They're not made like John Lee Hooker any more, but sixty odd years ago the man himself was putting it down, as these sides testify. Even by that time the hypnotic guitar playing was in place, and the sometimes declamatory voice already had that hint of menace which ensures that when he relates a tale of being on the road -and railroads, probably- on "Hobo Blues" you don't doubt him for a minute. Okay so the blues is littered with examples of musicians and singers who wouldn't have known how to fake it, but in Hooker's case it's the very gravity of his work that makes it so compelling.
"Crawling King Snake" was of course destined to become one of the staples of his repertoire but the chances are he never made a version of it he didn't mean. This one, released by Modern in 1949 on one side of MOD 714, is all meaning, underpinned by that rolling, minimal guitar punctuated in a fashion that perhaps only Hooker knew. Certainly it's not difficult to see why he hardly ever needed a band.
"Boogie Chillen" was a bona fide hit, to the reputed tune of one million sales, a figure which was a lot more significant back in 1948 than it might be today, and on the back of such a hit it might be said that Hooker's future was assured, but that didn't stop him going on to be one of the most compelling performers in the whole of the blues. Thus, anyone who wants to know where the music still going today came from need look no further.
Truly, the blues had a baby and they called it rock `n' roll..............