Born in Mississippi in 1917, John Lee Hooker slowly made his way up north until he landed in Detroit in 1948 when he secured a job at the Ford Motor Company.
Hooker’s music career started much earlier, however. As a young boy, Hooker’s mother, Minnie Ramsey, was remarried to a blues singer/guitarist William Moore. The new father figure in his life taught Hooker a unique style of guitar playing which incorporated Delta blues, boogie woogie and what would become his signature “talking blues.”
At the age of 15, Hooker ran away from home, reportedly never seeing his mother or stepfather again. He landed in Memphis playing Beale Street at The New Daisy Theatre and occasional house parties, honing his craft while working local factories during World War II. Hooker was a drifter until he came to Detroit, and it felt like home to him as he played the blues venues of Hastings Street, the heart of black entertainment on Detroit’s east side.
Hooker’s unique style of blues playing was something out of this world to the Detroit blues scene, and when Hooker’s crowds became too large, he traded his acoustic for an electric guitar and his popularity only grew.
Over his nearly six decade career, Hooker recorded over 100 albums, and his songs have been covered by rock royalty including AC/DC, Cream, Zeppelin, Springsteen, ZZ Top, Hendrix, Clapton, Van Morrison, The Doors, The White Stripes, MC5, The J. Geils Band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters and many more.
In his later years, Hooker moved away from Detroit and ended up in California where he opened John Lee Hooker’s Boom Boom Room in San Francisco’s Fillmore District. At the age of 83, Hooker was preparing to head out on a European tour when he became came ill and passed away on June 21, 2001.
Happy Birthday and Rest In Peace John Lee Hooker
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