John Lee Hooker

The Legendary Modern Recordings

Year: 1993
Label: Ace Records
Location: Joe's Record Shop - 3530 Hastings St. - Black Bottom neighborhood | 
 | USA | MI

John Lee Hooker, in front of Joe’s Record Shop, on Hasting Street, with Mack Ave. behind him. In the background, the spire of St. Josophat – which is still there. Photo by Jaques Demetre, 1959. The owner, Joe Von Battle is believed to be the first African-American post WWII era, independent record producer in the U.S., and owned the legendary Joe’s Record Shop, at 3530 Hastings Street. There is no disputing his significance.

Lafayette Park was once the site of Black Bottom, named this for its rich soil, according to the Detroit Historical Society. Many Blacks who moved from the South settled in Black Bottom. Due to segregation, «they really couldn’t live very many places in the city,» says Marsha Music, a park resident whose father, Joe Von Battle, owned Joe’s Record Shop north of Black Bottom at Mack Avenue and Hastings Street.

Music says Black Bottom was comprised of residents from mixed-income levels and different professions. Hastings Street was a main road, and there were Black-owned businesses throughout the community.

During the 1950s and ’60s, the area was razed for an urban renewal project, and the Chrysler Freeway was built. Many of Black Bottom’s residents ended up moving to housing projects, the DHS notes.

Music’s father, who recorded Aretha Franklin, her father the Reverend C.L. Franklin, John Lee Hooker and many more, had to move his business.

The beginning of the end came on July 23, 1967; a wave of destruction and police violence made it’s way down 12th Street, to become Detroit’s 67’ Riots – also known as The Rebellion. Joe´s record shop was in its path.

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John Lee Hooker


John Lee Hooker (August 22, 1912 or 1917 – June 21, 2001) was an American blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist. The son of a sharecropper, he rose to prominence performing an electric guitar-style adaptation of Delta blues. Hooker often incorporated other elements, including talking blues and early North Mississippi Hill country blues. He developed his own driving-rhythm boogie style, distinct from the 1930s–1940s piano-derived boogie-woogie. Hooker was ranked 35 in Rolling Stone's 2015 list of 100 greatest guitarists.
Some of his best known songs include "Boogie Chillen'" (1948), "Crawling King Snake" (1949), "Dimples" (1956), "Boom Boom" (1962), and "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" (1966). Several of his later albums, including The Healer (1989), Mr. Lucky (1991), Chill Out (1995), and Don't Look Back (1997), were album chart successes in the U.S. and UK. The Healer (for the song "I'm In The Mood") and Chill Out (for the album) both earned him Grammy wins as well as Don't Look Back, which went on to earn him a double-Grammy win for Best Traditional Blues Recording and Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals (with Van Morrison).

Hooker's date of birth is a subject of debate; the years 1912, 1915, 1917, 1920, and 1923 have all been suggested. Most official sources list 1917, though at times Hooker stated he was born in 1920. Information found in the 1920 and 1930 censuses indicates that he was actually born in 1912. In 2017, a series of events took place to celebrate the purported centenary of his birth. In the 1920 federal census, John Hooker is seven years old and one of nine children living with William and Minnie Hooker in Tutwiler, Mississippi.

It is believed that he was born in Tutwiler, in Tallahatchie County, although some sources say his birthplace was near Clarksdale, in Coahoma County. He was the youngest of the 11 children of William Hooker (born 1871, died after 1923), a sharecropper and Baptist preacher, and Minnie Ramsey (born c. 1880, date of death unknown). In the 1920 federal census, William and Minnie were recorded as being 48 and 39 years old, respectively, which implies that Minnie was born about 1880, not 1875. She was said to have been a "decade or so younger" than her husband (Boogie Man, p. 23), which gives additional credibility to this census record as evidence of Hooker's origins.

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