A Little Muddy

Big Bill Morganfield sounds an awful lot like his dad

The people that helped me learn. Eric Clapton was a big influence on me because he had a book, that Unplugged thing. And I had the video. I was really able to learn a whole bunch from that. And Elmore James . . . Bob Margolin, of course, taught me a lot of things about the guitar. B.B. King. I love B.B. King's music because to me, it's closer to R&B than the rootsy blues stuff. I like Long John Hunter, Jimmy Reed, Junior Wells, on and on. You name it. I like all those guys that had those good hit songs.

Do you still listen to the old Motown stuff, too?

No! [laughs] It's weird; it's like I made a transformation. I hear it, but I don't seek it out like I used to. I was a DJ, and I had probably every R&B album of that era that came out. I don't really listen to it anymore.

Is it weird trying to make that cultural transformation? I mean, here's your dad, a guy who grew up on a plantation in Mississippi who wasn't an educated man. And then here's his son who grew up in a big city and earned two college degrees. Is it hard to relate to the cultural aspect of what he was doing?

Not at all because that is my culture. If I trace my roots, those are my roots. I think it's important for a man to understand where he came from.

When you're playing with your dad's old backup band, what's their reaction to you like? Is there a sense of déjà vu to them?A: Oh, absolutely. I think they can speak to that better than I can. They played with him, and they play with me. We were playing in South Carolina last weekend, and for some reason, my slide guitar playing got really, really hot that night. I was throwing out some notes I'd never even done before, and Bob looked at me and pointed up to the heavens, like it was coming from my dad. At what point does Big Bill Morganfield turn into Julian Lennon and start getting pissed off and bitter about the constant comparisons to your father?

[laughs] Yeah, well, you know, I'm completely proud of my dad and the things that he accomplished. So I decided when I put my first blues album out that it would be as a dedication to him. Then from there, I think he'll be proud for me to take it and go a little bit further. That's what I'm trying to do now. I'm writing tunes for my next album. I want this album to be like Saturday night in the Delta. I want to do some Delta blues, but I want it to be original Delta blues. I think that will really say something, if I can take that music and put my own spin to it, take it a little bit further.

Big Bill Morganfield performs with Bob Margolin at the Blue Cafe, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111; www.thebluecafe.com. Sat., 9 p.m. $8. 21+.
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