Earl Hooker – The Genius Of Earl Hooker (1968) & Sweet Black Angel (1969)

Posted: June 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

Earl Hooker was born January 15, 1929 in Quitman County, Mississippi. The cousin of fellow blues legend John Lee Hooker, Earl Hooker’s family moved to Chicago early in his childhood. By the age of 13, Hooker was playing the blues on Chicago street corners alongside friends and mentors such as Bo Diddley, T Bone Walker, Junior Wells, and Robert Nighthawk. It was during this era that blues was moving towards a more electric sound. With Nighthawk’s tutelage, Hooker began to learn the techniques of slide guitar, perfecting the style that would tag his legacy. Considered by many of his fellow artists to be on the best modern blues guitarists, Earl Hooker not only mastered the style , but also brought innovation to his craft. Hooker , among other things, was known for his use of a double neck guitar, experimentation with amplification, and use of echo and tape delay.

In the mid 1950’s Hooker was diagnosed with tuberculosis, which led to numerous hospitalizations. However the illness did not deter him from recording numerous instrumental albums throughout that decade into the early 1960’s. These recordings were released by various labels, including Chess, Checker, and Chief records. After the Chief group went out of business in 1964, Hooker began recording for Cuca records. Several songs recorded for that label between 1964 and 1967 would comprise Hooker’s first full length album,1968’s  The Genius Of Earl Hooker.

After a lengthy recovery from a 1968 tuberculosis attack, Hooker made his way west to Los Angeles.The year of 1969 was extremely prolific for Hooker. With arrangements and piano courtesy of Ike Turner ,  Hooker recorded his first album of this year, Sweet Black Angel. The album , including Hooker’s interpretations of several blues standards, was released by Blue Thumb Records . Shortly after this session, Earl collaborated with his cousin John Lee which yielded the release of John Lee Hooker feat Earl Hooker – If You Miss ‘Im …I Got ‘Im on the Bluesway label in 1969. After  several more Bluesway collaborations with musicians such as Charles Brown, Jimmy Witherspoon, and Sonny Terry,Hooker released his own album on the label( his final of 1969) entitled Don’t Have To Worry.

Following tours of California area club, college, and even rock venues, Hooker returned to Chicago. He performed at the Chicago Blues Festival on August 30, 1969. Two months later, he would embark on a grueling European tour which was dubbed The American Folk Blues Festival. The 23 day, 20 concert, and 9 country tour was highly successful and was seen as many to be a fitting climax to the career of a legend. This would certainly prove to be the case as less than a year after his return, Hooker succumbed to his long time battle with tuberculosis.On April 21, 1970 , Earl Hooker died at the age of 41.

Take a listen to Hooker’s first two LP’s, The Genius of Earl Hooker and Sweet Black Angel.

The Genius Of Earl Hooker (1968)

Sweet Black Angel (1969)

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