JOHN LEE HOOKER.
1917/20 to 2001.


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John Lee Hooker.John Lee Hooker is born in Coahama County, Mississippi, not far from the town of Clarksdale, on 22 August 1917, some reports say he was born in 1920 but lied about his age to get into the army when he was only 16, one of the 11 children of William Hooker a sharecropper and a baptist minister and Minnie Ramsey.

When his father died in 1923 his mother married William Moore, a popular Delta blues guitarist, who was originally from Shreveport, Louisiana. In common with many black people in the South, Moore made his living working in the cotton fields, but he was also a blues singer and guitarist.

John Lee's contact with music had until 1929, been restricted to the hymns he sang in church, found in Moore not only a stepfather but an inspirational blues teacher who taught John Lee to play acoustic guitar.

By the time John was 12 and thanks to his stepfather, he takes the first steps towards becoming a master blues guitarist, Moores also taught Blind Lemon Jefferson.

While travelling through the South in 1933, John meets bluesman Tommy McClennan and Tony Hollins. After a brief stay in Memphis messing around with B B King he settle in Cincinnati, Ohio.

John marries in 1934 and moves to the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan.

In 1937 he begins playing in the clubs on Detroit's Hastings Street.

John Lee makes his first recordings in 1943, most notably 'Boogie Chillun', which turns out to be a success.

In 1947 he was given his first electric guitar by the Texan bluesman T-Bone Walker.

Along with Muddy Waters, John Lee begins a tour of the southern states of the USA in 1948.

John Lee records for Vee Jay Records with Jimmy Reed in 1952. This session produces 'Unfriendly Woman', 'Wheel and Deal' and 'Mambo Chillun'.

John Lee Hooker turns out to be a great success at the Newport Folk Festival in 1955.

Together with musicians such as T-Bone Walker and Memphis Slim, John Lee travels to Europe in 1959 for the American Folk Blues Festival.

On a visit to London in 1962, John Lee plays with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, the English white blues band.

John Lee's album Urban Blues is voted the year's Best Blues Album in Jazz & Pop magazine's critics poll of 1964. John Lee himself is honoured as Best Urban Blues Artist by the French Academie du Jazz.

After recording an album with Canned Heat in 1970, John Lee accompanies the band on their tour of the USA.

He makes an appearance in John Landis film The Blues Brothers in 1980, and contributes to the soundtrack, the following year he again records with Canned Heat.

John Lee records with Pete Townsend in 1989, former songwriter and guitarist with the Who, on the album Iron Man.

John Lee's album The Healer, a collaboration with artists including Carlos Santana, Los Lobos and Bonnie Raitt is released and he wins a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 1990.

Worldwide release of Mr Lucky in 1991, an album recorded with rock stars such as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Johnny Winter, became the first bona fide blues album ever to reach the top three in the British charts and a the age of 74 he was the oldest artist to reach that position. In the same year he is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame.

John Lee even enjoyed a run of modest hit singles, including a re-recording of Boom Boom and a version of Gloria performed as a duet with Van Morrison.

By the end of the 1990's John Lee had stopped touring but continued to play the occasional one-off shows in Las Vagas and a few other venues. The coolest senior bluesman in the world still performing in his black suit, black hat and black tie, sometimes even sunglasses.

It is estimated that in his recording career he recorded over 100 albums and like many bluesmen in the old days was cheated by some record producers, so he fought back by recording for rival producers, using a number of recording names: John Lee Booker, John Lee Cocker, Birmingham Sam, Texas Slim and the Boogie Man and maybe others.

In his final years John recorded and released a succession of albums including Boom Boom in 1992, Chill Out in 1995 and the Grammy award winning Don't Look Back in 1997.

Even in his seventies John Lee was touring the world playing his blues as one of the few remaining elder bluesmen of the music industry. Along with B B King he was one of the last of the generation of Mississippi Delta bluesmen.

John Lee was due to make a long awaited trip to Britain to top the bill at the Bishopstock blues festival, but due to illness had to cancel the month before.

Some of the artists influenced by his music were Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, ZZ Top and Bonnie Raitt.

John Lee Hooker blues guitarist died at his home Los Altos surrounded by family and friends of natural causes on Thursday 21st June 2001, he is survived by eight children, 19 grandchildren and many great grandchildren.



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