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John Lee Hooker: King of the Boogie

  • Grammy Museum MS 800 W Sunflower Rd Cleveland, Mississippi 38732
  • Aug 22, 2017 Through Feb 18, 2018
  • Mon - Sat: 10AM - 5:30PM
    Sun: 12PM - 5:30PM

The GRAMMY Museum®, in conjunction with the John Lee Hooker Estate, and Craft Recordings, the Catalog Division of Concord Music Group, will celebrate the centennial of the legendary GRAMMY®-winning bluesman with the opening of a new exhibit titled John Lee Hooker: King of the Boogie, on Aug. 22, 2017, at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi in Cleveland, Miss., Hooker's home state. The exhibit will open on what would have been the late blues icon's 100th birthday and will celebrate Hooker's lasting legacy through rare recordings, photos and one-of-a-kind artifacts.

The exhibit is part of a year-long celebration of Hooker's musical legacy that features special releases from Craft Recordings, a conference at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss., and special exhibits at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Miss., and the Memphis-based Blues Foundation. The exhibit's official media partners are Oxford American and Living Blues. 

"John Lee Hooker was truly a seminal blues artist. Many of his songs are part of America's blues music treasury," said blues historian and Founding Executive Director of the GRAMMY Museum Bob Santelli. "In addition to impacting blues history, Hooker's music influenced great rock bands like the Rolling Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds and ZZ Top. We're thrilled to honor the King of the Boogie's legacy and tell the story of his incredible career in his own home state."

With a prolific career that spanned over five decades, legendary bluesman John Lee Hooker remains a foundational figure in the development of modern music, having influenced countless artists around the globe with his simple, yet deeply effective style. Known to music fans around the world as the “King of the Boogie,” Hooker endures as one of the true superstars of the blues: 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, Hooker's earliest musical influence came from his stepfather, William Moore—a blues musician who taught his young stepson to play guitar, and whom Hooker later credited for his unique style on the instrument. By the early ‘40s, 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. “The Hook” gained fans around town from these shows, including local record store owner Elmer Barbee. Barbee was so impressed by the young musician that he introduced him to Bernard Besman—a producer, record distributor and the owner of Sensation Records. By 1948, Hooker—now honing his style on an electric guitar—had recorded several songs for Besman, who, in turn, leased the tracks to nationally distributed Modern Records. Among these first recordings was “Boogie Chillun,” (soon after appearing as “Boogie Chillen”) which became a #1 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.” Over the next 15 years, Hooker signed to a new label, Vee-Jay Records, and maintained a prolific recording schedule, releasing over 100 songs on the imprint.

When the young bohemian artists of the ‘60s “discovered” Hooker, among other notable blues originators, he found his career taking on a new direction. 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, whose admiration and influence helped build Hooker up to superstar status. By 1970, Hooker had relocated to California and was busy collaborating on several projects with rock acts. One such collaboration was with rock band Canned Heat, which resulted in 1971's hit record Hooker ‘n’ Heat. The double LP became Hooker's first charting album.

Throughout the late ‘70s and ‘80s, Hooker toured the United States and Europe steadily. His appearance in the legendary Blues Brothers movie resulted in a heightened profile once again. Then, at age 72 Hooker released the biggest album of his career, The Healer. The GRAMMY Award-winning 1989 LP featured contemporary artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Carlos Santana, Los Lobos and George Thorogood. The Healer was released to critical acclaim and sold over 1 million copies. 

In the 1990s Hooker released five studio albums, including Mr. Lucky, which once again teamed Hooker with an array of artists; Boom Boom, which aimed to introduce new fans to his classic material; the GRAMMY-winning Chill Out; and a collaboration with Van Morrison, Don't Look Back, which also garnered two GRAMMYs. Throughout the decade, Hooker's great body of work and contributions to modern music were being recognized not only by his peers, but also by a younger generation. He became a familiar face in popular culture, with appearances on The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman. In 1990, a massive tribute concert took place at New York's Madison Square Garden, featuring Hooker and an all-star lineup of guest artists. One year later, Hooker was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and in 1997 he was presented with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2000, shortly before his death, Hooker was recognized with a Recording Academy® Lifetime Achievement Award, and just one week before his passing, ever true to form, the bluesman spent his final Saturday night playing a now-legendary show to a packed house at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, California.

The Hook continues to live on: His music can regularly be heard in TV shows, commercials and films, and many of his tracks have also found a second life sampled in new songs—by the likes of R&B star Brandy, hip-hop legend Chuck D and French electronic musician St Germain, among many others. Most recently, in 2016 his iconic recording, the 1962 Vee-Jay Records single “Boom Boom,” was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame.

"John Lee Hooker is gone but not forgotten. In collaboration with the GRAMMY Museum and our partners, the John Lee Hooker family is pleased and honored to be able to bring to the public the artifacts in this exhibit, donated not just by family but by his very dear friends and associates. This Centennial is a celebration of John Lee Hooker's amazing life and his love of the music that he shared with the world." — Diane Roan- Hooker and Zakiya Hooker, daughters of the legendary blues artist.


To celebrate 100 years of Hooker's music, Craft Recordings will issue a series of titles throughout 2017, culminating with a centennial CD box set, offering 100 career-spanning hits and rarities, plus previously unreleased material. Craft will also reissue several classic Hooker titles on 180-gram vinyl, as well as digitally, in hi-res and MFiT formats. To kick off the centennial celebrations, the label issued a 16-track collection of songs from the prime of Hooker's career on its Vee-Jay imprint. Whiskey & Wimmen: John Lee Hooker's Finest was released March 31 on vinyl and CD, offering classic tracks from the '50s and '60s, including "Boom Boom" and "Dimples."


On display at GRAMMY Museum Mississippi through February 18, 2018, the exhibit will feature:

  • Rare and never-before-heard recordings from Hooker
  • Instruments such as Hooker's Gibson ES-335
  • Hooker's Best Traditional Blues Album GRAMMY for 1997's Don't Look Back.
  • Rare photos, performance outfits and more

In Partnership with:

   OA                        Blues Foundation                             craft