For the record, I had the honor and privledge to actually sit in Mr Morganfield’s kitchen in Westmont once. I was dating a girl who lived down the street from him on Adams Street in the early 1980s . It was a warm summer day and she was not home when I came a calling so as I walked back to my car to leave I saw him in front of his house so I waved. I knew he lived down the block from her, it was one of the first things she excitedly told me when we started going out as the whole block was proud as hell he lived there.
To my amazement he motioned me over and when I came within earshot he asked if I wanted a lemonade. Of course I said yes and we went into the house and into the kitchen to get the lemonade. He asked if I wanted to sit down which I did and at his kitchen table was a mini Fender amp and what looked like a Les Paul gold tone guitar but not being a musician I could not know for sure.
He asked me if I knew about the blues to which I replied I did but acknowledged I was a novice in it’s history and background. It was then I received a musical tutorial for the ages. He played me emotions as riffs.
He would play a somber sounding riff for sadness or heartbreak, another variation represented anger and the tone had a more sinister feel to it as opposed to the more laid back sadness riff. He played variations on these basic themes for about 15 minutes, alternating different chord changes but with the same feel effortlessly, sometimes singing a phrase to emphasize the point of the emotion in delivery.
To say I was in awe was an understatement. The amazing thing to me was the depth of feeling and emotion from seemingly innoculous riffs that his playing reflected. It opened up a new depth to the Blues to me I never knew, an appreciation I embrace to this day.
Later that decade I became good pals with Joe Walsh of the Eagles. In one of our altered conscious interactions (Ahem) I mentioned my experience with Mr Morganfield, who by this time had passed.
Joe Walsh is undoubtedly one of the greatest American guitarists ever but he had a hard time with the Blues for some reason. He brought up Gary Moore and Stevie Ray Vaughn as examples of what he thought were superior guitarists who had a feel for the Blues. He even brought up his friend Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, recounting on how he proudly sold Page the Telecaster guitar that became the core sound of the first Zeppelin albums as he noted even Jimmy only did one real Blues song in their 10 albums “Since I’ve Been Loving You”.
When I told him of the “riff experience” he was enthralled and marveled how a non musician could be in the presence of a master getting that kind of superior input. But when he pulled out a guitar to try to get me to replicate the experience I failed miserably other than describing things similar to what I wrote here. But it is a helluva memory to share as I post this about the Muddy Waters museum