Thursday, September 29, 2005

John Lee Hooker

I'm reading this John Lee Hooker biography right now, titled Boogie Man - The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century, by Charles Shaar Murray. A good read, I recommend it highly to any fans of the post-WWII blues genre.

The cool thing about Hooker is that, even though he was a peer of BB King, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, and the rest of the great '50 blues players, he didn't really sound like any of them. Perhaps it was because he ended up in Detroit instead of Chicago when he fled Mississippi? I dunno, but he sure left behind a lot of great music for us to enjoy (he died in 2001).

The first time I saw John Lee Hooker was in 1971 at the old Eagles Auditorium in downtown Seattle. I had just come home after three years in the Army. If I recall correctly, the band War (War's harp player, Lee Oskar, currently lives in the Seattle area) was backing him up that night for some reason, and they did a fine job, even inspiring several women to join the band on stage topless.

I saw Hooker two other times: once, around 1979, when my band Nitelife opened up for him and his Coast To Coast Blues Band at a joint in Bellingham, WA , and one other time at the great Jolly Roger Roadhouse in Seattle in the mid-'80s. The band that appeared with him at the Roadhouse was the lesser of the two, in my opinion. But, they were five times louder!

My favorite John Lee Hooker albums are Dimples (Vee Jay), Serves You Right To Suffer (Impulse), and Hooker 'n Heat (Liberty). The last album features Hooker backed up by the band Canned Heat. I just bought a copy of this CD, and it sounds just as good now as it did when it was first released in 1971.

Thanks for the tunes and inspiration, John!

Photo of the Hook by Ronda Lee.

2 comments:

Blues Boss said...

I got to see JLH perform once years ago @ Bumbershoot - in what is now called Key Arena... As I recall the 'CLOUD' in the room that night certainly helped promote enjoyment of the performance!

Tall Cool One said...

I got to hang out the Hook twice. The first time, Tom McFarland and me went out to his motel after both our bands had finished their gigs for the night. Gino Skaggs was playing with Hooker at the time, and he was (along with Jack Myers and Jerry Jemmott) one of my main bass heroes - it was great to do some serious partying with these guys. Then a few years later Guitar Slim opened up for Hook at the old Backstage. The monster guitar player, Luther Tucker, was in the band, and he was telling stories backstage about playing with Little Walter. Also Deacon Jones was on organ - the last time I'd seen him was with Freddie King in Omaha, just before Freddie died and it was an incredible show, which Deacon remembered very well (for the reception they got from the lunatic blues fiends in Nebraska among other things!). Hooker was one of the best. One tip though - NEVER listen to "Madman Blues" on acid!