Friday, December 12, 2008

John Lee Hooker - Father of the Boogie


John Lee Hooker (August 22, 1917 – June 21, 2001) was an influential American post-war blues singer, guitarist, and songwriter born in Coahoma County near Clarksdale, Mississippi. From a musical family, he was a cousin of Earl Hooker. John was also influenced by his stepfather, a local blues guitarist, who learned in Shreveport, Louisiana to play a droning, one-chord blues that was strikingly different from the Delta blues of the time.[1] John developed a half-spoken style that was his trademark. Though similar to the early Delta blues, his music was rhythmically free. John Lee Hooker could be said to embody his own unique genre of the blues, often incorporating the boogie-woogie piano style and a driving rhythm into his masterful and idiosyncratic blues guitar and singing. His best known songs include "Boogie Chillen" (1948) and "Boom Boom" (1962).Throughout the 1930s, Hooker lived in Memphis where he worked on Beale Street and occasionally performed at house parties.[1] He worked in factories in various cities during World War II, drifting until he found himself in Detroit in 1948 working at Ford Motor Company. He felt right at home near the blues venues and saloons on Hastings Street, the heart of black entertainment on Detroit's east side. In a city noted for its piano players, guitar players were scarce. Performing in Detroit clubs, his popularity grew quickly, and seeking a louder instrument than his crude acoustic guitar, he bought his first electric guitar.Hooker's recording career began in 1948 when his agent placed a demo disc, made by Hooker, with the Bihari brothers, owners of the Modern Records label. The company initially released an up-tempo number, "Boogie Chillen", which became Hooker's first hit single.[1] Though they were not songwriters, the Biharis often purchased or claimed co-authorship of songs that appeared on their labels, thus securing songwriting royalties for themselves, in addition to their streams of income.Despite being illiterate, Hooker was a prolific lyricist. In addition to adapting the occasionally traditional blues lyric (such as "if I was chief of police, I would run her right out of town"), he freely invented many of his songs from scratch. Recording studios in the 1950s rarely paid black musicians more than a pittance, so Hooker would spend the night wandering from studio to studio, coming up with new songs or variations on his songs for each studio.Hooker recorded over 100 albums.Hooker's guitar playing is closely aligned with piano Boogie Woogie. He would play the walking bass pattern with his thumb, stopping to emphasize the end of a line with a series of trills, done by rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs. The songs that most epitomize his early sound are "Boogie Chillen", about being 17 and wanting to go out to dance at the Boogie clubs, "Baby Please Don't Go", a blues standard first recorded by Big Joe Williams, and "Tupelo Blues", a stunningly sad song about the flooding of Tupelo, Mississippi in April 1936.He maintained a solo career, popular with blues and folk music fans of the early 1960s and crossed over to white audiences, giving an early opportunity to the young Bob Dylan. As he got older, he added more and more people to his band, changing his live show from simply Hooker with his guitar to a large band, with Hooker singing.His vocal phrasing was less closely tied to specific bars than most blues singers'. This casual, rambling style had been gradually diminishing with the onset of electric blues bands from Chicago but, even when not playing solo, Hooker retained it in his sound.Though Hooker lived in Detroit during most of his career, he is not associated with the Chicago-style blues prevalent in large northern cities, as much as he is with the southern rural blues styles, known as delta blues, country blues, folk blues, or "front porch blues". He lived the last years of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area, where, in 1997, he opened a nightclub called "John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room", after one of his hits.He fell ill just before a tour of Europe in 2001 and died soon afterwards at the age of 83. His use of an electric guitar tied together the Delta blues with the emerging post-war electric blues.

1 comment:

Diatton said...

I consider him as the best bluesman, ever! I have been listening him since 1981!