was the only one amplified - backing provided by Chris Barber's trad' jazz group. The Rolling Stones named themselves after Muddy's 1950 song "Rollin' Stone" (also known as "Catfish Blues", which Jimi Hendrix covered as well). Hendrix recalled: "the first guitar player I was aware of was Muddy Waters. I first heard him as a little boy and it scared me to death". Muddyâs records won six Grammy awards. The Grammies also awarded him a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.

Mud has shared the stage and gained the respect of many of his Dad's ex-sidemen and Chicago blues superstars: Buddy Guy, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater, Pinetop Perkins, Jimmie Johnson, Mojo Buford, to name but a few. At the 2009 Chicago Blues Festival, Mud shared front man duties with his younger brother Big Bill Morganfield, fronting an all-star band including the legendary musicians - Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith to an explosive audience reaction. âYeah, people say I sound just like my Pops. I canât help having those genes. People miss that point. I did not ask to be here or have these genes. But I am too drenched in blues to do anything else.â One of his Dad's former sidemen was shocked when he saw Mud at work, and how much he looked and sounded like Muddy. He said: "It's like watching a ghost in the flesh!"

Mud has done many other jobs to feed his ten kids, before he came to music fulltime. He was a long distance truck driver among other things. But he has always been involved in music since he was a nipper. His Father bought him a drum kit for Christmas, and then he learned to play bass too. He has always sung. He played drums in his first two bands, and then went over to bass. He met a female blues singer who suggested he go to an open mike night in a famous blues club, Boss Mans on Chicagoâs West Side, to see if he liked being upfront and singing rather than behind a drum kit or a bass guitar. That was his first taste of being a blues man on that microphone, all eyes on him and that big voice of his. The rest, as they say, is historyâ¦â¦â¦â¦..

But while Mud is part of his Fatherâs legacy and the modern day connection to blues Royalty, he is also his own man. He writes his own songs and is an artist in his own right. Not just the eldest son of Muddy Waters. His Dadâs name helps open doors, but he has something to back it all up with. A commanding stage presence, a God-given vocal gift ready made for singing the blues, and an honesty and enthusiasm for doing the best he can do and giving his audience the very best he can possibly deliver. Night after night. He takes no prisoners up on that stage and expects the best from his band too. He gets it. His UK band is Steve âWestâ Weston on blues harp, Ronni Buysack-Boysen on guitar, Ian Jennings on double bass, Eric Ranzoni on keyboards and Mike Hellier on drums. Mike is also Mudâs booking agent, behind the Movinmusic agency in Cornwall, and landed him the slot on âLater..with Jools Holland.â Mike has played drums with a host of top blues names, and spent many years with the fabulous Sherman Robertson. (Sadly Sherman no longer tours after suffering a severe stroke. I wish him well in his long road to recovery.)

Mud revealed how his Father kept coming to him in the same dream night after night, which he eventually read as a sign that he should be up there on that stage singing the blues. âYeah, Dad visited me in dreams. A dream is only a dream, but I felt they all meant something. I dreamt Pops was on stage, I was standing below him and he was playing guitar and singing. I was trying to get his attention and tell him I was here, that Iâd meet him at the back of the room, but he never would look at me and kept singing. I forgot about it, woke up feeling kind of sad. I had that same dream a week later. I figured it had some significance to it, to dream the same dream. I also had a dream where Pop gave me a song, and I wrote that song and sing it today. I am here to do some blues for the people and keep my Dadâs legacy alive, and be a part of it as much as I can. I am here to be a part of his legacy man. For many, many years the blues wasnât my forte, even though it was pulling me. I didnât follow these dreams. I chose to do something else. I drove rigs for a while, and other jobs, I couldnât fight it no more; that urge for me to be an entertainer was just too strong.â

âWhen I am on stage and Iâm doing my Fatherâs stuff, and I hear myself singing, I relate that to his approval. I always relate to him and say thank you Pop. When I get a big response to any of his songs, in my head I always say âI did do good, didnât I pop?â " He recalls some sound advice his Father told him when he went to see him perform in a night club on the North side of Chicago. âWe were in the bathroom and he was telling me how you always had to be a classy blues artist. He knew then that I had it in me. He said son, always be classy. People donât want to pay to see you in overalls man. Always try to stay nifty.â His Mother always instilled in him how important his Father was in music. He first saw Muddy perform, in an Illinois club, when Mud was just 16. He was as proud as punch of his Pop up there doing his thing, holding the audience in the palm of his hand with his blistering blues skills. "I have always been proud of him. He wasnât around for a long time, but I have always been proud of him and always will be.â

Mud tours the world today spreading the blues gospel, in demand in Russia, Sweden, Australia, Denmark, The Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Denmark Spain, Latvia, Mexico, South America and the UK. New territories asking for his services all the time. He had just had to turn down an offer to appear in Israel, after the escalation of violent conflict there. He and his UK band have just smashed it at the celebrated North Sea Jazz festival in Rotterdam, on the same bill as Prince, Santana and Bobby Womack. In the spring, the BBC flew out to the USA to interview Mud for their new documentary on the Blues. They were in Chicago for three weeks interviewing some great Artists, including Mud, Bobby Rush and Buddy Guy, for their Britannia series.

Mud has been nominated in four categories of the Living Blues Awards this year, and in the Best Album and the Traditional Blues Male Artist Album categories of the 2013 Blues Foundation Blues Music Awards. He is also up for some "Blues Blast" awards in the US too. Mud is one of the six nominees in the Overseas Artist category in this year's British Blues Awards. The highlight of his career to date, he says is âright now." He is delighted with his latest record, his third album âIâm Mud Morganfield.â He wrote seven of the tracks on that disc, and sings two of his Dadâs songs too. He promises there will ALWAYS be at least one song from Muddyâs repertoire on his albums. âIt is a kidâs respect to his parent.â His debut album came out in 2008.

Blues is an emotion. It is the story telling of anything that moves a human being. Pain. Loss. Betrayal. Triumph. Tears of joy. Tears of despair. Love. Good or bad love. If you have ever had the shit kicked out of you by life; then you have had the blues my friend. If you get back up, dust yourself down and carry on with a defiant rigid middle finger to the devil on your shoulder; them thereâs the blues matey. Mud Morganfield has the blues in his blood. Literally. Heâs paid and is still paying his dues. One day, after a few more albums and a few more countries travelled, I predict those who have dismissed him as a copy cat imitation of his iconic Father, or perhaps have a hidden agenda and may be jealous of his success, are gonna realise how important he is. While the originators are fast leaving us - and in reality you can count on one hand the number of the original bluesmen that are left - Mud is a bridge between the history of this sacred music and todayâs young music fans; who will dig what he is doing and then go seek out Muddy, John Lee, The Wolf, Robert Johnson and their ilk........... thus keeping the blues alive for future generations. The blues is what hip hop, rap and all music of black origin is built upon. Mud is part of the present but very much a part of the future of the blues. His Pops would be very proudâ¦â¦â¦â¦..

Mud and his UK band have the following UK tour dates:

21st July: SummerTyne Americana Festival, The Sage, Gateshead.
23rd July. The Blues Kitchen, Camden, London.
25th July. Picturedrome, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.
26th July. Hull Jazz festival, Hull truck Theatre.
27th July. Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival.
28th July. Cambridge Folk Festival.
2nd & 3rd August. Notodden Blues Festival, Norway.
30th August. North Sea Jazz Festival in Curacao, Dutch Antilles, Caribbean.

All photos copyright: Simon Redley
Words SIMON REDLEY

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