John Lee Hooker, Boogie with the Blues


Hooker
(in 1940)
Date: 
Tue, 1920-08-17

*On this date in 1917, John Lee Hooker was born. He was an African American blues singer and pioneer of the art form.

The Hook (as he is sometimes called) was a Clarkdale, Mississippi native. His stepfather, Will Moore, planted the beginnings for his eerily mournful guitar sound while John Lee was in his teens. Hooker had been singing spirituals before that, but the blues took hold and never let go. Traditional symbols left their mark on the style in youth, too; legends like Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, and Blind Blake, who all knew Moore.

Hooker tried out Memphis while he was still in his teens, but he couldn't gain much of a foothold there. So he relocated to Cincinnati for seven years before making the big move to the Motor City in 1943. Here he became one of the best on the Detroit blues circuit following World War II. Work was plentiful, but Hooker drifted away from day gigs in favor of playing his unique free-form brand of blues. A mushrooming club scene along Hastings Street played in favor of his talents. In 1948, an aspiring Hooker with entrepreneur Bernie Besman, who helped him produce his solo debut releases, Sally Mae and Boogie Chillen.

This was blues as primitive as anything then on the market; only his own ringing, heavily amplified guitar and insistently pounding foot backed Hooker’s dark, ruminative vocals. The rest was history in the making, with recordings with Canned Heat, Bonnie Raitt, and classic solo albums ongoing Hooker keeps boogieing on. He was beloved worldwide as the king of the endless boogie, a genuine blues superstar whose droning, hypnotic one-chord grooves are at once both ultra-primitive and timeless. John Lee Hooker has recorded in a great many more styles than that over a career that stretches back more than half a century.

In his later years, he did some advertising for television, played in club settings mainly, usually dropping in unannounced. John Lee Hooker lived in Long beach, California and died on June 21, 2001.

Reference:
Nothing But the Blues The Music and the Musicians
Edited by Lawrence Cohn
Copyright 1993 Abbeville Publishing Group, New York
ISBN 1-55859-271-7

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Hooker, John Lee

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