By Michael Swanger
Chicago bluesman Maurice John Vaughn’s wide-ranging talents as a multi-instrumentalist (guitar, keyboards, but no saxophone on this night), singer, humorist and selfless bandleader melded together during his performance at the Maintenance Shop on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames on March 28.
The 65-year-old musician and his experienced band comprised of the sons of blues legends Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Eddie Taylor — singer Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield (Waters’ youngest son who played basketball in the early 1980s at the University of Northern Iowa), bassist-singer Freddie Dixon (who performs and records with Willie Dixon’s Original Chicago Blues All Stars) and drummer Tim Taylor (formerly of Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang), respectively — delivered nearly two hours of traditional Windy City blues to the enjoyment of an audience comprised of middle-age blues fans and college students.
Vaughn, who started his career in 1968 playing in Chicago R&B bands before immersing himself in the city’s legendary blues scene during the 1970s as a sideman for Phil Guy, Luther Allison, Son Seals, A.C. Reed and Valerie Wellington, performed a number of original songs at the M-Shop, mixed with a few classic covers. Most notably, were two tunes from his 1984 Alligator Records reissue “Generic Blues Album” — “Computer Took My Job” and his tribute to blues icon Howlin’ Wolf on “Wolf Bite,” in which he engaged the audience to howl the song’s chorus. Some of the noteworthy covers included Dixon singing his father’s classic song “You Shook Me,” made famous by Waters and Led Zeppelin, as well as Vaughn’s nod to another former employer of his on Detroit Junior’s “Call My Job.” Morganfield paid tribute to his father with renditions of “Mannish Boy” and “Got My Mojo Working” (which Waters first popularized in 1957, but did not write, as most blues fans might assume). The four bluesmen closed the show with an encore cover of “Sweet Home Chicago,” driven by Taylor’s deep-pocket shuffle and Vaughn’s ring-in-a-bell guitar tone.