Born on August 22, south of Clarksdale, in Coahoma County, close to
Highway 49 in Mississippi; son to sharecropper and spare-time
preacher William Hooker (born 1871 or even earlier; died according
to some files in 1923, other information says much later) and Minnie Ramsey
(probably born 1875; died around 1950). They raise a family of eleven children (not
The Hooker family moves to the nearby Fewell plantation in Vance,
1922 or 1926
Hooker's parents separate and John's mother remarries to sharecropper and spare-time blues singer
William Moore. John Lee is the only child of
the Hooker's who moves with his mother to Moore's farm in Lambert (also near
Starts to play the guitar seriously. John had been given a guitar as a present from Delta blues singer Tony
Hollins earlier and a new guitar from Moore now. John is inspired
by Moore (who plays with Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and
After a couple of earlier trips to Memphis (to stay with an aunt´s),
Hooker definately leaves Mississippi for Memphis, Tennessee.
Arrives in Cincinnati, Ohio - singing the gospel and the blues (after
a short spell in Knoxville, Tennessee).
Joins the Army
forces near Detroit - and later possibly travelling South again
(rumour says he even went to New Orleans and Alabama).
Settles in Detroit, Michigan, working as a janitor and playing the
blues at night. Short-lived marriage
with Alma Hopes - one daughter,
and yet another failed marriage with Sarah Jones (divorced 1944).
Meets and soon marries Maude Mathis (around 16 at the time) - a marriage
lasting for 25 years. Their first child, Diane, born on November 24,
1946 - the second
Vera (later known as Zakiya) born on April 1, 1948 - and more to
come, including John Lee Jr (in January, 1952) and Robert (in July,
1953). Later came daughters Karen, and Shyvonna, plus Lavetta
Receiving yet another guitar - this time from T-Bone Walker, who like
many others called Johnnie, "The Kid". Settles in a rooming house on
Madison Street and finds more club works around Hastings Street,
jamming with Eddie Burns and his partner John T. Smith, and with
guitarist Andrew Dunham in clubs like the Forest Inn and Club Basin,
and with his own small combo featuring James Watkins,pno and Curtis
Hooker´s first manager, Elmer Barbee, records several demos during the
Summer in Barbee's record shop (and also "Miss Sadie Mae" in Toledo). Barbee brings the demos to record producer
Bernie Besman around September and Besman produces Hooker´s first
commercial recordings at United Sound Studios on 5840 2nd Blvd -
with Joe Siracuse the engineer (a total of 10 tracks - plus
alternates - are cut at this first regular session). Besman leases the recordings to the
Bihari Brothers´ Hollywood-stationed label Modern Records as John
Lee Hooker & His Guitar. On November 3, the first Hooker single is
issued, titled "Boogie Chillen´" - which actually is the B-side of
"Sally May". That same month Hooker starts "moon-lighting", as
manager Barbee sells several recordings to Detroit producer Joe Von
Battle - the first pseudonym record being "Black Man Blues",
released as Texas Slim on King Records in November or December -
other recordings, which Barbee sells to Battle are resold from
Battle to Savoy and its subsidiary Regent (Regent´s "Goin´ Mad
Blues" as by Delta John and Savoy´s "Low Down Midnite Boogie" as by
Birmingham Sam are issued during February and March 1949). The
pseudonym records will continue to appear on the market during
Hooker´s years with Modern Records. Hooker lives with his family at
Jameson Street off of McClellan and Charlevois in Detroit.
"Boogie Chillen´" hits the Race Records Juke Box Chart #1 in February.
"Hobo Blues" b/w "Hoogie Boogie" (the latter cut
at Hooker's second session for Besman, probably on February 18), issued in March (both hit the Race
Records Chart, #5 and #9), "Weeping Willow Boogie" and later
"Crawling King Snake" become Hooker´s Modern Records three follow-up
78s. The latter, peaking at the new R&B Chart #6 in December, is
coupled with "Drifting From Door To Door" (which is actually a
re-titling of one of Barbee´s first demos, "When My First Wife Left
Me"). Barbee´s production for the tiny Danceland label is issued (as
by Little Pork Chops), but noone recognizes the record (Barbee also
cuts a Hooker demo of "Cotton Pickin´ Boogie" with James Watkins
at the piano - as all Barbee-recordings waxed at 609
Lafayette Street). Around August Joe Von Battle (who records Hooker
in his shop - Joe´s Record Shop at 3530 Hastings Street) cuts
several Hooker tracks as Texas Slim for King Records (the first
issues being "The Numbers" and "Nightmare Blues"). In November and
December Besman issues the first two of several singles on the local
Detroit label Sensation Records, "Burnin´ Hell" (featuring Eddie
Burns on harmonica) and "Huckle Up Baby" (the latter record peaks at
the R&B Chart #15 in February 1950).
Several Texas Slim recordings are issued on King (sold to the label by
Joe Von Battle - with two of the tracks recorded by Idessa Malone).
"House Rent Boogie" c/w a terrific rendition of "Wandering Blues"
(based on Charles Brown´s classic "Driftin´ Blues" and which Hooker
had recorded in several versions earlier), produced by Idessa Malone
on Staff Records, is issued in December as by Johnny Williams and in
March 1951 Modern release the Besman produced record of the boogie
("John L´s House Rent Boogie"). Around the end of the year an
obscure record on Gone Records surfaces as by John Lee Booker and
his Guitar, titled "Mad Man Blues", recorded by Joe Von Battle,
where Hooker calls himself Sam (on previous pirate recordings Hooker
had often called himself Poor Joe, Poor Slim, and Poor Tony). The
single will be reissued during 1951 on Chess Records.
Resigns a contract with Bernie Besman up to February 29, 1952
(although Besman´s last recording session for Modern is dated May
22, 1952). Hooker records several titles as by Johnny Williams for
Gotham in the early part of the year (or possibly in late 1950) - a Philadelphia label - although the recordings are done in
Detroit - possibly by Joe Von Battle. The last Gotham single
though, "Mean Old Train", issued with the obvious pseudonym John Lee
in March 1952. Hooker records direct for Chess Records in Chicago on April 26, issued as John Lee Booker during
the latter part of the year (a.o. "Leave My Wife Alone"). On some of
the tracks Hooker is accompanied by Eddie Kirkland. The original
"I´m In The Mood" (with - probably again - Eddie Kirkland on second
guitar) is recorded with multi-vocal-tracks on August 7 by Besman
and becomes a great hit (reaching US Pop #30 and hitting the R&B
Juke Box Chart #1 in November - the hit lasts into 1952). In October
Chess Records issue "Ground Hog Blues" (a new version of an unissued
recording originally done for Gotham) c/w "Louise" as by John Lee
Booker. Several early Barbee-recordings appear on the Chicago-based
label Chance during lat 1951 and early 1952 as by John Lee Booker
and his Guitar, including the fine "Talkin' Boogie".
Modern Records go to court, winning the right to reissue the
Chess-recording "Ground Hog Blues" b/w "Louise" on their label (now
issued as by John L´ Hooker in January). Hooker debuts as a radio DJ
and tours with Eddie Kirkland and with Muddy Waters in the South. On
April 24 Hooker waxes a second huge Chess session (this time
probably in Detroit). "High Priced Woman" from the Chess productions of April
1951 is issued, followed by "Walking The Boogie" c/w "Sugar Mama"
from the 1952 session - but most tracks from the second session, a.o. "The
Journey", will not be issued until the LP market is hitting Europe
during the early 1960s. During the Summer Bernie Besman moves to Los
Angeles and the Biharis decide to produce Hooker themselves from now
on (with Joe Bihari travelling to Detroit to cut records - still
with Bernie´s engineer Joe Siracuse in the studios). Besman´s last
Hooker production will be "It´s My Own Fault" (issued a couple of
years later on Chess, featuring Bob Thurman,pno) and Modern Records´
first Bihari-productions will result in the single "Rock House
Boogie" c/w "It´s Been A Long Time Baby".
Eddie Kirkland is featured on most of the Hooker recordings of 1953
(one of the best Modern cuts is "Down Child"). Hooker continues his
pirate recordings - now making several singles, a.o. "Stuttering
Blues", for Henry Stone on DeLuxe (prob. in Cincinnati) as by John
Lee Booker (the recordings will re-appear on the Stone-associated
labels Rockin´ and Chart during 1954 and 1956).
Signs a contract with Specialty Records and makes recordings for that
label at Esquire Recordings Studios in May, produced by Johnny
Vincent (a.o. the single "I´m Mad" and a new version of Hooker´s
signature melody, "Boogie Rambler", featuring Johnny Hooks,tens;
John Griffith,pno; Theo Roosevelt,b; and regular drummer Tom
Whitehead). A second Specialty session is held at United Sounds
(where Besman had made his recordings) in October, produced by
Besman´s engineer Joe Siracuse. The recordings from that session
will remain unissued until the 1970s. Although contracted to
Specialty Hooker continues to record for Modern into 1955 (and makes recordings for Devora Brown´s Fortune Records).
His last Modern single, "I´m Ready" (with Otis Finch,tens; Thurman,
Kirkland, and Whitehead) is issued in October and Hooker signs with
the Chicago label Vee-Jay Records, owned by Vivian Carter and her
brother Jimmy Bracken - the first single, "Mambo Chillun", is issued
in November (featuring Jimmy Reed,hca - and recorded at Universal
The classic "Dimples" is recorded in Chicago for Vee-Jay in March
(with a combined Chicago/Detroit rhythm section comprising Eddie
Taylor,gtr; George Washington,b; and Whitehead,dms).
Becomes an established Vee-Jay artist, recording a.o. the fine "I See
Yu When You´re Weak" (although his label-mate Jimmy
Reed is selling better).
"I Love You Honey" on Vee-Jay Records hits the R&B Chart #29 in
December (featuring Detroit-pianist Joe (Edward) Hunter plus Eddie
Taylor,gtr; Everett McCrary,b; and Richard Johnson,dms).
Jaques Demetre and Marcel Chauvard "introduce" Hooker to Europe´s
record buyers, and
The first Vee-Jay LP, "I´m John Lee Hooker", is issued (including
several re-cuts of his famous Modern hits and with some tracks
featuring drummer Earl Phillips). Vee-Jay "lease" Hooker for a
couple of "country blues" acoustic albums to Riverside (actually
Hooker´s first album sessions), recording his first version of
"Tupelo Blues" on "The Country Blues of John Lee Hooker" (reissued
with several retitlings, a.o. "The Folk Blues of JLH").
Chess Records issue the classic Hooker album comprising
1951-52 recordings, "House Of The Blues", and follow it up with
"John Lee Hooker Plays And Sings the Blues" in 1961.
The first Crown budget album, "The Blues", hits the markets (including
Hooker´s Detroit-recorded classic Besman and Modern titles). In
the years to come three more Crown albums will surface (later
reissued several times on the Biharis´ other budget labels
United and Custom). A second Riverside album, the highly
appreciated "That´s My Story", with several tracks featuring a
rhythm section (Sam Jones,b; and Louis Hayes,dms) is issued (including
the great "Gonna Use My Rod", in later versions known as "I´m
Mad Again" and "I´m Bad Like Jesse James"). In 1964 (but only in
England) a third Riverside LP, "Burning Hell", from the 1959
session will be issued. Hooker waxes his wonderful Vee-Jay album
"Travelin´" in March, including a.o. the first version of
"Whiskey And Wimmen" (with a trio led by guitarist Lefty Bates
plus Sylvester Hickman,b; and Jimmy Turner,dms). Hooker and
Muddy Waters are the true blues artists on the second annual
Newport Folk Festival in June. In July one of the singles from
the "Travelin´" LP, "No Shoes", hits the R&B Hot Chart #21. JLH cuts several pirate
tracks for Fortune in Detroit (who also had recorded him around
King Records issue "John Lee Hooker
Sings Blues" late this year, comprising 12 old Texas Slim recordings (with dubbed
drums and echo on a couple of tracks - plus 4 tracks by Earl Hooker,
wrongly credited John - although with the track titles as on the
remaining Texas Slim recordings).
The third Vee-Jay LP, "The Folk Lore of John Lee Hooker" is issued,
featuring a.o. a handful of tuff rhythm & blues originals with Lefty
Bates,gtr & hca (not Jimmy Reed, but Lefty himself); Quinn Wilson,b;
Earl Phillips;dms and possibly Pops Staples also present. The six
recordings of January 4 (of which only four are included on the
album) are nowadays all true classics: "Want Ad Blues", "Will The
Circle Be Unbroken", "I´m Going Upstairs", "I Left My Baby", "Hard
Headed Woman", "I´m Mad Again". Bob Dylan debuts in New York - opening for Hooker at Gerde´s Folk City. Hooker uses Eddie Kirkland
to back him on an album recording for Savoy (Fancourt lists the
session in 1959). The recordings stayed in the can and were not
issued until more than ten years
later as "Sittin´ Here Thinkin´" on Muse - only one track, "When
My Wife Quit Me", was to be issued on a Savoy various-artists LP
Hooker records his "Burnin´" LP in Chicago around Christmas for
Vee-Jay with Detroit musicians including reeds (session-men: Joe Hunter
(prob not Ivy Jo),pno; Hank Cosby,tens; Mike Terry,bars; Larry Veeder,gtr;
James Jamerson,bsg; Benny Benjamin,dms) after a long period of "folk
"Boom Boom" (from "Burnin´") hits US Pop #60 in July (and the Hot R&B
Chart #16). Vee-Jay issue "The Best of JLH" (a compilation
of his 1955-1961 period in Chicago). Hooker tours Europe with the Original
American Folk Blues Festival package (including T-Bone Walker,
Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon).
"The Big Soul of John Lee Hooker"
album on Vee-Jay, featuring "Frisco Blues", is issued (with a female backing - not the Vandellas but
Mary Wilson and the Andantes).
Atco Records issue the album "Don´t Turn Me From Your Door" in
February (featuring Henry Stone DeLuxe tracks of 1953 and new
recordings of 1961, the latter ones recorded in Miami), where one
really can trace Hooker´s gospel roots (and in 1969 Stax Records
find more Stone tracks of 1961 to issue on "That´s Where It´s At!" -
some of them previously issued on Guest Star and Storyville). Hooker
refers to the electric bass player featured on several of the tracks
as "Earl". John Lee again uses the soon-to-be-famous Detroit "Motown"
musicians to back him on half of the tracks of the Vee-Jay "On
Campus" album, featuring "Don´t Look Back" (including reeds, rhythm
- and brass - and this time possibly The Vandellas). Another classic
from that LP is "Birmingham Blues". JLH cuts several tracks at the
Newport Folk Festival originally issued on Vee-Jay ("Concert At
Newport") and remixed at Vanguard Records in 2002 ("Live At
Makes his last session for Vee-Jay Records in early/mid-year,
including the original version of "It Serves Me Right (To Suffer)"
(featuring a lead guitarist who may be Wayne Bennett). Kent Records
(a Bihari label) issue "Original Folk Blues", comprising famous
Modern tracks. Hooker tours Britain with John Mayall and a UK issue
of "Dimples" reaches UK Pop #23 and he plays it on "Ready Steady Go"
TV. Hooker also waxes an album with Tony McPhee´s Groundhogs in
London in November. The album will appear on several labels under
several titles years later, although the most well-known are "...
And Seven Nights" on Verve-Folkways in 1965 and four years later the
brass-dubbed "On The Waterfront" on Wand.
Vee-Jay, who soon will go bankrupt, issue "Is He The World´s Greatest
Blues Singer?" (covering ten years of Sir John Lee Hooker in
Chicago). Johnnie tours The American Folk Blues Festival again (this
time with a.o. Buddy Guy and Fred Below - and visits Britain for the
fourth time) and later that year signs with ABC Records in the US -
the first LP being "It Serve(s) You Right To Suffer" on the
jazz-subsidiary Impulse Records, recorded in New York in November by
Bob Thiele with a rhythm section comprising Barry Galbraith,gtr;
Milt Hinton,b; and Panama Francis,dms.
The legendary T-Bone Walker and Johnny Otis producer Ralph Bass (who
produced several 1960s Chess recordings and albums, and refusing to
cut n stereo) records Hooker
for Chess in Chicago in May (including Lafayette Leake,pno; old
Detroit friend Eddie Burns,gtr; unknown bg; and Fred Below or S.P.
"The Real Folk Blues" is issued later that year (featuring the now
famous "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"). Almost 30 years later
"More Real Folk Blues - The Missing Album" from that same session is
The first ABC-Bluesway album by Hooker is issued, "Live at the Café au
Go-Go" (featuring the Muddy Waters Blues Band in August 1966, who
back him on a.o. the first version of "I´ll Never Get Out Of These
Blues Alive"). The British issue of "House of the Blues" (featuring
1951-52 Hooker Chess tracks) reaches UK Pop #34 - and Hooker visits
Britain in June.
The award-winning Bluesway album "Urban Blues" (including the original
"Mr. Lucky") is issued, recorded in Chicago during September and
November 1967 by Al Smith (musicians: Eddie Kirkland, Wayne Bennett
and prob also Buddy Guy, guitars; Phil Upchurch and Eddie
Taylor,bsgtrs; Al Duncan,dms; and Louis Myers,hca). Galaxy Records
(who already had come up with a Besman recorded Los Angeles LP,
simply titled "John Lee Hooker" with "I Lost My Job") issue "Live At
Sugar Hill", cut in November 1962 in San Francisco. A second volume
will be issued on Ace Records in England in 1972 (the two volumes
reissued on a Fantasy 2-LPset as "Boogie Chillun") and in 2002 a
true Vol. 2 with further unissued tracks appears on a Fantasy CD.
Hooker tours Europe in October with Walter Horton, T-Bone Walker and
Another award-winning Bluesway album, "Simply The Truth", is issued
(recorded in New York by Bob Thiele during September 17-18, 1968 with Ernie
Hayes,pno; Wally Richardson,gtr; William Folwell,b; and Bernard
"Pretty" Purdie,dms; plus the unknown Hele Rosenthal,hca). The Stax
LP "That´s Where It´s At!" hits the market with 1961 Henry Stone
material plus one new-recorded track featuring blue-eyed soulster
Steve Alaimo (who had helped Stone produce soul records in Miami
from the mid 1960s). The Bluesway album "If You Miss ´Im ... I Got
´Im" is recorded in May in Los Angeles, where Hooker is backed by
cousin Earl Hooker and his band with Jeff Carp,hca (Earl dies in
Chicago on April 21, 1970). Hooker tours Europe again (which he has
done every year since 1962), this time recording French material
enough for more than three albums - some featuring a backing
supplied by Lowell Fulson,gtr; Carey Bell,b (not hca); and S.P.
Leary,dms. Back home in the U.S. he settles in California (after
separating from wife Maude).
At lease from ABC Hooker finds himself recording - in May again - with
Canned Heat in Los Angeles for Liberty (featuring the young
harmonica-player Al Wilson - who dies shortly after), and headlines
the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival in August (with Buddy Guy and
In April the Liberty double-LP "Hooker ´N Heat" reaches US Pop #77,
and another double-LP recorded in San Francisco in November 1970,
"Endless Boogie", is issued on ABC (featuring a.o. Mark Naftalin,
Cliff Coulter, Steve Miller, Mel Brown; plus Hooker´s regulars Gino
Skaggs,b; and Ken Swank,dms). The album reaches US #126. The editor
of this web site publishes a John Lee Hooker albums guide in the
Swedish blues magazine "Jefferson". Kent Records re-issue Hooker´s
first Crown-album, this time as "The Greatest Hits of JLH".
Bernie Besman issues the 2-set LP "Johnny Lee" on Greene Bottle packed
with never-before-issued alternates of Besman´s Detroit-productions
of 1948-1952 (these alternates are yet to be issued on regular CD).
It is not the first "alternate" Besman issue. Specialty Records and
United Artists had already come up with three LPs during 1970-71
("Alone" and "Goin´ Down Highway 51" on Specialty and "Coast To
Coast Blues Band - Any Where Any Time Any Place" on United Artists).
The ABC album "Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive" (including the
title track duet with Van Morrison, recorded in September 1971)
reaches US Pop #130. Again Hooker is backed by famous rock musicians
together with regulars Robert Hooker,pno; and Luther Tucker,gtr (who
had played with Little Walter and Sonny Boy).
The 3-set LP "John Lee Hooker´s Detroit" on United Artists is issued
(comprising further alternate Besman titles of 1948-1952 plus a
couple of Besman 1961 recordings). Polydor (leased from King in
Nashville) issue "Slim´s Stomp", compiled by Dave Sax - based on the
old King "Sings Blues" and Ember album (with that great photo by
Valerie Wilmer). This new issue includes all 16 of Johnnie´s Texas
Slim recordings of 1948-1950 - and undubbed. ABC issue "Born In
Mississippi, Raised Up In Tennessee", where the rock musicians of
September 1971 get dubbings added in March via brass, horns and
Dynasty Records (reactivated Vee-Jay) issue the album "In Person",
which includes Hooker´s last session for Vee-Jay, produced by Al
Smith ten years earlier. Ed Michel produces the underrated, and last
ABC album, "Free Beer And Chicken", recorded in Sausolito and Los
Angeles May 14-23 (this time with the brass direct behind Hooker -
no dubs). Among the tracks: the funky "Homework" with Howard Roberts
and Wah-Wah Watson,gtrs; Cliff Coulter, synthesisers and bsgtr; plus
Ron Beck,dms. The album also features Joe Cocker,vocals; Don
"Sugarcane" Harris and Michael White,violins; and a.o. Robert Hooker
and Luther Tucker. On September 6 Hooker performs at the Ann Arbor
Blues and Jazz Festival along with among others James Brown and B.
The days of "The Live Wildrness" - Hooker spends most of his days
touring and making live recordings (ABC-Bluesway had already come up
with two live-albums of 1971 and 1972 - the second one featuring
vocals by John Lee Hooker, Jr.). Hooker, solo or with his "Coast to
Coast Blues Band" (featuring a.o. Jim Kahr,gtr) appears on several
live albums, recorded in New York ("Alone"), Germany, Chicago,
Colorado, Houston, and Oklahoma during the years 1976 to 1984.
Vee-Jay International issue the
"Gold" 2-set LP in a short-lived Vintage series (it is actually a
re-issue of two original VJ albums - "I´m John Lee Hooker" and "The
DJM of UK issue a superb double-LP titled "Dimples", featuring a
1955-1959 chronology of Hooker´s Vee-Jay recordings, making several
titles available on LP for the first time - and also including a
couple of never-before-issued songs (one with Otis Finch,tensax and
one with Frankie Bradford,pno). "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"
is recorded live in Chicago and later issued on an Albert King
Tomato CD featuring live recordings ("I'll Play The Blues For You").
Tomato Records issue a 1977 Palo Alto, California live-recorded
double-LP, "The Cream" (featuring a.o. John Garcia Jnr and Ron
Hooker appears with Lightnin´ Hopkins and Big Mama Thornton at New
York´s Carnegie Hall.
Inducted into the Blues Foundation´s very first Hall Of Fame. Featured as one of
many fine cameo artists in the movie "The Blues Brothers". Charly
Records in UK start to reissue most of Hooker´s Vee-Jay recordings,
marketing several new album packages during the early 1980s (they
also find several unissued tracks).
Records with Canned Heat again (this time for Rhino in Venice,
California - live) together with The Chambers Brothers.
Records several tracks for an album (with a.o. Deacon Jones,organ and
Mike Osborn,guitar) in Vancouver, Canada. The LP will not appear on
the market until 1986 on Pausa (reissued on Pointblank in the late
´90s), titled "Jealous".
Hooker works on in the "Live Wilderness" with concerts all over the
The Bihari's sell their catalogue to Kamp Associates after a long
legal dispute over the ownership of the John Lee Hooker Modern
masters. Later the Duck Soup Music Group purchases the Modern
catalogue. Today Ace Records in London have the rights to the Bihari
labels (Virgin in the US) - although Besman's (and even John Lee's)
estates have the rights to several early masters.
The Spielberg movie "The Color Purple" features Hooker´s music and
Hooker records "We´ll Meet Again" in Redwood City, California to be
featured on the "Jealous" album.
Krazy Kat in England issue the LP "Detroit Blues 1950 - 1951", with
nine Gotham tracks of 1951 (including three originally unissued)
plus the Johnny Williams Staff single of 1950 ("House Rent Boogie"
c/w "Wandering Blues", which had been reissued on Gotham) and five
tracks by Eddie Burns. An album covering the Hooker tracks appears
on U.S. Collectables "Gotham Golden Classics - The Rare Recordings".
Hooker records with Canned Heat again in January and in October a
re-rendition of "Baby Lee", featuring Robert Cray, is produced by
Roy Rogers and recorded at Russian Hill in San Francisco by engineer
Samuel Lehmer (who will engineer most of Hooker´s later recordings).
The recordings will be featured on "The Healer" album of 1989.
Finds himself a new manager, Mike Kappus. The new association
had started slow already in 1976 (when Kappus started to be Hooker's
agent) but - from now - incredible things will happen - with the Blue Rose organization (Kappus, Roy Rogers and
JLH) and the Rosebud Agency - giving Hooker a completely "new
career" after more than 40 years in business.
Roy Rogers produces several titles with guest artists including Carlos
Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Los Lobos and George Thorogood in and around
San Francisco during April and May - completing the album that in
the year-to-come will make Hooker quite a rich man.
Bernie Besman issues "40th Anniversary Album" on DCC (comprising
re-titlings of old Besman Detroit-tracks). In the UK the album is
issued a year later on Demon as "The Detroit Lion". Hooker waxes
Jimi Hendrix´ "Red House", featuring Booker T. Jones in March. In
July Chameleon Records (who recently had issued a couple of CDs
featuring Vee-Jay tracks) issue the album "The Healer" from the
sessions the years before (the title track featuring Carlos
Santana). The album becomes a big seller - first in England on the
UK label Silvertone and later reaching US Pop #62 (staying on the
albums survey for 38 weeks). Hooker performs at the 30th Newport
Folk Festival. In September Hooker is featured on Pete Townshead´s
concept album "The Iron Man", and in December Hooker joins The
Rolling Stones in an Atlantic City concert.
"I´m In The Mood" (duet with Bonnie Raitt), from "The Healer", wins
Best Traditional Blues Recording at the 32nd annual Grammy award´s
ceremony in February. "The Healer" album (on Silvertone) hits UK Pop
#63. Hooker visits Britain in July. Krazy Kat issue a double LP,
comprising 33 very rare recordings (including several unissued
Barbee and Battle productions from 1948-1953), compiled by Dave Sax
and titled "Boogie Awhile". In October Benson & Hedges promote "A
Tribute To John Lee Hooker" at Madison Square Garden, New York City
with guests Gregg Allman, Joe Cocker, Albert Collins, Ry Cooder,
James Cotton, Bo Diddley, Willie Dixon, Mick Fleetwood, John
Hammond, Al Kooper, Huey Lewis, Charlie Musselwhite, Johnny Winter
and members of Little Feat. Hooker is featured as movie soundtrack
singer (actually "hummer & moaner") in "The Hot Spot" with music by
Jack Nietsche. British Ace re-issue 21 tracks from the first two
Riverside albums (1959-1960) on CD, titled "That's My Story/The Folk
Cuts "Up And Down" with Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry's old pianist and
bandleader) at the piano in May (or January - the recording will surface on a
"Chill Out" promotion EP/CD several years later - and on the "Face
To Face" CD of 2003). Hooker is Inducted into the Rock ´N´ Roll Hall
Of Fame on January 17, at the sixth annual dinner at Waldorf Astoria
in New York. The Hooker back-up band "The Coast To Coast Blues Band"
of 1991: Vala Cupp, vocals; Deacon Jones - often substituted or
supplemented by Lizz Fisher, keyboards; Mike Osborn, lead guitar;
Rich Kirch, rhythm guitar; Jim Guyett, bass guitar; Bowen Brown,dms;
and Kenny Baker, saxophone. Mainstream Records in the UK issue a
superb Hooker CD, titled "Half A Stranger", which has 18
direct-from-tape digitally remastered Modern tracks (most of them
concentrating on Hooker´s later Modern years 1953-55 and "I´m In The
Mood" in an alternate undubbed one-voice-take. Around the time of
Bernie Besman´s death in the year of 2003 an Audio Fidelity CD,
titled "Boogie Chillen´", featuring eleven Besman recordings
included in the "40th Anniversary Album" plus nine Joe
Siracuse-engineered Modern tracks from the "Half A Stranger" CD, is
issued. Chess/MCA issue the CD "More Real Folk Blues - The Missing
Album" with nine never-before-issued Hooker tracks from Chess´ "The
Real Folk Blues" session of 1966. Among the new tracks: a terrific
version of "House Rent Blues". In Europe MCA decide to issue the
tracks together with the further nine original tracks on "The
Complete Folk Blues Sessions" (reissued in US in 2002 as "The Real
Folk Blues - More Real Folk Blues"). Pointblank´s "Mr. Lucky" album
is issued (again with famous "guests") - and really sells! Rhino Records issue the double-CD "The
Ultimate Collection, 1948-1990", comprising tracks from all of
Hooker´s long-time career.
Atlantic Records reissue the "Don´t
Turn Me From Your Door" album on CD (this time it features a total
of 16 tracks, identical to the Atlantic LP "Detroit Special" of
The album "Boom Boom" is Hooker´s next seller (again on Pointblank).
UK Charly Records issue a 6CD-box, titled "The Vee-Jay Years
1955-1964", comprising almost all his Vee-Jay recordings.
MCA-Universal, who own Hooker´s ABC/Bluesway and Chess material,
issue the best of the many Hooker New York / California collections:
"The Best Of John Lee Hooker 1965 to 1974" (compiled by Dave Booth
with Colin Escott´s fine track comments).
The San Francisco club, John Lee Hooker´s Boom Boom Room, is opened
and Hooker cuts a duet with B.B. King (Muddy Waters´ old "You Shook
Me"). Hooker joins Van Morrison to cut "Gloria" live in San
Francisco. Re-activated Vee-Jay issue the CD "John Lee Hooker on
Vee-Jay 1955-1958" (a chronology with all of the 22 songs Hooker
made for the company during these years, including "Mama You Got A
Daughter" with full rhythm accomp). During 1992 - 1994 Ace Records in England (and Flair and
Specialty in US) issue several CDs comprising Modern, Besman and
Specialty originals, the most famous being the 1993 CD "The
Legendary Modern Recordings 1948-1954" - with Specialty´s
chronological "Graveyard Blues" (featuring Besman recordings
1948-1950) and "Everybody´s Blues" (Besman 1950-1951 and almost all
Specialty recordings of 1954) also truly worthwhile buys. Ten years
later - in August, 2003 - Virgin/EMI in U.S. issue a great Modern
compilation in their series "Blues Kingpins" featuring 18
chronological John Lee Hooker tracks for Modern, recorded during
The 1955-1964 Vee-Jay recordings are by now reissued on all the labels
you can imagine and in packages you may not even have dreamt of
(mostly bootleg though and no royalty to the Hook). Charly Records
issue a great 4CD-bookset, "The Boogie Man", comprising his famous
Vee-Jay tracks and several rare pseudonym recordings from 1948-1966.
Hollywood RockWalk inducts John Lee in February. Capitol Records
reissue old Besman alternates (originally on United Artists LPs of
the 1970s) on their 3CD-set "Alternative Boogie: Early Studio
Recordings, 1948-1952" (which also includes some Besman 1961 L.A.
Gets Grammy award, Best Traditional Blues Album, for Virgin/
Pointblank´s CD-album "Chill Out". Appears in the major
charity event Free Tibet Concert in San Francisco's Golden Gate
Park. Receives a Lifetime Achievement
Award form The Blues Foundation on November 7.
Celebrates 50 years of recording activities (Besman & Modern in
Detroit 1948-1955, Vee-Jay in Chicago 1955-1964, ABC Coast to Coast
1965-1974, live & Virgin in Frisco 1975-1997) with around a hundred
original albums to his credit.
MCA in US and Universal in Europe (who had purchased Chess Records)
issue a double-CD, "The Complete 50´s Chess Recordings", comprising
all of the 1950-1952 classics, previously issued on the two famous
early 1960s Chess albums - this time completed with the alternate of
"Walkin´ The Boogie" and several Fortune recordings acquired by
Chess (creating a chronological collectors´ gem of 31 tracks).
Hooker receives Grammy awards for the "Don´t Look Back" album
(produced by and featuring Van Morrison) - both Best Traditional
Blues Album and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals; and rewaxes
"Boogie Chillen" for the last time (guested by Eric Clapton) - to be
issued on his "The Best Of Friends" CD-album. Joerg Bundshuh starts
shooting the film "John Lee Hooker - That´s My Story"
(in 2003 the film is also issued on Docurama DVD). Starting in 1998
Charly reissue the first (and best) four of Hooker's Vee-Jay albums
- "I'm John Lee Hooker", "Travelin'", "The Folk Lore of John Lee
Hooker" and "Burnin'", (originally issued in 1959, 1960, 1961 and
1962 - now including bonus tracks). These CDs will be reissued again
Receives a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation on
February 25. Charles Shaar Murray´s biography on Hooker, "Boogie
Man", is published.
Receives a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement on February 22.
"The Unknown John Lee Hooker" CD on British Flyright Records is
issued. It features a bunchful of private Detroit 1951 recordings (never-before-issued
- and originally thought to be recorded in 1949). That CD will
re-surface as "Jack O' Diamonds" on Eagle in 2004. Atlantic Records issue a JLH
album in their "Savoy Blues Legends" series, titled "Detroit
1948-1949", comprising tracks from the 1970s Savoy LP "Southern
Blues", but also including several bonus tracks (a treat for the
Hooker fans, who now can enjoy 20 very early Elmer
Barbee-produced pirate recordings). Hooker´s earliest recordings
become "public domain" - the best issues being Body & Soul´s two
double-CDs "The Complete John Lee Hooker in Chronological Order
Vol 1" and "Vol 2" (covering 1948 and 1949). A year later Vol 3
- also a double-CD - covers 1950, and in the year of 2002 Vol 4
(also a 2-set covering 1951) will be issued - followed by the
1952-1953 CD in 2004 and the rest of the Detroit period in 2005.
Ace Records in UK issue "John Lee Hooker Presents his House Rent
Boogie" CD early this year, comprising 22 rare Modern originals plus
an alternate take of "House Rent Boogie" of November 1950 and a
harmonica-dubbed version of the original 1951 recording of "I´m In
The Mood". Hooker records his last song in late spring - an overdub
to "Ali D'Oro" by Italian rock/blues star Zucchero. It´s the chorus
of the song: "I lay down with an angel - I lay down - with an
angel". The song is released on Zucchero's album "Shake". Hooker
dies in his sleep at home in Palo Alto, California on June 21.
Charly Records (who regularly had come up with some strange and some
very interesting Hooker Vee-Jay compilations) issue a 3CD-set titled
"Testament", comprising his famous Vee-Jay tracks. Collectables
Records in US reissue nine original Hooker Vee-Jay LPs plus the
Gotham tracks in a 10CD-box titled "The Legend, The Man".
Charly (now often on the Snapper and RPM labels) continue their by
now 20-year old tradition of releasing compilations and
"full-session" issues of Hooker material (mostly Vee-Jay, but also
several recordings from other labels - like the Tomato 1977 session
and the London 1964 session).
John Lee Hooker Foundation (established right after Hooker´s
death) gets international recognition.
Zakiya Hooker and
John Lee Hooker, Jr. keep Hooker´s tradition alive together with
the whole Hooker Estate.
An official John Lee Hooker web site -
www.johnleehooker.com is founded, and 2003 is declared "The Year
of the Blues". The Besman/Siracuse "Boogie Chillen´" CD is issued
and later that year the Virgin/EMI CD series "Blues Kingpins" (one
CD devoted to Hooker, "Blues Immortal") hits the U.S. market (both
CDs featuring Modern classics). In September Zakiya produces a
completely new Hooker CD in co-operation with Eagle Records and the
John Lee Hooker Estate Management. The album is titled "Face To
Face", featuring unissued Hooker recordings from the 1980s and
1990s, and late-recordings including "Loving People", featuring
Deacon Jones, organ (some files say Duke Jethro); Dan Zemelman, pno; Anthony Cook,
Billy Johnson, and Robert Young, gtrs; Joe Thomas, bs; Marlon
Green,dms; and the nice voices of Terrance Kelly, Gail Benson, and
Tina Bryant - the song written by Hooker, Zakiya and producer Ollan
Christopher Bell - recorded in 1991. This CD is the first in a series to be issued on
In April a 2CD-set on the British label Metro Doubles, titled "Early
Years - The Classic Savoy Sessions" is issued comprising the Savoy
Jazz/Atlantic early Elmber Barbee/Joe Von Battle recordings of
1948-49 plus the Savoy session of circa 1961. A terrific JLH DVD on
Eagle is issued in May, titled "Come See About Me".
In June Collectables in the U.S. issue "I' m The Boogie Man"
comprising 23 King/Federal/DeLuxe tracks from 1948-1953 - including
the never-before-issued "My Baby Left Me" from a Battle-session of
1953 and 15 of the 16 Texas Slim tracks (all 16, undubbed Texas Slim
tracks, are later issued on a Varese CD titled "I´m A Boogie Man" -
also including the three rare Battle DeLuxe tracks).
The sixth and last of the 2-set CD series "The Complete John Lee
Hooker" is issued on Body & Soul. Now all of Hooker's Detroit period
(except for four Fortune tracks) is covered. The next "natural"
chronological CD to include more than 20 recordings of Hooker's
career is the "John Lee Hooker on Vee-Jay, 1955-1958" CD
(starting with one Vee-Jay singlie in 1955). During the original rock ' n' roll years
of 1956-1958 Hooker delivered a total of a further seven Vee-Jay singles (although Hooker
In the early months the reissue label Hip-O releases a 20-track collection featuring
recordings from Hooker's long career (from "Boogie Chillen'" to "The
Healer"), titled "The Definitve Collection", which serves as an
almost perfect sample for a Hooker "beginner". Hip-O
follow up with a 2CD-set featuring a further more 15 classics in
April, 2007, titled "Gold". During the
Summer Proper Records (ex-Charly) issue i nice litte "public domain"
4CD-box titled "The Boogie Man", featuring 98 recordings from the
Detroit-period (including the Modern hits and several psedonym
recordings). On October
31 a 4CD-box, titled "Hooker" is issued on
Shout!Factory in co-operation with the Hooker Estate, covering the whole of
Hooker's career. The Box really has all the true gems and is THE
TRUE HOOKER ANTHOLOGY featuring 26 Detroit 48-55, 26 Chicago 56-64,
15 Coast-to-Coast 65-91 and 17 Frisco 88-98 recordings.
Need Some Money:
John Lee Hooker estate, pursued by IRS, licenses catalogue
scoop from Billboard today /May 19, 2006/
just about breaks our heart:
John Lee Hooker could
not read or write, according to his daughter, but
the legendary Delta bluesman's estate is hoping to
educate a new legion of fans about his 50-year
musical legacy. The Hooker estate, which is
controlled by daughter Zakiya Hooker,
has licensed five of his best-selling albums from
the '80s and '90s to reissue specialist
Shout Factory for release in North America
and two discs for release in Europe. The six-figure
deal is for seven years."
To even see JLH's name in
print about pains me. Back in the mid 90s, when I'd just
gotten back from China and was working as a house slave
for Charlie Rose, I tried to book Hooker on the
show. It turned out, John Lee hated to fly, and
wasn't gonna come to New York; Charlie wasn't about to
fly to Detroit. Not making that segment happen remains
my most unhappy career moment to date. Of course,
Charlie would go to DC to tape a whole special on
Johannes Vermeer, but... That I didn't push Charlie to
go to Detroit, now that that John Lee is lamentably gone
forever, simply kills me.
Well, anyway. There is
some good news in the Billboard piece: "Out by
year's end will be an 84-track, four-disc boxed set, the
first ever for Hooker. Shout Factory chief operating
officer Bob Emmer expects half the material on the
$59.98 set to come from its newly acquired albums, while
the other half will be licensed from current rights
holders, including EMI, Fantasy and Vee-Jay."
I am preordering that monster
(AllMusicGuide with review)
John Lee Hooker Box Set Named #1 Reissue of
the Year by Rolling Stone in December 2006
and # 1 Reissue of the Year at the Blues Foundation Awards in May
Shout!Factory start to reissue CDs from Hooker's Rosebud years - now
with bonus tracks, and also reissue the legendary "I'm John Lee
32 tracks are included on the Shout!Factory 2-CD-set "John Lee
Hooker Anthology - 50 Years" (with 30 of the tracks from
the "Hooker" 4 CD-set plus "Jealous" and "Boogie from Russian Hill").
Compiled by Claus Röhnisch
John Lee at YouTube
Listen to 8+ minutes of
John Lee Hooker with Elvin Bishop
live in Arkansas, 1988