Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi in 1917 to a sharecropper family, John Lee Hooker was one of the last links to the blues of the deep South. He moved to Detroit in the early 1940's and by 1948 had scored his first number-one jukebox hit and million-seller, "Boogie Chillun". Other hits soon followed, "I'm In The Mood", "Crawling Kingsnake", and "Boom Boom" among the biggest. During the 1950s and '60s, Vee Jay Records released a remarkable string of more than 100 of John Lee's songs.
By 1970, John Lee had moved to California and begun working with rock musicians, notably Van Morrison and Canned Heat, with whom he collaborated on several albums and tours. Hooker continued to tour the U.S. and Europe throughout the '70s and '80s, but it was the release in 1989 of his album, The Healer, that catapulted him back to million-seller status and began what has been the most successful period of his extensive career.
He followed The Healer with Mr. Lucky, Boom Boom, Chill Out, Don't Look Back and Best of Friends. In 1991, John Lee was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. On September 11, 1997 he received a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and on October 3rd, 1997 John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom Room* opened in San Francisco. Don't Look Back, produced by Van Morrison and featuring a track by long time admirers, Los Lobos, was released in Spring of '97. He received two Grammy Awards for this album in 1998. In late October of '98, John Lee released his latest album, Best Of Friends, which features the best of his collaborations with legendary musicians and friends over the last 10 years and includes a 50th anniversary version of his first hit, "Boogie Chillun."
* ( John Lee Hooker was not an owner of the club but licensed his name to the club for a term of 5 years. )
Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 22, 1917 to a sharecropping family, John Lee Hooker's earliest musical influence came from his stepfather, Will Moore. By the early 1940's Hooker had moved north to Detroit by way of Memphis and Cincinnati. Hooker found work as a janitor in the auto factories, and at night, like many other transplants from the rural Delta, he entertained friends and neighbors by playing at "house parties". He was "discovered" by record storeowner Elmer Barbee who took him to Bernard Besman, who was a producer, record distributor and owner of Sensation Records, Besman leased some of his early Hooker recordings to Modern Records. Among Hooker's first recordings in 1948, "Boogie Chillen" became a number one jukebox hit for Modern and his first million seller. This was soon followed by an even bigger hit with "I'm In The Mood" and other classic recordings including "Crawling Kingsnake" and "Hobo Blues." Another surge in his career took place with the release of more than 100 songs on Vee Jay Records during the 1950's and 1960's.
When the young bohemian audiences of the 1960's "discovered" Hooker along with other blues originators, he and various he and others made a brief return to folk blues. Young British artist such as the Animals, John Mayall, and the Yardbirds introduced Hooker's sound to the new and eager audiences whose admiration and influence helped build Hooker to superstar status in the mid - 60's England. By 1970 he had moved to California and worked on several projects with rock musicians, notably Van Morrison and Canned Heat. Canned Heat modeled their sound after Hooker's boggie and collaborated with him on several albums and tours.
During the late 1970's and much of the 1980's, Hooker toured the U.S. and Europe steadily but grew disenchanted with recording, through his appearance in the Blues Brothers movie resulted in a heightened profile. Then, in 1989, The Healer was released to critical acclaim and sales in excess of a million copies. Today the "The King Of The Boggie" is enjoying the most successful period of his extensive career. In the past ten years Hooker's influence has contributed to a booming interest in the blues and, notably, its acceptance by the music industry as a commercially viable entity.
Hooker's career has been a series a highlights and special events since the release of The Healer. In addition to recording his on albums Mr. Lucky, Boom Boom, Chill Out, and Don't Look Back for Pointblank / Virgin, he contributed to recordings by B.B. King, Branford Marsalis, Van Morrison, and Big Head Todd and the Monsters and portrayed the title role in Pete Townshend's 1989 epic, The Iron Man.
His influence on younger generations has been documented on television with features on Showtime and a special edition of the BBC's 'Late Show' as well as appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night With David Letterman" among many others. John Lee was invited to perform The Rolling Stones and guest Eric Clapton for their national television broadcast during The Stones' 1989 Steel Wheels tour. In 1990, many musical greats paid tribute to John Lee Hooker with a performance at Madison Square Garden. Joining him on some or all of these special occasions were artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Joe Cocker, Huey Newton, Carlos Santana, Robert Clay, Mick Fleetwood, Al Cooper, Johnny Winter, John Hammond, and the late Albert Collins and Willie Dixon.
Hooker's 1991 induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall Of Fame was fitting for the man who has influenced countless fans and musicians who have in turn influenced many more. Honors continue, with recent inductions into Los Angeles' Rock Walk, The Bammies Walk Of Fame in San Francisco, and, in 1997, a star in the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
John Lee's style has always been unique, even among other performers of the real deep blues, few of whom remain with us today. While retaining that foundation he has simultaneously broken new ground musically and commercially. At the age of 80, John Lee Hooker received his third and fourth Grammy Awards, for Best Traditional Blues Recording (Don't Look Back) and for Best Pop Collaboration for the song "Don't Look Back" which Hooker recorded with his long time friend Van Morrison. This Friendship and others are celebrated on Hooker's newest Pointblank / Virgin album, The Best Of Friends. The album also celebrates a return, exactly 50 years later, to Hooker's first hit, Boogie Chillen and serves as a perfect bookend for Hooker's first fifty years in the business.