Son Records A Testimonial To Muddy Water's Electric Blues

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NPR's Linda Wertheimer talks Mud Morganfield, son of blues legend Muddy Waters, along with harmonica great Kim Wilson, about their new album of Muddy music, For Pops: A Tribute to Muddy Waters.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

In the pantheon of electric blues, there is one name that stands high above all others - McKinley Morganfield, a.k.a. Muddy Waters.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIVE THE LIFE I LOVE, I LOVE THE LIFE I LIVE")

MUDDY WATERS: (Singing) See you watching me like a hawk. I don't mind the way you talk. But if you touch me, something's got to give. I life the life I love, and I love the life I live.

WERTHEIMER: Muddy Waters helped transform acoustic southern blues into something modern, preserving the raw emotion while polishing the music. Along the way, he launched a thousand rock 'n roll bands and gave the Rolling Stones their name. It has been more than 30 years since Muddy Waters died. But his music and that voice are very much with us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LIVE THE LIFE I LOVE, I LOVE THE LIFE I LIVE")

MUD MORGANFIELD: (Singing). I see you watching me like a hawk. I don't mind the way you talk. But if you touch me, something's got to give. I live the life I love, and I love the life I live.

WERTHEIMER: Now that is Muddy Waters' eldest son, Mud Morganfield, singing on the new CD "For Pops: A Tribute To Muddy Waters." And Mud Morganfield joins us now from Chicago Public Media. Welcome.

MORGANFIELD: Hello. How are you?

WERTHEIMER: Fine. Thank you. And performing with Mud Morganfield on this tribute is the fabulous harmonic player for the fabulous Thunderbirds, Kim Wilson. He joins us from member Station KPBS in San Diego. And welcome to you.

KIM WILSON: It's nice to be here.

WERTHEIMER: Now Mr. Morganfield, I have to say that hearing you sing is giving goosebumps to blues fans all over the country because you sound so much like your dad.

MORGANFIELD: Yeah. Well, it wasn't nothing I asked for. You now? It's just something between my mom and my dad apparently, though. And it's not a bad thing. It's not a bad thing at all for me.

WERTHEIMER: I wondered if it might be something of a burden to you, also, that you are the son of a legend, that you sound like him. You know, hard to, like, say, OK, this is actually me, not him.

MORGANFIELD: Well, it can be a double edge sword. Let me assure you. I could be doing shows somewhere overseas, and people in the audience will yell out, hey, do "Mojo," do "Manish Boy." And I ran from these blues a long time. And it just caught up with me, and here I am.

WERTHEIMER: Kim Wilson.

WILSON: Yes, ma'am.

WERTHEIMER: I understand that you actually played with Muddy Waters in your early performing days.

WILSON: I did, yes. And it seems like yesterday that he passed away. It's crazy. But I was very close to the man. And he was a very, very generous person to me.

WERTHEIMER: Did he teach you a few things here and there?

WILSON: Not about music.

(LAUGHTER)

WERTHEIMER: I see.

WILSON: We never talked about music. You know, we would talk about a lot of the old guys like Little Walter, of course, and Otis Spann, all the great people that were in his band. And I tried to hang around him as much as I could, you know.

WERTHEIMER: Well, let's go back to the CD and listen to the classic "Still A Fool."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL A FOOL")

MORGANFIELD: (Singing) Well, now there's two. There's two trains running ain't neither one going my way. Well, now one run at midnight and the other one in running just fore day. It running just fore day.

WERTHEIMER: You know, we could be in Chicago in 1951.

WILSON: Yeah.

WERTHEIMER: Mud, I assume that you wanted to put more into this recording than just an imitation of your dad. I wonder, did you listen to your father's recordings? Were you sort of working to get the phrasing the way he did it?

MORGANFIELD: Strange you should ask that because I have people - you so good. You must look at Muddy's videos all day and all night. But I actually never have.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL A FOOL")

MORGANFIELD: (Singing) Sure 'nough I done. Oh, well.

WILSON: If you listen closely, he doesn't sound totally like his dad on this. He's got the same tone. He's got the same timber as his dad had. But he's doing his own thing. And that's one thing you have to realize about this record. It's a tribute, but it's not a knock off.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STILL A FOOL")

MORGANFIELD: (Singing) She's so long and tall. Till she weep like a willow tree. Well, now they say she's no good. But she's all right. She's all right with me.

WERTHEIMER: Mud, you were raised by your mother. Isn't that right?

MORGANFIELD: I was raised by my mother and seven of her brothers actually.

WERTHEIMER: Good Lord. (Laughter). Do you feel like you really got to know your dad?

MORGANFIELD: You know, actually, no, I never really got to know Father. We never got to play ball and different stuff like that. I remember once, I was acting out in school, misbehaving, and my mother called pops. And pops got on the phone. And he's like, I'm going to tear your behind up. I'm on my way right now. And I must have run around my house singing my dad's coming to whoop my behind over and over to my sisters and brothers. I mean, it was just a son wanting to see his dad.

WERTHEIMER: So you were celebrating the possibility?

MORGANFIELD: I mean, how could you celebrate getting your behind whooped?

(LAUGHTER)

WERTHEIMER: I wonder if you could tell me, Mud Morganfield, what it is that you think makes your father's music so enduring?

MORGANFIELD: Deep down inside to those southern feelings and lovers he had encountered and love that he had left. And he sung the blues. You know, he sung about life.

WERTHEIMER: Now we've got time for maybe one more song. And although I have, I guess, we could pick any number of songs, what would you guys think about "Trouble No More"?

MORGANFIELD: I love it. Thank you. Very great choice. It's just so jumping. It's one of my favorites.

WILSON: Sounds good to me.

WERTHEIMER: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TROUBLE NO MORE")

MORGANFIELD: (Singing) Don't care how long you gone. I don't care how long you stayin. 'Cause good, kind treatment will bring you home one day. But someday, baby, you ain't going to trouble poor me anymore.

WERTHEIMER: "For Pops: A Tribute To Muddy Waters." It's the new album featuring Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson. Gentlemen, thank you very much for speaking with us.

MORGANFIELD: Thank you for having us.

WILSON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TROUBLE NO MORE")

MORGANFIELD: (Singing) You are living too fast, but someday, baby, you ain't going to trouble poor me anymore. I'm going to tell everybody in your neighborhood...

WERTHEIMER: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

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