Celluloid Improvisations logo Jazz on Film Mark Cantor

John Lee Hooker “Boom Boom”

During a three-year period, 1967-197O, the Seattle Folklore Society, in association with the University of Washington at Seattle, produced a series of performance videos generically titled Masters of American Traditional Music. The series focused on blues and, to a lesser extent, folk and gospel music. It consisted of eighteen 1/2 hour programs featuring sure artists as Furry Lewis, Mance Lipscomb, Jesse Fuller, and Bukka White, and many others. Needless to say, the films are essential viewing for those interested in blues and other forms of roots music.

The series was produced partially on film, partially on videotape, with the tape performances later kinescoped through the support of the National Endowment of the Arts. Some of the programs were shot in color, other in black and white. I suspect that this clip was one of the color videotapes that was converted to film; a black and white kinescope of a color videotape often yields the grainy print quality that we see here. But never fear, the music comes through load and clear.

John Lee Hooker was one of the most important of the postwar blues musicians who redefined, often in electric terms, the music that had developed in the Mississippi Delta during the 1920s and 1930s. Along with Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Walker, Hooker was an important influence on rock and roll and, in particular, the rock styles that developed in Great Britain.

John Lee Hooker’s BOOM BOOM is one of his most popular songs, and it was a hit for Hooker and Vee-Jay Records in 1961. The recording features saxophones and full rhythm. Here it is performed as a solo piece, and our visual focus on in the picking hand and fret board. The tune was covered by The Animals and Rolling Stones, and Hooker’s recording is, of course, a classic. But this version has it own power and authority. Good listening, to be sure.

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