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John Lee Hookers Playlist

1 Wiskey and Women
2 Dimples
3 One Borboun One Scotch One Beer
4 This Is Hip (with ray Cooder)
5 Baby Lee (with Robert Cray)
6 Dazie Mae
7 The Healer (with Carlos Santana)
8 Gamblers Blues

"The blues don't make you poor, the blues don't bring you down. [The] blues is a thing, you get sad, like when things ain't going right... the blues picks you up. Blues is a pick-up, it's not a let-down."---John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker is one of the giants of post-World War II blues, on a par with Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, and Lightnin' Hopkins. Known as the father of the boogie, an incessant one-chord exercise in blues intensity and undying rhythm, Hooker's sound is also a study in deep blues. From his guitar come shadowy tones, open tunings, feverish note clusters, and that familiar chugging rhythm that has been his blues signature-all of which hark back to the music' s formative years.

Hooker also owns one of the most distinctive voices in blues. It reaches down deep and comes together slowly and with careful consideration. It' s soaked with sexuality, spiced with arrogance, and contains layers of weathered, bassy textures. Hear John Lee Hooker once and both his voice and his guitar are thereafter unmistakable and unforgettable.

Unlike the other major blues figures of the late 1940s and 1950s who hailed from Chicago, Texas, or Memphis, Hooker made his mark in Detroit and became the Motor City's biggest blues star. He cut nearly as many recordings as Lightnin' Hopkins the artist many blues historians believe to be the most recorded in the music's history. Because Hooker recorded under a number of pseudonyms to escape contractual obligations, his recording catalog is a confusing maze of albums and singles.

Hooker not only was popular with black blues audiences, but in the early '60s he influenced an entire generation of British blues-rockers. Groups such as the Animals (the band had a major hit in 1964 with Hooker's "Boom Boom"), the Rolling Stones, John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and early Fleetwood Mac all borrowed extensively from Hooker. In the U.S., Canned Heat built much of its late-'60s repertoire from Hooker's boogie rhythms. More recently, blues- rockers such as Johnny Winter and George Thorogood have reinterpreted the Hooker boogie, while Bruce Springsteen made "Boom Boom" one of his concert highpoints in the late '80s.

Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and was taught the basics of blues guitar by his stepfather, Will Moore. As a child, Hooker learned to sing in church, and he professed an interest in religious music, particularly gospel, during adolescence. Sometime around age fifteen, Hooker left the Delta and went to Memphis, where he worked as an usher in a Beale Street theater and played his guitar on street corners for spare change. He returned to Mississippi for a short while but left again, this time for Cincinnati, where he sang in such gospel groups as the Fairfield Four and the Big Six.

Hooker moved to Detroit in 1943, hoping to cash in on assembly-line work there during the height of World War II. He wound up a janitor in an automotive plant and played clubs and house parties in Detroit's black neighborhoods. His recording career began in 1948 when he recorded his seminal blues number, "Boogie Chillen." Released on the Modern label, the song introduced Hooker's penchant for hypnotic, one-chord guitar ramblings and his deep, chilling vocals. "Boogie Chillen" was a throwback to prewar country blues and the antithesis of the slick rhythm & blues that filled out the charts in the years immediately following World War II. Incredibly, "Boogie Chillen" made it all the way to number 1 on the R&B charts in early 1949 and today is considered one of the all-time classic songs in the blues treasury.

Hooker recorded extensively between 1949 and 1952. His blues appeared on a variety of labels under a variety of pseudonyms, including Birmingham Sam, Delta John, Texas Slim, Johnny Lee, John Williams, Boogie Man, and John Lee Booker. Modern released Hooker's classic "Crawlin' Kingsnake"(111 k, 10 sec.) in 1949 and his biggest hit, "I'm in the Mood," in 1951, but other Hooker material surfaced on the Regal, Gone, Staff, and Sensation labels. Despite the name deception, he never changed his sound. Always his guitar work was dark and Delta-laced and deceptively simple in structure Hooker's guitar riffs were also supported by the rhythmic stomping of his feet, which gave many of his songs an increased intensity.

In 1971, Jim Morrison of the Doors recorded a version of Hooker's"Crawlin' King Snake"(112 k, 10 sec.)

Hooker recorded for Chess from 1952 to about 1954; during this time he also toured with Muddy Waters and performed on his own. As in the past, he continued to record for other labels, despite his Chess connection. Hooker songs appeared on the Gotham, Savoy, and Specialty labels, among others. But the label Hooker was most associated with in the late '50s and early '60s was Vee-Jay Records. Hooker stayed with the label until 1964. Two of Hooker's best-known hits from this period, "Dimples" (1956) and "Boom Boom" (1962) had a profound effect on the British blues scene. Oddly, his influence abroad in the early '60s was stronger than it was in the U.S. where he had returned to a solo acoustic blues style in order to take advantage of the growing folk-blues revival going on in cities like New York and San Francisco and on many college campuses.

Hooker continued to record and perform extensively throughout the 1960s; he was at home in either an acoustic or electric format. He toured England and continental Europe in 1962, and performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1960 and 1963 and at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1964. He returned to England and tile Continent every year from 1964 to 1969, while back home in the States he played hip rock clubs like The Scene and Electric Circus in New York as more and more rock fans picked up on his blues.

Hooker left Detroit and moved to Oakland in 1970; that same year he cut the album Hooker 'n' Heat with blues-rock group Canned Heat and further solidified his standing with rock audiences. Hooker also continued to make his own records. From the early '70s came Endless Boogie, Never Get Out of These Blues Alive, and Free Beer and Chicken, to name just some of them. Much of the material on these albums was recycled songs or ideas and boogie rhythms that did little else except keep stores stocked with new John Lee Hooker vinyl.

By the late 1970s, Hooker seemed destined to fade into the blues woodwork. His sound had gone stale and interest in the blues was not yet what it would be later in the 1980s. But Hooker hung on, thanks to the continuous reissue of previously recorded material by labels such as Charly, GNP Crescendo, Chameleon, and Chess. In 1980 Hooker was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame.

Hooker's career continued to sag until 1989 when the Chameleon label released The Healer, an album of newly recorded material produced by Hooker's former guitarist Roy Rogers. The Healer included a guest appearance by longtime Hooker fan Bonnie Raitt, plus other cameos from Carlos Santana, Robert Cray, George Thorogood, and others. To the surprise of Hooker and everyone else, The Healer not only sold better than any other Hooker album had and earned many enthusiastic reviews, but it also won a Grammy Award for best blues recording. Suddenly Hooker was hot. In early 1990 he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Later that year he was honored at a special tribute concert in New York' s Madison Square Garden that featured Raitt, Joe Cocker, Huey Lewis, Ry Cooder, Bo Diddley, Mick Fleetwood, Gregg Allman, Al Kooper, Johnny Winter, Willie Dixon, Albert Collins, and others.

Before year's end, Hooker signed with Point Blank/Charisma Records, and for an encore he and Rogers cut Mr. Lucky, which, like its predecessor, was stocked with big-name guests (Collins, Cooder, Cray, Winter, Santana, Van Morrison, John Hammond, Jr., Keith Richards, and others). It, too, registered impressive sales and reviews, although on most tracks Hooker took a backseat to his admirers or else wasn't able to work up enough steam to get his husky vocals out in front of all the layers of instrumentation.

Hooker currently lives outside of Los Angeles. He continues to record and tour, and, with B.B. King, shares the honor of being elder statesman of the blues.