John Lee Hooker born August 22, 1917 originator of the boogie.

Jonah and Wyatt happen upon “The King of thr Boogie”as they boogie down the sidewalk.

John Lee Hooker, the bluesman whose stark, one-chord boogies were some of the feistiest and most desolate songs of the 20th century. Mr. Hooker’s music stayed close to its Mississippi Delta roots. Usually playing an electric guitar with a menacing hint of distortion, he picked barbed, syncopated guitar riffs that went on to become cornerstones of rock. And with his deep, implacable voice, he sang of lust and loneliness, rage and despair in songs so bleak that they sometimes made him cry behind his dark glasses.

The Boogie is…

Known to music fans around the world as the “King of the Boogie,” John Lee Hooker endures as one of the true superstars of the blues genre: the ultimate beholder of cool. His work is widely recognized for its impact on modern music – his simple, yet deeply effective songs transcend borders and languages around the globe.

Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 22, 1917 to a sharecropping family, John Lee Hooker‘s earliest musical influence came from his stepfather, William Moore ̶— a blues musician who taught his young stepson to play the guitar, and whom John Lee later credited for his unique style on the instrument.

What is the Blues?

He was beloved worldwide as the king of the endless boogie, a genuine blues superstar whose droning, hypnotic one-chord grooves were at once both ultra-primitive and timeless. The blues according to John Lee Hooker is a propulsive drone of a guitar tuned to open G, a foot stomping out a beat that wouldn’t know how to quit, and a bear of a voice that knows its way around the woods. He plays big-city, big-beat blues born in the Mississippi Delta. Blame it on the boogie, and you’re blaming it on John Lee Hooker.

“The Hook” was a Mississippi native who became the top gent on the Detroit blues circuit in the years following World War II. The seeds for his eerily mournful guitar sound were planted by his stepfather, Will Moore, while Hooker was in his teens. Hooker had been singing spirituals before that, but the blues took hold and simply wouldn’t let go. Hooker heard Memphis calling while he was still in his teens, but he couldn’t gain much of a foothold there. So he relocated to Cincinnati for a seven-year stretch before making the big move to the Motor City in 1943. Jobs were plentiful, but Hooker drifted away from day gigs in favor of playing his unique free-form brand of blues. A burgeoning club scene along Hastings Street didn’t hurt his chances any

By the early 1940s, Hooker had moved north to Detroit by way of Memphis and Cincinnati. By day, he was a janitor in the auto factories, but by night, like many other transplants from the rural Delta, he entertained friends and neighbors by playing at house parties.

By 1948, Hooker ̶ now honing his style on an electric guitar ̶ had recorded several songs for Besman, who, in turn, leased the tracks to Modern Records. Among these first recordings was “Boogie Chillun,” (soon after appearing as “Boogie Chillen”) which became a number one jukebox hit, selling over a million copies. This success was soon followed by a string of hits, including “I’m in the Mood,” “Crawling Kingsnake” and “Hobo Blues.”

Chilling Out with John Lee and two cool dogs.

With the folk movement in high gear, Hooker returned to his solo, acoustic roots, and was in strong demand to perform at colleges and folk festivals around the country. Across the Atlantic, emerging British bands were idolizing Hooker’s work. Artists like the Rolling Stones, the Animals and the Yardbirds introduced Hooker’s sound to new and eager audiences,

When I’m gone.

Funky. Mesmerizing. Prehistoric. Timeless. John Lee Hooker is in a league of his own. Through five decades of recording and countless collaborators, Mr. Hooker maintained the Delta style. ”I just got smarter and added things on to mine,” he once said, ”but I got the same bottom, the same beat that I’ve always had. I’d never change that, ’cause if I change that, I wouldn’t be John Lee Hooker any more.”

Source: Rock Hall Fame; Allmusic; NewYork Times

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