Glossary entry for
Hooker, John Lee

Van with John Lee Hooker

June 21, 2001: John Lee Hooker, the greatest of all bluesmen passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in the San Francisco Bay area, at the age of 83. Hooker influenced countless generations of musicians and inspired music fans around the world during his sixty year career. He was loved dearly by millions and we will all miss him greatly.

Excepted from a page at the Rosebud Agency (see below):

Born near Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 22, 1917 to a sharecropper family, Hooker's earliest musical influence came from his stepfather, Will Moore. By the early 1940s, Hooker had moved to Detroit. Among his first recordings 1948, "Boogie Chillen" became a number-one jukebox hit 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 1950s and 1960s.

When the young bohemian audiences of the 1960s "discovered" Hooker along with other blues originators, he and various others made a brief return to folk blues. Young British artists such as the Animals, John Mayall, and the Yardbirds introduced Hooker's sound to a new and eager audience whose admiration and influence helped build Hooker to superstar status in mid-'60s England. By 1970, he had moved to California and began working with rock musicians, notably Van Morrison and Canned Heat. Canned Heat modeled their sound after Hooker's boogie and collaborated on several albums and tours.

John Lee has appeared with Van on a number of occasions over the years, both in concert (as captured on Van's album A Night in San Francisco) and on record (Van's Too Long In Exile, of course, as well as several John Lee Hooker albums on which Van has appeared as a guest, listed in the Guest Appearances section of the Discography).

According to Robin Luis Fernandez on the Van mailing list, Van and JLH recorded together for the first time in 1973, when Van was recording Tupelo Honey in a studio adjacent to the one where JLH was recording Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive and Born In Mississippi, Raised Up In Tennessee, which he recorded in only two days [Ed: However I find no mention of this album in the on-line discography at John Lee Hooker's Web site].

However Van-L list member Don Ritz responds that the first Van / JLH session date would have been 1971, as stated on the cover of Never Get Out of These Blues Alive

From these sessions we have 2 songs:

"Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive" (track 6 of the album of the same name, over 10 minutes), and "Goin' Down" (on the other album).

Furthermore, on Channel Four's 1989 film One Irish Rover, JLH reminds Van of when they met, claiming Bob Dylan presented them to each other.

Van (and John Lee) fan André T writes to say that the best John Lee Hooker discography he's seen so far "was in a French biography, and while the biography isn't really interesting, the discography is, with more than 80 pages, pretty complete, including the dates and the venues of the recordings and, where available, all the musicians who participated:"

Herzhaft, Gérard: John Lee Hooker (Discographie établie par Marc Radenac)
Editions du Limon, Valence, 1991

More information available at:

  • the Wikipedia page on John Lee Hooker
  • A 1995 interview with John Lee.
  • The Rosebud Agency represents John Lee, and has a web page with biographical info (from which the above was excerpted) and a discography.
  • Some RealAudio interviews - the legendary King of Boogie speaks out about The Blues, Jimi Hendrix, long-time friend Van Morrison, collaborators Los Lobos.

Van references in:

Part of the van-the-man.info unofficial website

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