By Linda Cain
Photo: Lynn Orman Weiss
Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield, the youngest son of blues legend Muddy Waters, passed away unexpectedly on December 10, 2020 at age 56. He suffered a fatal heart attack in his home in Waukegan, Illinois, where he resided with his wife Deborah. The couple were still newlyweds. His passing shocked and devastated his family, friends and fans.
Morganfield decided to follow in his father’s footsteps later in life when he started singing the blues, at first sitting in and later putting together his own group The Mannish Boyz, which included guitarist Rick Kreher, who was a member of the Muddy Waters Band. Mojo and the band performed at the Chicago Blues Festival in 2019. He also joined with his half-brothers Mud Morganfield and Big Bill Morganfield to play the blues during the unveiling ceremony of the colorful, nine-story Muddy Waters mural painted on the side of a building in downtown Chicago in 2017. He released a four song EP, Mojo Risin’, in 2018.
Morganfield had been working in the studio on his debut album for Delmark records with local Grammy-winning producer Michael Freeman. The recording process was put on hold due to the pandemic, but he was able to complete and release one song, “It’s Good To Be King,” which received much airplay and acclaim.
Morganfield was very involved in the effort to save his father’s historic home in Chicago’s Kenwood community from the wrecking ball. In 2019, a nonprofit organization was created, the Muddy Waters Mojo Museum, headed by a team of his relatives, fellow musicians and business people including: Chandra Cooper, Barry Dolins, Kenny Smith, Deitra Farr, Amy Dean and Paul Oscher.
When he passed away, the family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Muddy Waters Mojo Museum dedicated to preserving and transforming Muddy’s home into a community center and museum. (see more below).
You can read a touching celebration of Morganfield’s life with family photos and a recording of Mojo’s debut single HERE.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation awarded a $50,000 grant to help renovate the former home of the late Chicago blues icon Muddy Waters in July 2020.
The 131-year-old building at 4339 S. Lake Park Ave. in the North Kenwood neighborhood had fallen into disrepair after Waters passed away in 1983. In 2013 the vacant and deteriorating building, still owned by family heirs, was slated for the city’s demolition court. Supporters rallied to save the historic residence from destruction and the Muddy Waters Mojo Museum nonprofit was formed in 2019. Plans were made to restore the crumbling building and transform it into a museum, recording studio, cultural center with music classes and events plus a community garden. The $50,000 grant is being used to pay for repairing and stabilizing the building. It will cost an estimated $300,000 to complete the project.
The Mojo Museum just opened an online store to sell merchandise like t-shirts, face masks and coffee mugs to help raise funds. Visit the Mojo Store.
The building where McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) had resided from 1954 until he moved to Westmont in 1973 is an important part of Chicago blues history; it wasn’t only his home, it was the center of musical creativity and friendship where Waters and his fellow musicians rehearsed, jammed and wrote songs together. Bandmates sometimes moved in with Muddy and his family. Famous guests like Mick Jagger dropped by to visit while blues families celebrated birthdays and holidays together.