John Lee Hooker Jr. approaches father's legacy with hope and humor

Daily News correspondentDecember 6, 2012 

John Lee Hooker Jr.

— As John Lee Hooker Jr. wrapped up our phone conversation last week, he took a few minutes to email a photo to accompany this story.

"Let's show me smiling, the nice side of me," Hooker said.

His latest album, "All Hooked Up," released in September, is about recognizing this contented side of the musician, who plays a jazzy, soulful blues with a hint of funk.

Hooker is the son of Detroit's legendary "talking blues" creator John Lee Hooker, who died in 2001 at the age of 83. Hooker Jr. hopes his music will keep his father's blues alive but take things to another level. He grew up on Motown, which can be heard in what he produces.

On this fifth studio album, Hooker references his struggles with drugs, violence and homelessness as well as everyday hardships like a poor economy and paying bills. And he does all this with a sense of humor and hope.

"That's one thing my dad taught me -- no matter what you're going through in your life, before they open the curtain and you hit the stage, go out there and show them that you're having a good time regardless; do your job," he told the website Blues411 in October.

"All Hooked Up" means Hooker has overcome his struggles, as explained in the lyrics: "And I fell hard on the ground/ Tried to get up and then I fell back down/ And I got stuck/ And He hooked me up."

"First and foremost, the title is a reference to the Lord above and how he has grabbed me and put me back together again," he told Blues411.

Hooker is finishing a string of shows this weekend at Blues Central. Venue owner Frank Dahl met Hooker in 1999 at the Blues on the Green Festival, where Hooker was on the bill with Bo Diddly. Hooker endearingly calls Dahl "Frank the Bank."

"Frank and I have been just really, really (good) buddies. I don't know how to explain it; we're just good friends," Hooker said. "He likes our music and we like his place. We've built a fan base over there. I mean, a lot of people show up at Blues Central because, 'Oh, the Hooker boys is coming to town.' "

Hooker said it's like having an extra birthday party every year.

"Or your Christmas, you could put it either way," he said. "Your Christmas up in Alaska, where the snow is."

The weekend will culminate with a jam session with local musicians Hooker has befriended since he first started filling the house yearly at Blues Central in 2004.

"We are just going to have a good time, you know -- we're not selfish," Hooker said. "We don't open the stage to just anyone, but there's a few musicians down in Anchorage that are going to perform. We love the Alaskans' cold-as-ice blues."

Coincidence? Hooker released an album titled "Cold as Ice" in 2006.

This current tour has taken Hooker and his band of five all over the world: Paris, Germany, Belgium. After Alaska they'll go to Africa and Poland, among other destinations.

On Sunday the band plans to grab a few local horn players and head to one final Alaska gig in Talkeetna at the Upper Susitna Senior Center.

 

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