‘Boom Boom’ and ‘Hobo Blues’: Great Performances by John Lee Hooker

Like mil­lions of African Amer­i­cans in the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, the blues­man John Lee Hook­er made the Great Migra­tion from the rur­al South to the urban North. Trav­el­ing a cir­cuitous route from his native Clarks­dale, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Hook­er set­tled in 1943 in Detroit, Michi­gan, where he worked at a car fac­to­ry by day and played in the blues clubs by night. In 1948 his first sin­gle, “Boo­gie Chillen,’ ” rose to num­ber one on the rhythm and blues charts and intro­duced Hook­er’s unique style of elec­tric blues, which sound­ed clos­er to the Mis­sis­sip­pi Delta than Chica­go. It was a style that would have an enor­mous impact on rock and roll. Hook­er’s dri­ving, one-chord boo­gie rhythms can be heard in the music of the Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, George  Thoro­good and count­less oth­ers. Today we bring you two of our favorite videos of Hook­er. Above is a per­for­mance, cir­ca 1970, of Hook’s clas­sic 1961 sin­gle, “Boom Boom.” Below is a 1965 per­for­mance from the Amer­i­can Folk Blues Fes­ti­val of his sec­ond, less­er-known sin­gle from 1948, “Hobo Blues.”

Relat­ed con­tent:

Mar­tin Scors­ese Presents The Blues

Mud­dy Waters and Friends on the Blues and Gospel Train, 1964

Lead Bel­ly: The Only Known Footage of the Great Blues­man, 1935 and 1945

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