The Phono Project

Exploring the history of the groove

“Boogie chillen” by John Lee hooker

 John Lee Hooker was born in Tutwiler, Mississippi. He was one of 11 children in a sharecropper family on a cotton plantation. Hooker recognized that his future was limited if he stayed in Mississippi. As a teenager, he ran away to become a musician. He first went to Memphis, then on to Cincinnati at the end of the 1930s, where he sang with gospel groups like the Fairfield Four and the Big Six, before moving to Detroit in the late 1930s. Hooker incorporated other elements, including talking blues and early North Mississippi Hill country blues.  In 1948, Hooker’s breakthrough single “Boogie Chillen” was released. He was 31years old and recently moved to Detroit, Michigan when the song was recorded. Released by Modern Records in November 1948, “Boogie Chillen” climbed up the “Billboard” R&B singles chart, reaching #1 single in January 1949. The song stayed on the charts for 18 weeks, becoming one of the era’s biggest R&B hits. B.B. King, a Memphis-based DJ, played the song on heavy rotation on his show. Other hits followed, including “Crawling King Snake Blues”, “I’m in the Mood”, and, in 1962 “Boom Boom”. During the 1960’s, British Invasion bands began covering Hooker’s songs, which introduced his music to rock and roll audiences. His international popularity grew with tours behind the release of his albums in markets overseas. 

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